February 6, 2017

 

The Villiers Quartet release World Premiere recordings of Quartets by Peter Racine Fricker, in collaboration with the British Music Society and Naxos Records. Peter Racine Fricker was undoubtedly one of the UK’s finest composers, sadly neglected and rejected by the English Establishment, in 1964 he moved to California where he took up a teaching position at UCSB. He continued to compose prolifically, returning to England occasionally.

Born on 5th September 1920 to parents who met during their service in the Mediterranean theatre of World War I, Fricker’s interest in music took root while he was a student at St Paul’s School. He was especially interested in organ performance, studying with Henry Wilson and Ralph Downes; he also formed an enduring friendship with fellow student Dennis Brain. Fricker entered the Royal College in 1937, continuing his study with Wilson and with Ernest Bullock. This training was thoroughly conservative in outlook, with reverent and obsessive attention paid to counterpoint that would forever remain a hallmark of Fricker’s musicianship, however much he may have strayed into new directions. At this time, his interest in composition vied with his interest in organ performance; he continued to consider a career as a concert organist until the late 1940s. He entered military service in 1941, maintaining his musical interests as best he could through the remainder of the war, most frequently composing piano music.

The “Adagio and Scherzo” for string quartet remains the most thoroughly developed work from this time. They were written in the summer of 1943, and were probably intended as the central movements of a formal quartet.

With the end of his military service, Fricker set about resuming his career in music straight away. Determined now to be a composer, he sought out the fervent environment at Morley College. It was here that he met his mentor, Matyas Seiber, (whom he later called “the greatest teacher of the 20th century”) and Michael Tippett. Among so many stimulating influences, Fricker began producing publishable work. His first important success was the Wind Quintet, Op. 5, which took the Clements Prize of 1947 which Dennis Brain took into his repertoire with great and lasting enthusiasm. Fricker then turned to the string quartet in the summer of 1948 as he sought to build a solid base for his catalogue, and successes accumulated at a breathtaking pace. His Op. 8 was started on 14th July and finished on 5th November. He submitted it for the Edwin Evans Prize: though he lost to Elizabeth Maconchy, the committee made honourable mention of him.

His First Symphony, Op. 9, completed in February 1949, was awarded the 1949 Koussevitzky Prize, and was scheduled for a première performance at the 1950 Cheltenham Festival thereby heightening awareness of Fricker as a serious composer. The Op. 8 String Quartet received its première in London in September followed by the Amadeus Quartet’s performance on 11th October and they featured it the following summer on European tour to much critical acclaim. The quartet is cast in one movement, but within this casing an unusual organization of three-movement form may be felt.

A steady flow of compositions followed – mostly concerti. Fricker followed Tippet as Director of Music at Morley College, a post he held for 12 years. By the summer of 1952 Fricker was writing another quartet at the Amadeus’s behest, which he completed in 1953. Despite the warm reception that the Second Quartet received, Fricker would not revisit the medium for twenty years – at the time there was a lack of enthusiasm from publishers for the quartet genre. Elliott Carter’s Third String Quartet changed this view: Fricker dedicated his own Third Quartet to Carter “in admiration”, writing without a commission, and completing it at the end of 1976. Sadly enough, the Quartet went un-played until he suggested it for the 1984 Cheltenham Festival. Fricker was delighted with the very successful performance by the Chilingirian Quartet on 19th July.

Though he began thinking about a Fourth Quartet in the summer of 1989, he was, by then, stricken with terminal cancer and struggling to finish the commissions he had at work. He died in Santa Barbara on 1st February 1990.

For more information and press querys, please contact John Cronin at [email protected]




November 1, 2016

 

The Villiers Quartet are travelling to the USA for their second American tour on the 2nd November 2016.


