Fitzwilliam String Quartet
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Fitzwilliam String Quartet: Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot 7.30pm.
The Fitzwilliam Quartet first sat down to play together as undergraduates during their first term at Cambridge, Autumn 1968 and by March they made their first concert followed in June by their public debut at the Sheffield Arts Festival.
Graduating in 1971 their first professional appointment was as Quartet-in- Resident at York University, where they quickly achieved worldwide recognition through their close association with Dmitri Shostakovich. Only one year after being at York University, Shostakovitch undertook a train journey to York to hear them perform the British premiere of his 13th String Quartet. A friendship (composer’s own words) developed with correspondence between the two and the honour to premiere Shostakovitch’s 14th and 15th String Quartets as soon as they were completed! Plans were made to travel to Moscow to work with the composer. Sadly Shostakovitch died the month before this could happen.
Benjamin Britten later reported to them that Shostakovich had told him the Fitzwilliam were his “preferred performers of my quartets”.
Having introduced Shostakovitch’s last three String Quartets to the West so they went on to record and perform all fifteen. Complete cycles were given at London, New York and Montreal. The recordings (now reissued for a third time) gained many international awards , including the very first Gramophone Award for chamber music ( 1977) and inclusion in the Gramophone Award’s “Hundred Greatest-ever Recordings” (November 2005).
If the quartet’s reputation was originally fostered by the Shostakovich connection, they have been at pains to avoid resting on those particular laurels, and the subsequent exploration of masterworks from less familiar regions of the repertoire has given their concert programmes and discography a recognisably unconventional look. Additionally they enthusiastically accept the responsibility of promoting music of their own generation: the hotbed of New Music at York was a starting point, resulting in over 40 additions to the repertoire. It was also the university’s reputation for historical performance studies which encouraged them to carry an extra set of instruments for earlier repertoire – they remain one of the very few string quartets in Britain using period instruments, making them unique in that they perform on both early and modern set-ups (sometimes within the same concert!).
In 1978 their university connections were extended to the USA, where they became Affiliate Artists at Bucknell, Pennsylvania. Their achievements were recognised there through Honorary Doctorates of Music – conferred in 1981 by Shostakovich’s son, Maxim.
To complete the circle, they are now thirteen years into a new Residency, back at Fitzwilliam College Cambridge.
PROGRAMME: Introduced with anecdotes by Alan George, Viola
Barber String Quartet Op.11
Shostakovitch String Quartet No.11 in Fminor (Op. 122)
Mozart String Quartet No. 17 In Bb major K.458 The Hunt
Delius Late Swallows
Works by Grainger and Dvorak
Tourist Information Centre, 6, Bridge House, Courtenay St., Newton Abbot
Arnold’s, 11, Town Hall Place, Bovey Tracey
Opus, 14a Guildhall Centre, Exeter
On the door at the event
Non member £14
Student under 21 £2
Hon Secretary Sue Collman Hon Treasurer Val Gaze
President Colin Power Vice Presidents John Turpin