Engegård Quartet are Arvid Engegård (first violin), Alex Robson (second violin), Juliet Jopling (viola), Jan Clemens Carlsen (cello)

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

AE: When I was born my father supposedly said “He is going to be violinist”. I grew up in a very inspiring musical environment.

AR: My parents were both musicians.

JJ: Music means so much to me on so many levels, it’s pretty much impossible to choose any other career. I’ve been lucky enough to meet several extremely talented musicians and composers who have both inspired and helped me, and am eternally thankful to my quartet colleagues and the quartet repertoire for on-going tolerance, motivation and inspiration.

JCC: Both my parents are musicians and classical music was always present during my childhood. I started playing an instrument myself very early. On my tenth birthday I received a collection of CD’s featuring many great works and cellists. The individuality of different musicians from Pablo Casals to Truls Mørk, their individual sound, style, vibrato and interpretations really intrigued and fascinated me. About the same time I became a part of the Barratt-Due Music Institute’s program for talented young musicians where I met many like-minded young people who shared my interest and passion. I don’t remember when I decided that I wanted to become a musician, but I know for sure that I never considered anything else!

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

AE: Sandor Vegh. I was his concertmaster and assistant for many years

AR: My teachers Bjarne Fiskum and Levon Chillingirian

JJ: My family, including my Mum, Dad, aunt Louise Grattan, sister Daisy and brother Orlando. Martha Argerich, Dinu Lipati, Pablo Casals, Sandor Vegh, Alban Berg Quartet, Borodin String Quartet, Hagen Quartet.

JCC: I have been blessed with great teachers. All of them had very different personalities and approaches towards teaching and cello playing. Hans Josef Groh was my teacher for 9 years and shares a lot of the blame for me becoming a cellist! Apart from memories of many wonderful lessons with him, I still remember his impeccable left foot skills on the football pitch (my second passion).

I began my studies in Salzburg with Heidi Litschauer. The most important thing she taught me is the connection between how you sit, the posture while playing and what kind of tension there needs to be present in the body to influence the sound you make. You have to feel well to play well. My next teacher was Christoph Richter (Folkwang Hochschule, Essen). From him I learnt the importance of hard work and also the importance of trying to unearth the composer’s thoughts and wishes from the score, even though that can be very tricky. My final teacher was Truls Mørk (Norwegian Academy of Music). Just to watch him play and see how easy cello playing can be taught me a lot of important lessons!

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

AE: To find the right people to play in the Quartet with.

JJ: Moving from England to Norway in 2004. The continual transformation from dreams to reality in Quartet life.

JCC: Finding the balance between being a father to four children and being married to a musician has been, and still is challenging at times. Finding a balance between family life and being a free-lance musician is not always easy. There are always sacrifices that have to be made.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

AE: I am very proud of the last recordings we have made for LAWO (Schumann piano quintet and quartet with Nils Anders Mortensen, Mozart String Quartets).

AR: Our Mozart, Schumann and Grieg quartets

JJ: I am pathologically critical of myself so that’s an incredibly difficult question to answer. Perhaps the recording of Mozart kv 387, 458 and 464 will be the one! Memorable performances… Beethoven’s opus 132 in Oslo’s Gamle Logen a couple of years ago. We managed a shared focus level that was very powerful, and the music really shone through.

JCC: It is hard to choose, but I’m really happy with our Schuman quartets recording. We are in the middle of a complete Mozart recording project that also seems very promising!

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

AE: This is impossible to say. Maybe Haydn op 76 or Beethoven op 132..?

AR: Mozart, Beethoven and Bartok string quartets

JJ: I guess one gets good at what one does most often. And we have a great focus on the classical repertoire, so it feels great to work on Mozart and Beethoven together. It’s also good fun to let ourselves go a bit in Norwegian repertoire like Grieg’s g minor quartet which we more or less know from memory, so it feels joyfully free.

