Ligeti Quartet
Event 11
Sunday 16th October, 3.00pm 
Little Missenden Church

Contrasting string quartets

This is an archived event from the 2016 Programme.

LIGETI QUARTET: Mandhira de Saram violin   Patrick Dawkins violin   Richard Jones viola   Valerie Welbanks cello

20th century composers loved the string quartet. Our programme shows the diverse ways they developed it – from the drive of John Adams, through the lyricism of Samuel Barber to the deep introspection of Schnittke and Shostakovitch. 

John Adams’s short quartet combines pulsing themes from Nixon in China into an infectiously energetic and fiercely rhythmic showpiece.

Schnittke’s fascinating third quartet weaves diverse fragments by Lassus, Beethoven and Shostakovitch into his own music – a remarkably concentrated work containing powerful and contradictory emotions.

Samuel Barber’s warmly melodic string quartet is best known for its stunningly beautiful adagio, later orchestrated as the famous Adagio for Strings. Barber wrote “I have just finished the slow movement of my quartet today – it is a knockout!”.

John Zorn has a magpie-like fascination with scintillating mosaics of musical fragments. This brief 1988 piece, commissioned by the iconic Kronos Quartet, juxtaposes an amazing range of contrasting styles like Charles Ives on speed. It’s witty, sometimes really beautiful – and great fun.

This short video clip contains extracts from the Schnittke and Zorn pieces from this programme - and illustrates the group's stunning musicianship.

In the Queen’s 90th birthday year we've commissioned the Ligeti Quartet and Laura Jurd (rising star of the UK jazz scene, trumpeter and composer) to create a new string quartet realisation of three movements from The Queen’s Suite, written for the monarch by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn in 1959.  Click here for a very short video of Laura talking enthusiastically about her new piece.

Shostakovich’s genius flowered in the privacy of the quartet medium, free from the political pressures of big public works. The 13th is among the best and most powerful – dark, disturbing, a “great protest against death”, written as he suffered from lung cancer, heart and kidney problems. Yet this bleak music is strangely calm, like a purgation of grief. The sublime ending leads to a place beyond pain and sorrow.

The verve and physicality of the Ligeti Quartet’s 2014 performance of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge stays in the mind. Founded in 2010, they’ve earned a reputation as leading exponents of new music, and their performances have drawn golden critical opinions. 

“The Ligeti Quartet’s fierce but structurally disciplined performance cracked right into its soul” (The Strad)

They’ve been appointed Quartet in Residence at Cambridge University, and at St John’s Smith Square.

Commission supported by the Britten-Pears Foundation
and the Little Missenden Festival Friends.