Sacconi Winter Newsletter
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2016: A Retrospective


My personal highlight this year was our festival in Folkestone. We are so unbelievably lucky to have the opportunity each year to not only choose the repertoire, but invite wonderful people to come and play it with us. This year, we had Jonathan Dove in residence, and I will never forget premiering the work we commissioned ‘In Damascus’ with Mark Padmore, in front of so many of the people who helped make the performance possible. I also had the chance to direct Mozart’s A major concerto with the RCM chamber orchestra. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and will never forget my opening gesture to the allegro in the first movement, which not only brought the orchestra in, but threw my glasses off my nose. These chances for us to leave our ‘comfort zone’ of the quartet and take different roles is what makes the Festival so exciting, and we are so grateful to Rhian, our trustees, and all our patrons and supporters who make it possible every year.


Our 15th birthday concert in Kings Place was definitely a highlight for me. It was a very special concert for all of us, celebrating 15 years of music-making and friendship.

Another highlight of 2016 was the Beethoven in the dark project. We performed Beethoven's 131 from memory in the dark  in Ben's old school, Canterbury’s Simon Langton Grammar, and Colchester for the Roman River Festival. Our first encounter with Beethoven from memory was in the Bristol Proms, although that time Cara was on maternity leave. She did an amazing job of memorising and impressively knew every single note before the 1st rehearsal! It’s always been a very special piece to us as a quartet, as it is to any quartet who has played it. Many years ago we were lucky enough to spend a week in Aldeburgh with our friend Tom Morris, the Theatre Director. We studied 131 (his favourite piece) in the same way that actors would study characters in a play. Years later Tom encouraged us to perform it in the dark. Thank you to Tom for encouraging us out of our comfort zones!.


Viola Invasion was a particular highlight of my year. Being in the presence of so many legends of the viola, and to be further connected through them to viola players of the past now no longer with us, was a huge privilege and a great excitement. The programme comprised music written for the first great viola virtuoso, Lionel Tertis, whose viola was played in the concert by Roger Chase. Some of the concert is now available on our website and on our YouTube channel (see below).

Another highlight of my year was recording for three new CDs, which together will feature a total of eleven world premiere recordings of works by three of Britain's leading contemporary composers: John McCabe, Graham Fitkin and Jonathan Dove. (The McCabe recording in fact featured another British composer, Colin Matthews, as producer.) The Dove disc will be released on Signum in June, followed by McCabe on NMC and Fitkin on Signum later in the year.


In the Summer we met Robert Plane, a fantastic clarinettist who introduced us to some of the lesser known works written for Clarinet Quintet. We discovered Glazunov's Oriental Reverie, and an amazing piece by York Bowen which is rarely played, written for Bass Clarinet and Quartet. If you haven't heard it, Rob has done a recording of it which I would recommend listening to! We revisited the more popular Quintets of Mozart, Weber and Brahms and threw in the odd Schubert G Major and Beethoven op 131 and took it all on tour in the autumn!

It was so refreshing coming back to these works that we have played many times before with various artists and re-work them with someone new. We stayed in various locations in the North of England and had time to see family and catch up with old friends. I do love it up North!

In other News

To celebrate the 10th Sacconi Chamber Music Festival next year, our Sacconi Friends and Patrons have had the opportunity to vote for which one of four romantic piano quintets will end next year's Festival. The wonderful pianist Alasdair Beatson will be joining us next year to perform the winning quintet, Dvorak Piano Quintet No.2, in A major, Op.81.

Thank you to all of you for your continuing support and goodwill. Merry Christmas to you all and here's to another year of music and friendship!

Love from us all,

Ben, Hannah, Robin & Cara
Copyright © 2016 Sacconi Quartet, All rights reserved.

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