Villiers Quartet releases "Sanctus" by Riho Esko Maimets

April 26, 2015

The Villiers Quartet has released their recording of Sanctus by Riho Esko Maimets, Winner of the inaugural VQ New Works Competition in 2012. The recording is available as a digital download at CD Baby and iTunes. CDs can also be ordered here.

Programme note for Sanctus, by Riho Esko Maimets:

"Sanctus for string quartet draws on musical material from a variety of religious traditions (Eastern Orthodox chant, Ashkenazy Jewish cantoral singing, Yiddish song, Renaissance motet, and even Klezmer). I also interpret the last movement as an ethereal Persian-sounding chant, which to me represents Sufism, which is a spiritual movement that has become very close to my heart. I felt inspired to write Sanctus when I heard a description of a holy man on a radio show that deeply moved me, perhaps because of its reference to an ancient way of thinking which espouses eternal values which seem to have become neglected in the modern age. This quartet is an exploration of mysticism and spirituality in its different forms. I decided to draw on a variety of musical and religious traditions to evoke the universality and eternality of spirituality."

A composer of Estonian and Canadian background, Riho Esko Maimets attended the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, the University of Toronto Faculty of Music, and the Curtis Institute of Music. Having taken lessons and masterclasses from Arvo Pärt, Krzysztof Penderecki, and R. Murray Schafer, he continues the exploration of mysticism in his music. He is the winner of the 2011 Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian Music and the 2012 VQ New Works Competition. He lives in Estonia.






VQ appointed new Quartet-in-Residence at Oxford University

March 17, 2015


Radcliffe Chamber Music Residency at Oxford: 2015-2018

Competition Winners: Villiers String Quartet


The Villiers Quartet has won a three-year residency at the Faculty of Music at the University of

Oxford, emerging victorious at the public competition held on 1 March at the Holywell Music

Room. As part of the three-year residency, supported by the Radcliffe Trust and lasting from

2015 to 2018, the ensemble will perform an annual series of concerts in Oxford’s historic venues,

the Holywell Music Room and the Sheldonian Theatre. They will coach student performers, work

with student composers and collaborate on research projects, amongst other things. Music at

Oxford will provide them with a platform in the city and help to promote them.


In 2012 the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford launched a Chamber Music Residency

with the generous support of the Radcliffe Trust. The first recipients were the Cavaleri Quartet.

The residency is an exciting opportunity for a dynamic string quartet to provide and promote

chamber music in Oxford. It aims to attract ensembles who wish to develop and deepen their

approach to works from the standard repertoire as well as newly composed music, and who

have an active interest in interacting creatively with the Faculty’s own performers, composers,

and musicologists with interests in chamber music. It also aims to support the artistic and

professional development of the selected group.


Jessica Duchen says: ‘James Dickenson (first violin), Tamaki Higashi (second violin), Carmen

Flores (viola) and Nick Stringfellow (cello) impressed the jury with an impassioned performance

of the complete Elgar String Quartet, plus a sensitive reading of the set work, a short quartet by

Eugene Birman, as well as their focus, energy and expertise in coaching a student ensemble in

Smetana’s G minor Piano Trio. The other shortlisted groups were the Ligeti Quartet and the Piatti

Quartet. Each ensemble performed for the jury and audience for 25 minutes, then gave a 15-

minute coaching session on the Smetana. The jury was chaired by Professor Mine Dogantan-

Dack, with Professor Martyn Harry, cellist Pál Banda, Music at Oxford’s Rebecca Dawson, and

your editor from Amati, music journalist Jessica Duchen.’


The Villiers Quartet is one of the most charismatic and adventurous quartets of the British

chamber music scene. Nothing is beyond their repertoire as they define the string quartet for

the 21st century. Dedicated to the established works of Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms, they

have also developed a reputation as exceptional interpreters of English composers including

Elgar, Britten and Delius. Having toured across the UK and internationally, they have been

declared "one of the best young quartets around today" (Jerry Horner, Fine Arts Quartet), and

their performances of Shostakovich and Tischenko have been hailed as "masterful playing"

(Classical Source).


Named after Villiers Street in London's colourful musical epicentre, the Villiers Quartet

encompasses the grand and iconic spirit of the extraordinary music tradition in London. In

October 2014, Naxos released their debut CD of the complete quartets of Robert Still, and they

are the featured quartet on the soundtrack to the BBC Primetime Drama Lady Chatterley's

Lover, airing in 2015. Their recording of Sanctus for string quartet by Canadian-Estonian

composer Riho Maimets, a recording of the Shostakovich and David Matthews piano quintets for

Somm Recordings, and a BBC radio broadcast of their Delius & Elgar programme in 2015 are just

some of the exciting highlights of the Villiers Quartet this season.