JCC: As a quartet we have played a lot, and that I think one piece we do particularly well is Grieg’s wonderful string quartet in G-minor. We also share a great passion for the quartets of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven that have led to some very good performances.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

AE: We try not to have too many works going at the same time. Our “123” festival in Oslo is an important factor.

AR: One great composer after another.

JJ: We have built up an annual festival called “På 123”, when we perform one composer over three days. This obviously is both hugely rewarding and demanding, and it certainly shapes our work in the long term. This September 4th to 6th, we’re presenting Mustonen på 123. (Finnish composer and pianist, Olli Mustonen f.1967). I can’t wait!

JCC: We have a festival in Oslo, featuring a different composer each year, that determines our main focus for the coming year.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

AE: I love the churches in Lofoten where I have my chamber music festival. Lots of great memories.

AR: Carnegie and Wigmore halls.

JJ: I think that the audience is much more important for me than the venue. A responsive, engaged audience gives us huge inspiration. Which has made these Corona times so very demanding. And the two things probably go hand in hand, at least to some extent. An attractive venue often attracts great audiences and great musicians, win win all round.

JCC: I really enjoy playing at Oslo Quartet Series in Gamle Logen in Oslo. The audience is wonderful and just being part of this fantastic series is an enormous pleasure!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

AE: Maybe when we have played the same piece many times in the Quartet. Then we get to a new level.

AR: Too many to mention!

JJ: Schubert 5 with Camerata Academica in Salzburg under Sandor Vegh. Not long after, I had the huge honour to perform at Sandor Vegh’s funeral.

JCC: I am not able to choose one I have played myself. I have had the privilege of playing for so many wonderful audiences. However, as a young boy, aged about 14, I attended a concert with Steven Isserlis and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. That concert was hugely inspiring at that time, and is still a fond memory!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

AE: To play in the way you wish to.

AR: That the audience can see that we really understand a certain piece.

JJ: On a personal level, to achieve focus, both in rehearsals and on the concert platform. On a professional level, to sustain a career as a string quartet, with a balance of international and domestic concerts, recordings, and educational activities.

JCC: As long as I develop as a musician and am able to share my feelings with an audience regularly, I consider myself successful. 

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

AE: Music is life and death!

AR: To believe in yourself and go your own way.

JJ: To be in touch with one’s passion and motivation, one’s love for music, and to hold that close through thick and thin.

JCC: It is easy to say: practise, practise, practise, but the most important thing is that you really have to ENJOY what you are doing and know WHY you are doing it. If this is missing all your hard hours of practising will be fruitless. Also, there are a lot of concerts to be heard in every town – GO TO THEM and get inspired


The Cross-Eyed Pianist is free to access and ad-free, and takes many hours every month to research, write and maintain. If you find joy and value in what I do, please consider making a donation to support the continuance of this site

Make A Donation

Who or what inspired you to take up the violin, and pursue a career in music?

As a child, in Cape Town, I played recorder and then classical guitar, and at the age of 9 I started violin lessons as I really wanted to be in the school orchestra. Already then, the lure of making music with others took hold. But it was not a given that I would be a musician. My secondary school was sporty and academic, and I got a scholarship to study medicine at University. However a gap year convinced me that a career in music would be infinitely more exciting than life as a medic, albeit far more insecure, and I headed to the Guildhall School of Music in London to concentrate on the violin, a decision I have never regretted!

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I would say violin lessons with Gyorgy Pauk and Sandor Vegh, and chamber music coaching from members of the Amadeus Quartet (especially Siegmund Nissel) were a real inspiration to me, musically. But I was also an avid concert-goer, and a love of live music-making was instilled in me from an early age.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Fitting everything in, and finding time for recharging those batteries! I was luckily born with a lot of stamina, and I have certainly needed it.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

