For two intense days the Villiers Quartet were in attendance at the Jacqueline du Pre concert hall at St Hilda's College, Oxford to record two piano quintets with the young master pianist, Martin Cousin.
The music was by Shostakovich and David Matthews, not really bedfellows perhaps but each in his way produces a work of great intensity and beauty. Indeed the Matthews work was written as a present for his fiance, Jenifer Wakelin! The recording is for the SOMM label and will be issued later this year.
The Shostakovich is, of course, a classic of its time and has endured as one of the Russian master's greatest chamber works. It has a particularly disarming finale which seems to deny it the heroic ending it seems to deserve. But Shostakovich was experimenting with such feelings in his string quartets at this time as well so we should not be too surprised
The players were kept busy by the musical demands for longer than expected in a quest to capture the essence of the two works, being very different in expression and demands on both the heart and the mind. Under the watchful and experienced eye (and ear!) of SOMM's producer, Siva Oke, the end result was a splendid tribute to the preparation that was made in earlier rehearsals by the quartet and Martin Cousin with David Matthews in attendance for his own work. He seemed very pleased at the end with plaudits for the players.
Guest Blog by Edward Clark, President of the UK Sibelius Society