Our first Side-by-Side Shostakovich experience was in 1997 with students from Trinity College of Music, London:
between us we performed the entire cycle in one day at Delfina Studios, our home back then. That this college
managed to produce enough exceptional players to create fourteen string quartets more than capable of
tackling this complex repertoire (we only performed one of the works ourselves) was quite a feat.
"...despite being such a brief period, this project was one that established itself as a defining moment for the institution – a union of formative repertoire, owned and articulated by the quartet who deeply understand Shostakovich, as much as the 'ANAM way'..." Matthew Hoy, ANAM, Australia
The Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne brought us back to the idea in 2008 with a mixed repertoire Side-by-Side, in which we each guested in one of the student groups. This worked so well that we revisited the format two years later, this time with the complete Shostakovich. Students performed some works, we joined them in others (namely the four dedicated to the composer’s great friends, members of the Beethoven Quartet, nos.11,12,13 and 14) we performed some ourselves and we ended the series all together in Barshai’s chamber orchestra version of no.8. The whole experience was fantastically life-affirming and heart-warming.
This winning format has been repeated in Instrumenta Oaxaca, Mexico in 2014 and at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where we hold the Visiting Fellowship in Chamber Music, in 2018. In both places the response by students and audience alike was overwhelming and we aim to return to the format in future years, with the Late Beethovens to begin with.
String Quartet Masterclasses
We always love to teach young groups and help them to appreciate and assimilate our wonderful repertoire. As well as ANAM, RCS and Trinity, the quartet have held masterclasses in Prague Conservatoire; Frankfurt Hochschule fur Musik; Royal College and Royal Academy, London; Royal Northern College, Manchester; Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff; Cambridge, Durham and Uppsala Universities; Queensland Conservatorium; Sydney Conservatoire; Birmingham School of Music; Instrumenta Oaxaca, Mexico; Escuela Manuel De Falla, Granada, Spain; Festival Campos Jordao, Brazil; Stift Festival, Netherlands; Nomus Festival, Serbia; National Youth Orchestras of GB and Netherlands, Pro Corda and, for fifteen years running, Dartington International Summer School.
We frequently combine touring with visits to local schools for workshops and classes. It’s a lovely way to spend the morning before travelling on to the next city on the tour. Recently we have visited schools in Perth (Scotland AND Western Australia); Saffron School, Saffron Walden, UK; Reykjavik, Iceland; Spain; New Zealand; Netherlands; Ireland; Italy; Switzerland; Mexico; Brazil
The quartet joins a visual and musical extravaganza: Benjamin Britten's unique masterpiece dating from 50 years ago, which brings together professional, amateur and children's talents in one spectacular and moving work. Having conceived and performed it with a cast of 600 in Haringey's Alexandra Palace, subsequently taking part in Wimbledon Festival’s mesmerising version which was made into a live performance DVD, the ground-work is in place for further performances to evolve.
A Young Person’s Guide to the String Quartet
featuring Anna and the Moods
The quartet, with the help of an actor/narrator playing the part of Haydn, takes the audience on an entertaining journey through the great works of the genre in a fun potted history, as well as an insight into the challenges faced by those who follow this musical vocation. The show culminates in a performance of the crazy and hilarious Anna and the Moods written by Icelander Sjon to the music of Julian Nott (Wallace and Gromit composer). The 21st Century answer to Peter and the Wolf, it deals with the difficult transition into teenage-hood, with a twist in the tale.
Performed in English with British actor John Telfer (aka Alan the Right-On Vicar from "The Archers") but the script can be translated and performed by local personalities in any country. Already exists in Dutch, Icelandic and Norwegian!
The Anna and the Moods story has also been made into an animated film by the Icelandic company Caoz.
View the trailer on youtube
Brodsky Song Show 2003
This project was one of the most intense educational works we have ever carried out. Commissioned for a CMN (Contemporary Music Network) tour in the UK, and sponsored by NESTA and ... it comprised visits to six schools throughout the UK, spending two weeks in each one and working closely with children, with the help of a wonderful team of animateurs: composers, writers, artists. The brief was to write a piece for string quartet and voice, using no other instruments. These young people responded so willingly and energetically that we ended up with over 100 hundred songs, all based on themes created in collaboration with their co-students and teachers. It was an overwhelming and humbling experience. We have found that teenagers tend to be forgotten when musicians visit schools, preferring the perhaps easier audience of primary age kids. Some of the songs these young people created showed their unique struggles with the coming of age they were all going through and some beautiful work resulted. Concurrently with this work, we asked some of our friends in the singer-songwriter Real World to donate their time as inspiration to the kids. The resulting album, Moodswings, contains twelve songs, six by the students (one chosen from each school) and six by our esteemed colleagues. The concerts and Sharing Days were all recorded professionally so that every one of the students has their own record of the fruits of their toil. We have since heard that many of the students involved were inspired to go on to further education in music and that for them this project was a life-changer.
Since then we have repeated the format several times, including in Holland, Iceland and the UK.