The complete cycle of Shostakovich Quartets which I recorded for Chandos with the Sorrel Quartet, and played live over a weekend in Cratfield Church in Suffolk. Nothing will compare to that epic journey, both emotionally and physically. One of the great excitements of now joining the Brodsky Quartet is that they have shared similar Shostakovich journeys and I am looking forward to comparing “travel notes”.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I can think of two, straightaway. The first, Wigmore Hall, London. Perfect acoustic, perfect size, wonderful audience, and the sense of history walking onto that stage, well-documented in all the photos lining the Green Room walls. I made my solo debut there at the age of 21, and I vividly remember playing the Bach Chaconne as part of the programme in that heavenly acoustic, and thinking how amazingly fortunate I was to be there. The second, Snape Maltings near Aldeburgh. Every creak and groan from the wooden structure has one imagining Benjamin Britten’s presence still there in those rafters. Years ago, when they replaced the bluffs on the roof, my then quartet, spending a winter in residence in Aldeburgh, was sent as a publicity stunt to be pictured with instruments (luckily not our own!) on the roof…and oh, the view across the marshes, with the steel grey water meandering in loops through the reeds! You never see that from ground level. A very special place indeed.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Too many to list, but currently: Maria Joao Pires, Henning Kraggerud, Kristine Opolais, Paul Lewis

What is your most memorable concert experience?

As a child, hearing the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at the Alhambra Palace in Granada. The setting, the architecture and the music made such an impression on me.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I think if one feels successful, one might as well retire! As musicians we are so fortunate to be involved in a career we love, where we can continue learning and being curious and growing in experience throughout our life. Sharing this passion and enthusiasm with audiences or students is surely the most rewarding part of our life? If just one person is moved or changed in some way by their experience in a concert hall then perhaps we have been successful in our mission?

What is your most treasured possession?

I know I should say my violin! But actually it is a string of pearls which belonged to my Austrian/Italian mother, and her mother before that, the only piece of her jewellery which travelled from Europe to South Africa and was not stolen in a burglary. My only sadness is I cannot wear it when playing violin!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Work hard – nothing valuable is ever gained without that – but be open to inspiration from a broad range of genres. Do not spend all your day in a practice room. Walk in nature, visit an art gallery, go to the theatre, read, explore… you will need far more than an assured technique if you are to have something interesting to share with an audience. And every time you play a piece, find something new in it, and take risks.

Gina McCormack will join the Brodsky Quartet from May 2019. Find out more

Gina McCormack is well established as one of Britain’s leading artists, with regular solo appearances at London’s Wigmore Hall, the South Bank Centre and at venues across the country. She has performed at many British Festivals, including the City of London, Henley, Edinburgh, Buxton, Aldeburgh and Salisbury Festivals, and has appeared as soloist in the UK with the Hallé and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras and the former Bournemouth Sinfonietta. Tours abroad have taken her to France, Norway, Denmark, the Czech Republic, South Africa and South America, and most recently to Austria and Switzerland.

Gina studied with György Pauk at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, and attended masterclasses with Sandor Vegh (at the Salzburg Mozarteum and at Prussia Cove in Cornwall), Dorothy DeLay, Andras Mihaly and Siegmund Nissel (from the Amadeus Quartet). While still a student, she was a prizewinner at the Royal Overseas League Music Competition in London and at the International Young Concert Artists’ Competition in Tunbridge Wells, where she has since returned to serve on the jury.

For thirteen years Gina was the leader of the Sorrel Quartet, with whom she was frequently heard on BBC Radio Three. The quartet made twelve CDs for Chandos Records, of works by Britten, Mendelssohn, Schubert and the complete cycle of Shostakovich quartets. Their Elgar CD was chosen as one of Classic FM’s records of the year and was Editor’s Choice in Gramophone Magazine. The group also recorded John Pickard’s Quartets on the Dutton label.

She then led the Maggini Quartet for two years, and decided to leave the group in March 2010 to focus on her solo work, continuing a long association with her duo partner, pianist Nigel Clayton. Since then the duo has had engagements in Holland, Switzerland, Denmark, and all around the UK.

