Wednesday 2 December 2015

From Cork to New York!

Towards the end of the year, we’ve enjoyed giving numerous concerts, both across the UK and abroad, including our final two intensive Shostakovich cycles, at the Cork School of Music and at the beautiful Phillips Collection in Washington DC. While in the US, we also performed in New York and travelled to Montreal, where we gave a concert in the glorious Bourgie Hall. At the end of 2015, we will look back at our epic Shostakovich 15 project with great satisfaction and we thank everyone for their fantastic support throughout the year.
We will be rounding off the year with a performance for Cheltenham Music Society (including the Shostakovich Piano Quintet with Julius Drake). We hope to see you there!
(Photo by Eoin!)

Friday 9 October 2015

Aldeburgh and Cardiff!

We’ve had an amazing and incredibly busy few weeks. Our Shostakovich cycles in Aldeburgh and Cardiff (on consecutive weekends!) were a great success and we were very moved by the amazing audience reaction to both. We have now completed five intensive cycles this year and look forward to the next instalments in Cork and Washington DC!

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Shostakovich in Colombia!

We had a fanstastic trip to Colombia in August, where we performed the first ever Colombian Shostakovich cycle! There were performances in the Teatro Mayor and the Luis Angel Arango Library (pictured) in Bogota and we travelled to Neiva, where we performed the complete cycle and also had the opportunity to work with some wonderful young Colombian music students.

The students were mostly from the 'Batuta' school (a bit like the 'El Sistema' of Venezuela) and from the Huila Youth Philarmonic, a great young group instructed by talented conductor Diego Barbosa-Vasquez.
And here is their thank you video!! 

Thursday 13 August 2015

***** star reviews for complete Shostakovich cycles!

We're delighted that the complete Shostakovich cycles at the Globe in London, and as part of the Cheltenham Festival have gone so well. The audience support has been amazing throughout. In fact Erica Jeal at the Guardian wrote, 'Between the later quartets it was as if the audience was cheering them around the last laps of a marathon.'! 
Thanks so much to all who came and supported us. Reviews have been great! Here's a selection of quotes and you can read full reviews here.

The Guardian *****
 'truly extraordinary stamina in a musical marathon', 'astonishing intensity', 'once in a lifetime event'.

BachTrack *****
'Utterly absorbing', 'High octane, turbo-charged playing', 'The Allegro non troppo was fabulously aggressive, full of iron pizzicatos and flying bow-hair.'

Birmingham Post *****
'truly awesome', 'skill which makes light of the huge technical demands', 'a triumph'

Seen and Heard International
'Dazzling aplomb and accuracy', 'magnificent tribute', 'electrifying'.

Friday 7 August 2015

Complete Shostakovich Quartets at the Globe

Just 2 days to go to our marathon performance at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre at Shakespeare's Globe in London. It's just been selected as a top thing to do to celebrate Shostakovich's anniversary:

Just a handful of tickets remaining here:

And in the mean time here's a snippet from our recent rehearsal there, including some of the 2nd quartet.
We look forward to seeing you soon!

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Review of our first Shostakovich cycle in Cheltenham!

Shostakovich Quartet Cycle, Carducci Quartet at Syde Manor - Cheltenham Festival 29/06/15 

These young people perform with an empathy which is truly awesome, and with a skill which makes light of the huge technical demands Shostakovich imposes upon his players. The Tithe Barn at Syde Manor, nestling deep in the Cotswolds between Birdlip Hill and Cirencester, is a gem of a venue. It's comfortable, airy, and has a fabulous acoustic. This year's Cheltenham Music Festival pre-launched itself in style with a brave traverse through all 15 of Shostakovich's string quartets played with engaging enthusiasm, emotional commitment, and awesome physical stamina by the charming and immensely gifted Carducci Quartet. These young people perform with an empathy which is truly awesome (eye-contact is rarely needed), and with a skill which makes light of the huge technical demands Shostakovich imposes upon his players, whether in taking them up to the stratospheres, or digging through repeated note-patterns, or creating the quasi-orchestral textures set up by hugely taxing multiple-stopping over varied note-values. Their odyssey was a triumph, and such a concentrated trawl brought an awareness of both the consistency and variety of Shostakovich's language, as well as the references to his output in other formats. We sympathised with his political perils during the Stalinist regime, we grasped his gradual influencing by Jewish music, and all the time we admired the strength of his indomitable character, sardonic, witty and despairing, all conveyed by the remarkable Carduccis.
Christopher Morley - Birmingham Post

Friday 22 May 2015

New Vodcasts!