They will perform at the Setnor School of Music of Syracuse University, New York (3 - 4 November) and take part in a Music Residency with the Hopkins Center for the Arts and the Music Department of Dartmouth College, New Hampshire (8-12 November). The Villiers Quartet will also perform in Boston, Massachusetts and have additional performances in Hanover, New Hampshire. The final concert on the 12th November is a performance with Pianist-in Residence Sally Pinkas at Dartmouth’s Rollins Chapel, featuring the rarely performed Piano Quintet in D minor by English composer Frank Bridge. While at Dartmouth, the Villiers Quartet will also collaborate with students and visit classes at Dartmouth College's Music Department, working with Professors Steve Swayne, Theodore Levin, and Kui Dong.


Following this USA tour, the Villiers Quartet will give a concert with clarinettist Victoria Soames Samek for the St. Andrew’s Music Festival in Sheffield on 19th November. They will play music by the British composer Ray Kohn. The Villiers Quartet will then return to the University of Oxford, to continue their residency at the Faculty of Music (20 - 24 November), where they will perform works by Tchiakovsky, Nielsen, Sibelius, and music by University of Oxford professor Robert Saxton.

 

There are two CDs to be released by Naxos next year. Their CD with music by Peter Racine Fricker will be launched in London on 13th February 2017 and their CD with works by Elgar and Delius will also be launched in London on 24th May 2017.


The Villiers Quartet is the Radcliffe Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Oxford's Faculty of Music. They are also Quartet-in-Residence at the independent school Nottingham High School.


For further information please contact John Cronin at Music and Media @

[email protected]

or

Mary Kaptein @

[email protected]

 

 





August 4, 2016

The Villiers Quartet is pleased to announce it has joined the roster of Mary Kaptein Management. MKM is based in the Netherlands and provides international management for a small group of classical musicians. Mary Kaptein, Director of MKM, adds “The Villiers Quartet are renowned for their interpretations of works by British composers and have a residency in Oxford. Currently they are recording a new CD with quartets by Elgar and Delius.” The Villiers Quartet looks ahead to new collaborations with Mary Kaptein Management.




May 28, 2016

 

Kristina Wolfe, composer of her work Planctus, is the Winner of the 2016 VQ New Works Competition. After an evening celebrating new music at the Jacqueline du Pre Music Building at St. Hilda's College, Oxford University, Kristina's piece was voted by the audience as the winner on 27th May 2016. The prizes of the final, announced by presenter Paul Gambaccini, were in this order:

First Place

Kristina Wolfe - Planctus

 

Second Place

Ian Munro - String Quartet No. 1 "from an exhibition of Australian woodcuts"

 

Third Place

Andrew Guo - Fantasy for string quartet

 

 




May 21, 2016

 

Stratford Herald

March 26, 2015

by Clive Peacock

Earlier in the month Villiers emerged as the winners of the Radcliffe Competition in Oxford entitling them to a three year residency within Oxford University. Their rivals included previous Leamington Music performers Piatti and the much talked about Ligeti. Villiers impressed the Leamington audience, just as they impressed the Oxford jury, with an impassioned performance of Elgar’s String Quartet in E minor Opus 83, composed in 1918 and dedicated to the original Brodsky Quartet. This remains as only one of three major chamber works Elgar composed – an earlier string quartet, Opus 8 he destroyed. The seclusion of a cottage in West Sussex, to escape the war, gave Elgar the inspiration to compose.

James Dickenson led the three punishing movements confidently, maintaining the quartet’s reputation for adventurous interpretations of English composers. The middle of the three movements (piacevole) is indeed a most agreeable movement, “capturing the sunshine” as Lady Elgar described it.

If there is a quartet that typifies what it means to be unjustly neglected then it’s the String Quartet by Delius! Fortunately, viola player Carmen Flores, took the opportunity to promote this piece and describe the Delius background; the impact of time spent in Jacksonville, Florida; the Leipzig and Paris highlights and the influence of Wagner and Grieg producing some of the most lyrical music to emerge from the pen of an Englishman. What a joy to listen to her word-perfect delivery with every word heard by all, together with a bit of humour – an excellent demonstration of building rapport with an audience!