Gina McCormack is also well-known as a teacher, having spent 11 years as professor of Violin at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (formerly Trinity College of Music) in London. She is currently teaching at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow.  She also gives regular masterclasses both in the UK and at summer festivals abroad.



artist photo: Melanie Strover

If you enjoy the content of this site, please consider making a donation towards its upkeep:

Buy me a coffee

The Jubilee Quartet are:

Tereza Privratska – Violin I
Julia Loucks – Violin II
Lorena Cantó Woltèche – Viola
Toby White – Cello

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

JULIA: I was watching “Sesame Street” while growing up in Canada and saw Itzhak Perlman play-ing violin – it was the beginning of my fascination with the instrument.

TEREZA: My parents who love music but are not musicians themselves.

LORENA: The reason I decided to play the viola is that I have always been very curious and en-thusiastic about learning and have always wanted to express myself in one way or another. Since my family was very much classical music orientated and both my parents are violists (although my mum later became a baroque recorder teacher) it came to me naturally to start learning the viola under their tutoring.

TOBY: I was 3 years old and was in the car with my mum listening to the radio. ‘The Swan’ from ‘The Carnival of the Animals’ came on and I turned round and said “oh a daddy violin! I want one!”. My mum, being wonderful, obliged and I’ve been playing ever since.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

JULIA: I have had some wonderful teachers in both undergrad and postgrad, but some of my most important musical development has been learned from my friends and colleagues.

TEREZA: I studied with Rainer Schmidt in Basel and Günter Pichler in Madrid. They were highly influential years in my life.

LORENA: My teacher Boris Kucharsky is probably the first person that made me realise where I stand as a musician. It was among aspects such as seeing and hearing how he poured his soul into his playing and how he was always eager to express. Boris talked about the music with such passion and admiration; he was never satisfied and always thought and encouraged me to give more. It was this that made me realise how noble and beautiful the work of the musician is. I should, of course, briefly mention Tereza, Julia and Toby. They are three incredible musicians who I have admired since I met them, and with whom a day does not go by where I do not learn something new. They support me as a musician as much as I support them.

TOBY: There have been so many! But I suppose the most important influences have been my great teachers. I have been very lucky to have had such wonderful and inspiring teachers throughout my life.

JULIA: Learning to trust my instincts and believe in my own musical intention has always been a challenge, but the quartet has helped encourage me to come out of my shell.

TEREZA: The most difficult thing is combining what I love doing with what I need to be doing to pay the bills, which I believe is every musician’s concern. One must never give in to the work that pays better over the joy of what something else may bring.

LORENA: Redistributing priorities is something I still find hard to this day and since joining The Jubilee Quartet it has become a matter of importance.

TOBY: Finding the right work life balance is probably the hardest thing for me. I love what I do but it can be demanding time wise. It’s important for me to stay fresh and excited but that can be tough.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

JULIA: In terms of recordings our upcoming Haydn CD for Rubicon Classics is by far the project that I am most proud of.

TEREZA: The Jubilee Quartet is currently releasing a Haydn CD that I am most proud of.

LORENA: I am looking forward to the release of The Jubilee Quartet’s Haydn CD, because prob-ing deeply into three of Haydn’s quartets has made me realise how incredible and varied his music is. There was so much necessary thinking behind every decision we took when working towards an interpretation that resonated with us as a quartet.

TOBY: Our latest CD release of Haydn quartets. It has been such a privilege working on and re-cording these works with my colleagues.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

JULIA: I think our strength is definitely in early classical, particularly Haydn. We also love playing Schubert!

TEREZA: I believe it is Haydn but let’s listen to the CD first.

LORENA: I am interested in works of all styles and periods, because what I enjoy most is getting to know them and playing them as best I can. It is true though that ever since I was small I have been passionate about opera, especially Mozart’s, which has influenced my style of playing and the way I like to approach non-classical repertoire too.

TOBY: I think this is entirely subjective. I most enjoy playing Haydn with the quartet, but we also love playing works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and many others. All composers bring a different set of challenges which we relish as a group.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

JULIA: We try to make sure we have a good selection of works from different musical eras – and we also tend to programme pieces that are not frequently played or slightly unusual.