For further information, interviews, biographies and photographs, please contact John Cronin.

John Cronin – Music & Media Consulting

Telephone: 01354 740847 | 07774 426966



Address: Music & Media Consulting Limited, 3 Cypress Close, Doddington, Cambridgeshire PE15 0LE


Villiers Quartet makes Leamington and BBC Radio Debut

March 15, 2015


The final concert in the 2014/15 Leamington Music International String Quartet Concerts series at the Royal Pump Rooms in Leamington will be given by the VILLIERS QUARTET on Friday 20 March at 7 30.


The concert which will be recorded by BBC Radio 3 has a programme consisting of Haydn’s Quartet in F minor Opus 55 No 2 and two quartets written by the English composers Delius and Elgar during World War One.


The Villiers Quartet which was formed in 2010 and will be playing in Leamington for the first time has a line-up of James Dickenson and Tamaki Higashi violins, Carmen Flores viola and Nick Stringfellow on cello. Nick Stringfellow is well known in this area for his work with the Orchestra of the Swan.


Named after Villiers Street in central London, the Quartet already has a big reputation for playing English composers and is also very involved in a wide range of activities in contemporary music. Recently appointed as Quartet-in-Residence at Oxford University, the Villiers will be featured on the soundtrack of the BBC television drama of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, to be transmitted this Spring.


Richard Phillips, Festival Director, adds, “We are all looking forward to hearing the Villiers here for the first time to conclude a really successful season with concerts by the Takacs Quartet based in the USA and the Zemlinsky Quartet from the Czech Republic, two of the senior British quartets, the Allegri and Brodsky, plus the future represented by the Jubilee Quartet.”


The Villiers Quartet will visit Leamington on Tuesday 17 March to give workshops in Sydenham and Whitnash Primary Schools, followed by a visit to Claverdon Primary School, all as part of the Leamington Music Education Programme.


The Quartet series at the Royal Pump Rooms is followed by the Leamington Music Festival Weekend, which runs 1-5 May and which is launched by the Fitzwilliam Quartet and finishes with the Henschel Quartet from Germany, whose concert will be the 100th string quartet concert mounted by Leamington Music in its nine years existence. The Festival also marks the one hundredth festival that Richard Phillips has created or directed.


Tickets for all Leamington Music concerts are on sale at the Leamington Town Hall Box Office, telephone 01926 334418 or online


Leamington Music is grateful to many donors, sponsors and trusts plus Warwick District Council, Leamington Town Council and Warwick Town Council for financial support. 


--Press release by Leamington Music.  For more information, contact:

Northgate, Warwick, CV34 4JL T: 01926 497000, E:

International String Quartet Series at the Royal Pump Rooms Leamington Spa


VQ wins Radcliffe Chamber Music Competition at Oxford University

March 2, 2015

The Villiers Quartet is delighted to be the chosen winner of the 2015 Radcliffe Chamber Music Residency Competition, which took place at the Holywell Music Room in Oxford on March 1st, 2015.  The Villiers Quartet will now be Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Oxford for the period 2015-18, working in partnership with the Oxford Faculty of Music, the Radcliffe Trust, and Music at Oxford.  

We look forward to this exciting new venture!


Details about the Radcliffe Chamber Music Residency to follow.


Guest Blog - Edward Clark: Recording Shostakovich and David Matthews

February 17, 2015


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

Robert Still CD receives 5 stars***** in Classical Music Magazine

February 2, 2015


The Villiers Quartet's recording of the Complete Quartets of Robert Still has received 5-stars***** in the February 2015 issue of Classical Music Magazine.

You can read the full review here.  Purchase the CD or download on Amazon, Classics Online, and Presto Classical.


Villiers Quartet featured in Gramophone Magazine

January 4, 2015

The VQ has been featured in the January 2015 issue of Gramophone Magazine, with a review by Andrew Achenbach of our Robert Still Quartets CD.  He writes,

"No praise can be too high for these sublimely articulated and concentrated readings by the Villiers Quartet, for whose leader, James Dickenson, the whole project was very much a labour of love. Admirable sound and balance, too."

Read the full review here.