With elements of Ravel and something of Debussy, the Delius Quartet in the hands of Villiers has moments of thoughtful animation which suits them well, most particularly the ‘Late Swallows’ third movement reflecting the Delius wish to return to France from Germany where he achieved much of his success. Flores viola playing was memorable.

Villiers chose to open their concert with Haydn’s 46th quartet, Opus 55 No2 in F minor (nicknamed the razor). Lots of concentration, clever interpretation of pauses and intricate work between cello (Nick Stringfellow) and viola were noted hallmarks of this enterprising quartet.

For original link, visit: http://archive.stratford-herald.com/34735-review-villiers-string-quarter.html




May 18, 2016

 

The Villiers Quartet's recording of Piano Quintets by David Matthews and Dmitri Shostakovich for SOMM Records, recorded with pianist Martin Cousin, was named Recording of the Month by MusicWeb International, for the month of April 2016. Read the review at http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2016/Apr/Shostakovich_quintet_SOMMCD0157.htm 





April 25, 2016

 

The Villiers Quartet, the Oxford University Faculty of Music Quartet-in-Residence, will be joined by outstanding music presenter and Oxford alumnus Paul Gambaccini, as host of the final round for the international 2016 VQ New Works Competition Final. The Villiers Quartet will perform the works of the three finalists, Andrew Guo (USA), Ian Munro (AUSTRALIA), and Kristina Wolfe (USA/DENMARK). The concert will take place on Friday, May 27th at 7:00pm at the Jacqueline Du Pre Music Building. The concert will also be livestreamed. The winner will be determined by audience vote. Tickets can be purchased at the JDP Music Building website.


 

Programme:


Andrew Guo (USA) – Fantasy

Ian Munro (Australia) – String Quartet No. 1 'from an exhibition of Australian woodcuts'

Kristina Wolfe (USA/Denmark) – Planctus


with special guest host,

BBC presenter Paul Gambaccini


 

 

 

 




April 21, 2016

SOMMCD 0157Céleste Series
First Recording of Piano Quintet Op. 92 by DAVID MATTHEWS
Piano Quintet Op. 57 by DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH
Release date: 1 April 2016

VILLIERS STRING QUARTET
(James Dickenson, Tamaki Higashi violins, Carmen Flores viola, Nick Stringfellow cello)
MARTIN COUSIN
piano

This new release brings an exciting world premiere recording to the SOMM catalogue – the Piano Quintet Op. 92 by David Matthews coupled with an ideal companion piece, the Piano Quintet by DmitriShostakovich. David Matthews wrote his Piano Quintet in 2004 as an engagement present for his wife Jenifer, so in his view, its overall happy mood is appropriate.

David Matthews says in the CD booklet notes:"When I wrote a piano quartet in 1995 I called it A Song and Dance Sketchbook because I didn't want to follow the classical formal scheme, but also to acknowledge that each of its six movements was either a song or a dance. In this Piano Quintet I chose to adhere, more or less, to the traditional scheme: four movements, with a scherzo and a slow movement in the middle. The song and dance element, however, remains just as predominant. The outer movements are essentially lyrical while the middle movements are dance movements, with the chaconne third movement a blend of song and dance."

The first movement is based almost entirely on variations of the motif heard in the piano after the opening three chords. The second movement is a Tango, a form that has come to interest David Matthews a great deal. This one, his fourth tango, is in some ways the most traditional, since the tango seems particularly suited to the medium of piano and strings. The third movement Chaconne is in agiocoso mood with an arresting Finale which grew out of a walking holiday in Italy in the spring of 2004 on an Easter Sunday morning. Matthews heard the bells of the nearby town of Montefalco and they appear at the centre of the movement as he notated them, with the rest of the thematic material derived from them.