TEREZA: This decision will depend on where the Quartet is performing as sometimes we are asked to perform a certain programme. On other occasions we select what we like to play and crosscheck it with competition requirements in case we would like to apply.

LORENA: Our choice of repertoire usually depends on our common interests. We tend to like to add a new piece to our repertoire, while we polish older ones.

TOBY: We like to pick interesting and varied programmes so we will sometimes base a pro-gramme around a particular work and build from there. Other times we will be asked to perform a specific repertoire or we will be working on competition works.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

JULIA: Wigmore Hall is a wonderful space and has a spiritual feel to it – even attending a concert there feels like my life will change a little bit that night. Conway Hall is another fantastic space in London with a warm, generous, acoustic and personal feel.

TEREZA: My favourite concert venue is of course the Wigmore Hall. There is no alternative to such a perfect space for chamber music.

LORENA: I do not really have a favourite venue, but it has always been a pleasure to perform in concert halls with an enthusiastic audience.

TOBY: I don’t think anywhere can quite match the Wigmore Hall in London. That being said we have performed in some lovely halls, most recently in León, Spain in December last year which was a beautiful hall.

Who are your favourite musicians?

JULIA: I have always enjoyed listening to the Hagen Quartet and Isabelle Faust. The Amadeus Quartet have some fantastic Beethoven recordings, with a sound that you rarely hear these days.

TEREZA: My quartet colleagues.

LORENA: I love listening to the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, especially Frans Brüg-gen’s recordings and I used to be very passionate about Ana Netrebko’s singing.

TOBY: There are too many to mention and it would be unfair to miss anyone out. But of course I should mention my quartet colleagues who I admire very much.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

JULIA: My most memorable concert experience has to be the first time I performed in a full or-chestra, playing Brahms 1. I’d never heard anything like it before, I felt like I was flying! That defi-nitely helped my decision to study music at University.

TEREZA: In my first performance of Mozart K.589 I played from the full score and arranged my pages in what I thought was a “clever” way, until the repeats came in… and my music was re-moved on the floor at that point…

LORENA: My most memorable concert experience is performing Elgar’s ‘Piano Quintet’ with Boris Kucharsky and Bart Lafollette in the Marryat Chamber Music Festival when I was still a student at the Yehudi Menuhin School. The intense work we did in such a small space of time with such amazing musicians who all cared about the piece to the last little detail is what made the perfor-mance for me so rewarding and special. The experience officially made me realise that I wanted to be a chamber musician.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

JULIA: Success to me is feeling like you are always learning, and always improving. It’s amazing how achieving “goals” can leave you feeling quite empty – for me it’s all about the process!

TEREZA: To be able to perform, record, perform, record and… perform… the music we love.

LORENA: Success to me is a deeply personal state in which a passionate musician feels respected by the people around him/her not only as a musician but also as a person for the hard work put into communicating something with his/her music making.

TOBY: Success for me is being able to perform the music I love and travel the world’s concert halls.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

JULIA: I think developing an open, curious attitude is incredibly important. We can all strive for technical perfection but the most magical musical moments happen when we can create on the spot.

TEREZA: Always look for something new to discover in the pieces you are playing, even if it is a core repertoire of your group and you have played the pieces hundred times. Only that way the music will stay fresh and you will feel satisfaction in rehearsals.

LORENA: I believe aspiring musicians need to understand that chamber music is no different than playing solo or orchestra, and requires the same amount of individual work from each player.

TOBY: Never stop asking questions and searching for answers. Always be creative and try everything even if it seems a bit crazy. It will rarely be your final version but it may just steer you in the right direction.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

JULIA: Playing Quartets somewhere, hopefully near a fireplace and with a nice big dog sitting in the room.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

LORENA: Happiness is perfect when one learns to appreciate and enjoy the work that goes behind fulfilling our basic needs as individuals with all that may happen on the way there. All needs, such as loving and supporting oneself while caring for the people around us, learning a new skill or pursuing big dreams, have difficult challenges that present themselves and require personal com-mitment and involvement. Happiness is a box that needs to be constantly refilled, therefore, the goal should not be to fill it all, but to make the most of putting things in it. Working in The Jubilee Quartet brings me perfect happiness, because I feel fulfilled with all the effort that goes into every rehearsal to learn and improve and it is incredibly rewarding to share our music making with an audience every now and then, knowing that nothing stops there.

