Castalian Quartet open new season of Chichester Chamber Concerts

The Castalian Quartet open the new season of Chichester Chamber Concerts with a recital in Chichester’s Assembly Room on Thursday, October 5 (tickets from Chichester Festival Theatre).
Castalian Quartet © Paul Marc MitchellCastalian Quartet © Paul Marc Mitchell
Castalian Quartet © Paul Marc Mitchell

They line up as Benjamin Gilmore, Daniel Roberts, Ruth Gibson and Steffan Morris.

Royal Philharmonic Society prizewinners and resident ensemble at Oxford University, the Castalian Quartet is in demand on the world stage. Recent debuts include New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, Vienna Konzerthaus, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, Paris Philharmonie and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. The quartet performs frequently at the Wigmore Hall.

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The Chichester concert offers a change to their usual line-up. Sini Simonen is unavailable because she is on maternity leave. Her place will be taken by violinist Benjamin Gilmore. Benjamin is concert master of the London Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Navarra Quartet. In Chichester they will play: Mozart – String Quartet in D minor K 421; Mark-Anthony Turnage – String Quartet Awake; and Beethoven – String Quartet Op 130 with Grosse Fugue

Steffan explains: “We commissioned the (Mark-Anthony Turnage) piece with support from the Borletti-Buitoni Trust and the Cosman-Keller Art and Music Trust. We love working with composers and are very happy to be a part of bringing this piece into the world. The commission is inspired by the various appearances of the Kreutzer Sonata in music and literature – Beethoven's Sonata, Janaček's Quartet, Tolstoy's novella and Rita Dove's poetry. Turnage was particularly interested in George Bridgetower, the Afro-European violinist who premiered Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata with the composer and was the original dedicatee of the Sonata, but whose name was scrubbed out from the manuscript as the pair fell out.”

The premiere was at the Edinburgh Festival: “It was great to be part of a creative process with Mark-Anthony, and we experimented together for example with the tempi of the piece. There was a great atmosphere in the hall. The sound world is lyrical, and the piece has real subtlety.”

As for the coming season and beyond: “We're artist in residence at the Wigmore Hall and this season. Our series is themed around Bartók. We have two big North American tours. We're taking the Turnage premiere around various European countries and we continue our residency at Oxford University.

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“We are very different people, but we share values around music and life. The medium of string quartet allows both for absolute unity and for the most personal voice of the individual to emerge. This fluctuating tension between the individual and the collective is what is most interesting. It is a competitive world, but it is also a world filled with fascinating people to connect with.”