If you haven't seen them already, we have new Vodcasts here.
Also you can find more posts about each of the quartets here!

Thursday 26 March 2015

Shostakovich Quartet no.10

Shostakovich Quartet no.10 
Shostakovich's 9th and 10th quartets were written in the summer of 1964 and premiered together by the Beethoven Quartet. They seem to signify a surge in new creativity after a near 4 year break in quartet writing. They are works of extremes, different emotions and with a huge variety of musical colours. The 10th quartet was the last of Shostakovich's quartets to use the traditional four movement format and unusually for Shostakovich he dedicated this work to a living person - a fellow Soviet composer and close friend - Moisei Weinberg. We feel that this dedication perhaps sheds light on some of the emotions behind the 10th quartet.
Weinberg was of Polish - Jewish origin, but moved to Russia during the 2nd world war. He lost many members of his family in the Nazi concentration camps and then in 1948 his father-in-law was assassinated on Stalin's orders. In 1953 Weinberg himself was arrested for 'Jewish Bourgeois Nationalism'. Shostakovich put himself at risk by interceding on his behalf and also agreed to look after Weinberg's daughter in case anything happened to him and his wife. Stalin's death in 1953 led to Weinberg's release, but he never forgot Shostakovich's act of kindness and bravery.   
There was also a friendly rivalry between the composers - to see who could write string quartets the quickest - and with the completion of his 10th quartet, Shostakovich took the lead! The atmospheric and at times mysterious 1st movement, contrasts with the fast and furious scherzo. The expressive 3rd movement Passacaglia is the emotional heart of the work, based on a 9 bar repeated phrase first heard on the cello. The initial feeling of warmth is gradually dispelled by increasingly chromatic writing, until brightness re-emerges as the theme transfers to the violin and into the major key. In the 4th movement a rhythmic dance-like theme is introduced which at the beginning seems jaunty and almost carefree, but it never quite takes off. Ambiguously the theme varies between hot and cold and at one point seems to almost turn into a death march.

Vodcast 2

Here's our 2nd Vodcast, with Michelle at Cork airport after a performance of Shostakovich's String Quartet No.4!

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Cheltenham Festival Shostakovich cycle!

Tickets are on sale for an amazing weekend of the complete Shostakovich quartets at the
Cheltenham Music Festival - 27-28th June! Box office: 0844 880 8094

Thursday 26 February 2015

Shostakovich CD makes the top 10!
Very excited that our new Shostakovich CD has made it into the top 10 of the Classical charts this week and was reviewed by the Sunday Times!

'polished and passionate'  The Sunday Times

Tuesday 17 February 2015


1906 – Birth of Shostakovich on September 25th, St.Petersburg
1914-1918 – World War 1
1924 – Death of Lenin
1926 – Symphony No.1 premiered to great acclaim
1929 – Stalin becomes leader of the USSR
1932 – Shostakovich marries Nina Varzar

Shostakovich with Nina and Ivan Sollertinsky

1936 – Birth of daughter, Galina
1936 – Pravda attacks Opera, Lady Macbeth as 'chaos instead of music'
1937 – Stalin's year of terror
1938String Quartet No.1 (aged 31)
1938 – Birth of son, Maxim
1939-1945 – World War 2
1940 - Receives Stalin Prize for Piano Quintet

With the Glazunov Quartet in 1940

1944String Quartet No.2 (aged 38)
1946 – Churchill declares 'an Iron curtain has descended across the continent'
1946String Quartet No.3 (aged 40)
1948 - Zhdanov Decree - Dismissed from his posts at Moscow and Leningrad.
1949 - The Soviet Union explodes its first atomic bomb
1949String Quartet No.4 (aged 43)