What is your most treasured possession?

TOBY: My cello. It never leaves me; I feel nervous when I’m out without it.

What is your present state of mind?

JULIA: I’m feeling inspired and ambitious!

TEREZA: I’m feeling happy with The Jubilee Quartet and in love with my husband to be.


The award-winning Jubilee Quartet will release its debut album of Haydn Quartets by Rubicon Classics on 10 March 2019

First prize winners of the Val Tidone International Chamber Music Competition 2010 and the St Martin’s Chamber Music Competition 2013, Second prize winners of the Karol Szymanowski International String Quartet Competition 2014, and third prize winners of the Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition 2013, the Jubilee Quartet was formed in 2006 at the Royal Academy of Music, London. They held a Leverhulme Chamber Music Fellowship at the Academy during 2012-13, and the Richard Carne Junior Fellowship at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance during 2013-14. 

The quartet are award winners of the Tillett Trust ‘Young Artists’ Platform’; the Park Lane Group ‘Young Artists’; the Hattori Foundation; the Worshipful Company of Musicians ‘Concordia Foundation Artists Fund’; and are recipients of the Philharmonia MMSF ‘Charles Henderson Ensemble Award’ and the Eaton Square ‘St. Peter’s Prize’ 2014. In 2012 the quartet were finalists in the Joseph Joachim International Chamber Music Competition, Weimar, and in 2013 and 2015, in the Royal Over-Seas League. 

Their studies have been overseen by professors such as Günter Pichler, Hatto Beyerle, Thomas Brandis, Jon Thorne, Garfield Jackson, and Martin Outram, and they have participated in masterclasses by the Skampa, Wihan and Chilingirian Quartets, Miguel da Silva and Sylvia Rosenberg. The group studied with Rainer Schmidt at the Musikhochschule Basel from October 2014 to March 2016, with members of the Belcea String Quartet in 2016-17, with John Myerscough through the ChamberStudio at King’s Place in 2018. They have been named Associate String Quartet at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire while studying with Oliver Wille for 2018-19.

The quartet has performed widely throughout the UK in venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Conway Hall and the Purcell Room, and their continental tours have included a performance in the presence of the former Czech president Vaclav Havel. They have enjoyed a variety of outreach work as part of the Live Music Now! scheme, and have participated in the Lake District Summer Music and St Magnus Festivals. In 2014 the group was selected to attend the McGill International String Quartet Academy in Montreal, Canada and in 2016 was invited to perform with the Doric Quartet at Festpiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Notable recent performances include an appearance at the international chamber music series in Basel, Switzerland (March, 2017), performing at the 2018 Luberon Festival through ProQuartet, and a performance in Léon for the International Festival de Música de Cámara in December 2018.

Early 2019 will feature the upcoming CD release of Haydn quartets for Rubcion Classics. 

The Jubilee Quartet would like to thank the Stradivari Trust, the Mears/Speers and Eyers families and Mike Down for their generous support.



Completed by Michelle Fleming, 2nd Violin of the Carducci Quartet

The Carducci Quartet are

Matthew Denton, Violin

Michelle Fleming, Violin

Eoin Schmidt-Martin, Viola

Emma Denton, Cello


Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

I think we were all inspired by family members really. 

Emma comes from a rather musical family and her grandmother, Anita Hewitt-Jones, who was a cellist, teacher and composer, began teaching Emma cello from the age of three. 

Eoin was inspired by his grandfather, who was an traditional Irish fiddler. 

I was inspired by my older siblings, who were all learning the violin – I think my parents got good value out of those little violins as all five children had their turn playing them!