The Shostakovich Piano Quintet is considered one of his finest works and one of a small handful of great piano quintets written in the 20th century. There is a certain affinity between the Quintet by David Matthews and that of Shostakovich - similarities in pace and mood as well as the special interaction between piano and strings and also the appearance, in the first movement, of a tiny three-note cell begun by the piano that in the Shostakovich, can be traced all through the work. Shostakovich began work on the Quintet in the summer of 1940 and completed it in September. It was premiered in November 1940 by the Beethoven Quartet for whom he wrote most of his string quartets, with the composer at the piano. It was a great success and was awarded the Stalin Prize of 100,000 roubles, a gesture which seemed to confirm the complete public rehabilitation of the composer following the regime's blistering attacks on his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.


For more information and review copies please contact:
John Cronin at Music & Media Consulting

[email protected]




April 16, 2016

 

The Villiers Quartet announces the 3 finalists of the VQ New Works Competition 2016. The finalists were chosen by public vote after an online semifinal round. (Names in alphabetical order):

 

Andrew Guo (USA)
Fantasy

 

Ian Munro (AUSTRALIA)
String Quartet No. 1 'from an exhibition of Australian woodcuts'

Kristina Wolfe (USA/DENMARK)
Planctus


The Villiers Quartet will perform these works live in the final round at the Jacqueline Du Pre Music Building, Oxford University, on May 27th. The concert will be livestreamed, and the audience will vote for the winner. For more information, visit www.villiersquartet.com/competition2016

 

Congratulations to the finalists!

 





April 12, 2016

 

Our final VQ Composer Spotlight features composer and sound artist Kristina Wolfe. Kristina is a PhD candidate in Multimedia and Computer Music Experiments (MEME) at Brown University. Her music often bridges the chasm of time across two worlds, between the historical and the contemporary, and her interests run the range of electronic music, spectral music, medievalism, lutherie, and musical scoring techniques. Kristina plays the Viola da gamba, Electric Bass and Double Bass. Her work Planctus for quartet uses scordatura tuning, which was often used in Renaissance viols and lutes, to create special timbres and chords between the players.

 

Where are you from?

I am from Denmark and the United States. I grew up spending summers in the Mols Bjerge area of Denmark, and its history and beautiful scenery really inspired me and my compositional practice. I currently live with my husband in Florida.

 

 

What got you interested in composition?

I think I have always been interested in composition. When I was very young, I was driven to try to compose music but I felt like I didn’t know what to do. I was very interested in sounds and I would try to work with them using tape recorders, keys on the piano, poetry singing - anything I could find. I would also try to record my proto-compositions using invented notations that I could never remember how to use. Eventually I began formal musical training but my interest in writing music was present long before that time.

 

 

Who have been your biggest musical influences?

Guillaume de Machaut, Giacinto Scelsi, John Jenkins, Pauline Oliveros, Jonathan Harvey, G.F. Haas, Liza Lim, and Horatiu Radulescu.

 

I am also heavily influenced by atmosphere: environment, time, space, place, etc., and many of the influences on my work have come from wandering through locations I find ghostly or inspiring.

 

 

What are some challenges or advantages when writing for string quartet?

My favorite aspect of writing for string quartet is the opportunity to work with subtleties of timbre. Voices can blend into a single sound and then immediately leap out into diverse registers and textures such as the sound of wind, scratching, the sounds of metal, wood, or an ethereal harmonic. Also, I love the intimacy of a string quartet. Every member is equally important and equally beautiful. No one player can hide or be hidden by any other.

 

 

Anything else you wish to say about Planctus?

Planctus is special to me. I began to compose this lament after hearing the hollow, ancient, almost AM radio-like timbre high above the 4th position on the Cello’s lowest string. It spoke to something I was thinking about at the time. Once I began, I became very devoted to finishing the piece and did nothing else until it was written down. I generally try to pace myself when composing, but this time I could not. Afterwards, I reworked the score numerous times to communicate the textures of the work in the notation.

 

Visit the VQ New Works Competition Page to hear Kristina's piece.

 

Kristina Wolfe - photo credit Arvid Tomayko-Peters

www.kristinawolfemusic.com

 





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