Seasons Greetings from the VQ

December 25, 2014

2014 is coming to an end, and everyone is cherishing this special time.  We have many new adventures ahead for us in 2015. We hope to bring an even more vivid VQ sound to you in the coming new year. 

We will perform our programme of Schuberts Quartettsatz and Beethovens Razumovsky Op. 59/2 at our first concert of the new year on January 18th, 2015 at Hertford Music Club.  We love coming back to these classical masterworks, especially after spending lots of time on new music at VQ New Works 2014. To rediscover the vast palette of string quartets is amazing.  We always learn a lot from studying, looking at scores and learning these pieces. This kind of understanding gives us our original interpretation and sound when it comes to new works or other great composers, including those whose music should be played more often such as Robert Still or Alan Bush.  You can get your copy of our Robert Still CD at

After receiving wonderful acclaim for our last recording project, we will be doing our next recording project for SOMM Recordings with the superb pianist, Martin Cousin.

We will be recording one of the greatest Piano Quintets by Shostakovich, and pair it with another quintet by one of the most accomplished composers of our time, David Matthews.  We are excited for this amazing collaboration.

So shall we now have glasses of something for holiday cheer? Merry Christmas to you all!



Villiers Quartet debut CD receives 4**** stars in BBC Music Magazine

December 4, 2014


The debut CD of the Villiers Quartet, Complete Quartets of Robert Still, released on Naxos with the British Music Society, has received 4**** stars in the December 2014 issue of BBC Music Magazine.




Guest Blog - Jose Gonzalez Granero, 2014 VQ New Works Competition Winner

October 24, 2014


From the First Note to Competition Winner

Jose Gonzalez Granero


I first heard about the Villiers Quartet New Works Competition through the internet. I was just finishing my first string quartet around March 2014. The timing couldn’t have been better.

I had started to write my string quartet around January 2014, but it took me several months to decide if I was going to write the first note, or even write the piece at all. The initial thought of composing for string quartet is rather intimidating and scary. One cannot avoid looking back in time at the amount and quality of the quartet literature already written. In addition to this, I felt that as a wind player, the pressure upon me to write skillfully for string quartet was multiplied.

My first project was to study other compositions by great composers (Beethoven, Ravel, Bartok…). I spent hours listening and following the scores. The more I listened, the more scared I became about starting my own composition...but I kept learning about strings. I am fortunate to play daily in an orchestra that gives me the advantage to be surrounded by great string players. I asked questions of my colleagues, and I read about string technique. After a few months of debating whether or not ‘bother’ composing yet ‘another’ string quartet, I finally had the determination to start the first notes.

When I approached the piece, I visualized it as a whole picture before starting. I based the quartet on a motive that would repeat during the whole composition. This motive, based in ten notes, would pass through every instrument, and I used it to explore different colors and characters. I took inspiration from a short poem by Garcia Lorca.

When my piece was finished, I had the chance to have it played by some of my colleagues and friends, and I liked what I heard. After this long process, I was determined to submit my composition to the VQ New Works Competition. The composition was advertised around the internet, and by coincidence I came across the call for new works on Facebook.

After sending my piece by the deadline, I learned that the amount of applicants was near 150. A few months passed and I forgot about the competition. Around July, the Villiers Quartet announced the 6 semifinalists. I woke up to an email informing me that I had been chosen to be a semifinalist.

The Villiers Quartet competition is a different competition. They encourage the audience to be active in the process of deciding, and the audience actually decides! Anyone could vote for any of the 6 semifinalists. I had a few weeks to promote my piece around the internet and encourage people to vote for my work to be a finalist. The few weeks of the online voting round went by, and I couldn’t believe I was in the final.

The live final round took place in London at Kings Place, and my piece was going to be performed by the Villiers Quartet along with the other 2 finalists. It was a compelling occasion to attend, so I decided to travel all the way from San Francisco to London. I had never been to the UK, so this was the perfect excuse to take a trip.


The night of the final I was as nervous as if I was performing. Beautiful hall, great musicians and very talented finalists. I enjoyed the night, sitting in the audience, listening to my music and listening to the other great new compositions. The competition was organized in an innovative and excellent way, giving a new perspective to classical music, and I was involved with it. Nothing could have gone better, and I won the competition thanks to the audience members who voted for me. I enjoyed the process from beginning to end, and now I am more motivated than ever to keep composing. Thank you to the Villiers Quartet!


Guest Blog written by Jose Gonzalez Granero, Winner of the 2014 VQ New Works Competition