Shostakovich’s fab four

Fitzwilliam String Quartet
Fitzwilliam String Quartet

Music in Peebles’ season begins next month at the Eastgate Theatre, featuring eight concerts from October 1 until April.

The concerts will span five centuries of music, with world famous guest musicians and today’s exciting young talents.

The Fitzwilliam Quartet, one of the most distinguished string quartets in the world, opens on Tuesday (October 1), at 7.30pm, playing one of the Shostakovich pieces for which they became famous.

In 1972 Shostakovich came to York to hear the group, formed by Cambridge graduates in 1968, play his own quartets, and in a letter to Benjamin Britten, the Russian composer named the Fitzwilliam as his “preferred performers of my quartets”.

“The Fitzwilliam will open with a quartet arrangement of Purcell’s Chacony in G minor,” writes reviewer Philip Hutton, “whose beauty and grace will prelude three major works whose difficulty attracts more than it deters, and more than fulfils what the opening Purcell promises.

“Those three masterpieces are Britten’s third quartet, Shostakovich’s early third quartet, and Beethoven’s late quartet opus 135, because that is the kind of company Britten’s and Shostakovich’s music keeps.

“The string quartet experience is special; seeing one thing, hearing another. One sees four individuals in action, with moments of rapport, humour, intensity passing over their faces. One hears 16 strings ruled by the composer’s thought. This specialness is why the string quartet has ruled the roost of chamber music for 250 years.

“We will not hear the four Cambridge freshmen of ’68 as only one of the originals, Alan George, viola, continues. Lucy Russell, first violin, has been leader since 1995, and Heather Tuach from Newfoundland, cello, and Marcus Barcham-Stevens make up the quartet.”

Other Music in Peebles highlights include appearances by two BBC Young Musician winners – the current holder of the title, cellist Laura van der Heijden, and 2002 winner Jennifer Pike, now an established international star.

“Three of the best young ensembles around will show that music is in safe hands for the future,” writes president John Fox: “The Wu String Quartet have made a great impression on previous Scottish tours, Sax Ecosse are an exciting Scottish all-female saxophone quartet who played a sell-out concert in the 2013 Edinburgh Festival, whilst the Busch Ensemble, another in the distinguished line of Tunnell Trust Award winners, are already making an impressive name internationally.

“The line-up is completed by two fine pianists, Arta Arnicane, winner of the prestigious Prague Spring Competition, and Maria Garzon, who ends the season with Elgar’s Enigma Variations.”

For full details of all the concerts, the artists appearing, as well as Music in Peebles, visit www.musicinpeebles.org.uk.

Tickets are on sale from the Eastgate Theatre by calling 01721 725777.