I am sitting on a train heading north after a busy couple of months with the Quartet. I have a week of holiday to recharge, learn some notes, wash my entire wardrobe and give my dog some serious love and attention before setting off for a busy summer of concerts.
Various recording projects seem to have been the focus of our attention over the last few months. Since joining the BBC New Generation Scheme we have spent more time than ever before in the studio. Gaining this experience has been invaluable to us and we felt the benefit when we were back in Potton Hall, Suffolk, recording a new disc of Mendelssohn Quartets. We recorded his Opus 12, Opus 44 no 3, and some Songs without Words. It was an exhausting few days as these pieces are incredibly physical and exuberant and demand a constant “heart on sleeve” approach. I really wonder why these Quartets aren’t played more often, especially Op 44 no 3, which is very seldom played. What a piece!
Shortly after recording we attended the BBC Music Magazine Awards where we picked up “Best Newcomer Award” for our Wigmore Live disc. The award is intended for artists near the beginning of their recording career. We were over the moon to receive it, as recording has always been a daunting prospect for us. Is a work ever really ready to record? A moment in time caught forever to be listened to repeatedly on the stereos or i-Pods of anyone who chooses to buy it. Scary. Somehow whilst recording we have to forget all this and play for the moment. As this disc was recorded live it was somehow easier to forget the microphones and absorb the atmosphere of the hall and audience. There’s surely no easier place to do this than in the Wigmore Hall.
Around the same time as the Awards we released our new disc of Britten Quartets. We’ve long felt a special affection for these works, having learned his 3rd Quartet very early on in our Quartet life together. We have also spent a great deal of time at the Britten Pears School at Snape and played to members of the Amadeus Quartet for whom the piece was originally written. We recorded this disc at Potton Hall, very near Britten’s home, and it was a very intense four days. As with other recording experiences I felt I came away with an even deeper understanding and closeness to these profound works, a relationship that I hope will continue to grow over the coming years. We have some tracks and reviews on our website.
It’s always a great pleasure to collaborate with other musicians and over the last months the quartet has worked with a great variety of performers. It’s amazing how adding just one new member to the group can change the dynamic both in rehearsal and performance. It’s always so refreshing and inspiring to have a new musical mind on board. We travelled to Denmark, Belgium, Holland and the UK with pianist and fellow BBT artist Jonathan Biss. Playing with him was incredibly exciting, as though we were all from the same musical family. (Hope you agree Jonathan… if you happen to read this!) We look forward to future projects over the next few years. We also played with pianists Melvin Tan, Bengt Fosberg and Simon Crawford Phillips, violinist Jack Liebeck and the Jerusalem String Quartet. Just yesterday we visited Mitsuko Uchida to play the Schumann Piano Quintet with her. It was a really wonderful and memorable morning making music and fantastic to meet a musician whom we have admired for many years to find she is as inspiring and sincere a person as she is a player.
Nearly home now and my dog will soon be hearing strains of “Death and the Maiden” as we have our final Wigmore Schubert Series concert coming up. It’s a piece I’ve been looking forward to performing for a long time. After that it’s a busy summer of UK festivals and trips to France, Sweden and our debut at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. An exciting summer ahead!
Soon we will be planning our Beethoven cycle, a project made possible through the BBT. That will be another dream realised for us all. More about that another time…
We’ve been keeping our website regularly updated so please come and visit us at www.eliasstringquartet.com and if you’d like to sign up to our newsletter send an email to email@example.com.
Bye for now.