In 1949

1952String Quartet No.5 (aged 46)
1953 – Death of Stalin
1954 – Death of Nina Varzar
1956 – Shostakovich meets and marries his second wife Margarita Kainova
1956 – String Quartet No.6 (aged 49)
1956 – Hungarian uprising
1959 – Divorces Margarita Kainova
1960 – String Quartet No.7 (aged 53)

1960 – Shostakovich joins the Communist party
1960 – String Quartet No.8 (aged 53)
1961 – Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space

With Kabalevsky and Gagarin

1962 – Cuban missile crisis
1962 – Marries his third wife, Irina Antonia Supinskiya
1964 – Leonid Brezhnev becomes leader of the USSR
1964 – String Quartet No.9 (aged 57)
1964 – String Quartet No.10
1965 – Death of Vasili Shirinsky, second violinst of the Beethoven Quartet
1966 – String Quartet No.11 (aged 59)

with Britten in 1966

1966 – Shostakovich suffers his first heart attack
1968 – String Quartet No.12 (aged 61)
1968 – Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia
1970 – String Quartet No.13 (aged 63)
1971 – Shostakovich suffers his second heart attack
1972 – Death of Vadim Borisovsky, original violist of the Beethoven Quartet
1972 – Undergoes radiation treatment for lung cancer
1973 – String Quartet No.14 (aged 66)
1973 – Shostakovich's name appears on a document in Pravda denouncing Sakharov

1974 – String Quartet No.15 (aged 67)
1974 – Death of Sergei Shirinsky following a rehearsal of Quartet No.15
1974 – Taneyev Quartet give the premiere of Quartet No.15
1975 – Death of Shostakovich on August 9th, Moscow

Friday 30 January 2015

Throughout the year we'll be posting vodcasts here about the quartets and our travels.
This is the first one, made at our Shostakovich15 launch concert in Syde.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Shostakovich 15 begins!

We're excited to be launching our year of Shostakovich! Complete cycles will include at the Globe - London, the Phillips Collection - Washington DC, Cheltenham Festival, Oxford, Aldeburgh, Cardiff, Colombia, and *breaking news* - we will also perform the complete cycle at the Curtis Auditorium of the Cork School of Music in Ireland. All concerts will be listed on our blog here!

This January, a number of our concerts will feature Shostakovich's quartet no.12. Here are some of our thoughts about this work:

Shostakovich's quartet no.12 (1968) is sometimes described as the 'musicologist's favourite', which is probably because he introduces a fascinating new palette of colours into the work. The opening cello statement is a twelve-tone note-row, (a clear nod towards the serial techniques developed by Schoenberg, Webern and Berg). However, Shostakovich uses the key signature Db major, (serial works don't have key signatures!), so it becomes clear that he is not working within the rules of the more mathematically developed serial structures, but using twelve-tone material in a more traditional way, which pushes the work into a starker and unsettling sound world.
When Tsiganov, the leader of the Beethoven quartet questioned his use of the twelve-tone music, Shostakovich implied that it was nothing new, saying 'but one finds examples of it in Mozart's music'. There is probably some irony in Shostakovich's words, but we immediately thought of the opening of Mozart's 'Dissonance' quartet, where he introduces one by one, 11 of the 12 semitones, almost like a tone-row. And of course there was Zhdanov's decree that music should be 'melodious and graceful' - twelve-tone melodies were surely not what he had in mind!
One interesting feature of the first movement is that the 2nd violin is silent until it's entry in the 34th bar. This seems to be a homage to the original 2nd violinist of the Beethoven quartet who had died in 1965, (the 34th year of the quartet's career).**
This quartet is dedicated to Tsiganov the 1st violinist of the Beethoven quartet and the next two quartets, 13 and 14 are dedicated to the violist and cellist.
The 2nd movement is a monumental structure that treats the twelve-tone theme in an almost symphonic way, dramatically changing characters, mood, tempi and tone colours and the work ends in a rather triumphant and very conclusive fashion - one of the only quartets to do this. You can really feel a sense of anticipation and build-up, like the finales of some of Beethoven's works.

**As well as this, the work is also the only one that shares an opus number with a Beethoven quartet - op.133, his 'Grosse Fuge. Plus, is it just a coincidence that the 12th quartet introduces use of 'twelve-tone' music!?