Matthew’s parents were music teachers but he was particularly drawn to the violin when he heard the sound a busker was making on the street one day.

When it came to making a decision to make quartet playing our careers, Eoin and I were hugely influenced by the Vanbrugh Quartet, who were quartet-in-residence at University College Cork when we were growing up. We had, and still have immense admiration for them. For Matthew and Emma, studying in London and working closely with the Amadeus and Chilingirian Quartets while they studied in London was a very inspiring time. They had been playing in a quartet together since their early teens and those years in London really developed their love of the genre.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I think that the years immediately following graduation from music college are tough. We had come together from the Royal Academy, Royal College and Royal Northern College of Music and so we didn’t immediately have the strong support of any institution. Shortly afterwards, we became Bulldog Fellows and then Richard Carne Fellows at Trinity Laban and with the help of those managed to launch our career by winning the Kuhmo Chamber Music Competition in Finland and the Concert Artists Guild International Competition in New York. 

We had made a decision to only work as a quartet and avoid taking on freelance work individually and so the pressure was on to make a living as a quartet. As we are two married couples, we had no other income except for the quartet work so we were highly motivated!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

A particular highlight for us was our Shostakovich15 project, in which we performed 10 complete cycles of Shostakovich’s 15 Quartets all around the world in 2015. It was very rewarding and absolutely fascinating to have Shostakovich as such a focus throughout that year. We still love each and every one of the quartets and always relish the opportunity to perform them.

Aside from that, we have had some wonderful opportunities to perform at some of the best chamber music halls in Europe and further afield and those are always exciting events…Carnegie Hall, Concertgebouw, Wigmore Hall etc…each of them has a very special atmosphere.

Recordings wise, we have done some lovely recordings for Signum in the last few years. We are really proud of our Shostakovich disc and are looking forward to recording the next instalment soon. We have had a wonderful time recording with some amazing musicians too – Nicholas Daniel, Julian Bliss, Emma Johnson, Gordon Jones and others.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Because of our immersion into the Quartets of Shostakovich a couple of years ago, we do feel an affinity for that music. We also play a lot of British and contemporary music and have been lucky enough to have had some fantastic works commissioned on our behalf. We do feel lucky to play a huge variety of repertoire though. We enjoy all sorts. We have always held Beethoven’s cycle up as the pinnacle of the quartet repertoire and find the works endlessly fascinating.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

We have our own wish list which we combine with special requests we receive from concert organisers. It means we end up with quite a diverse mix of repertoire, and we do enjoy that.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

We have some favourites, but they are quite varied – Highnam Church in Gloucestershire has an interesting history as it was Parry’s family’s church and we hold our annual festival there. Matthew and Emma were married there almost 20 years ago so it holds particularly fond memories for them. We always enjoy Wigmore Hall…the acoustic there has to be our absolute favourite and the audience is so warm and enthusiastic about string quartets.

Who are your favourite musicians?

It is difficult to choose! We have been influenced by so many from the past and from the present! We do feel honoured to collaborate with some older musicians whom we use to listen to as students.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I think it has to be 9 August 2015, the 40th anniversary of Shostakovich’s death, when we performed all 15 of his quartets at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe in London. We had four concerts with no more than an hour in between each and the same audience with us from 11am until we finished at about 9pm. It was indescribable really – the intensity, the special rapport the audience had with us, the support, the elation and the fatigue at the end of it all! I think it took us about a week to get over it! We will never forget it and even now, two years on, we meet people who say, “I was there, at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre for Shostakovich15!”, and there is a connection there, as if we are forever kindred spirits!

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?

Like every other area, the arts are becoming increasingly competitive and it isn’t easy to know how to get where you want to be. I suppose our advice would be to look at your strengths and think about all the possible paths you can take in order to make your career a success. Think outside the box. You will quite likely end up including many different elements to be a good musician. For us, the combination of performing, recording and educating provides us with a wonderful variety.

Described by The Strad as presenting “a masterclass in unanimity of musical purpose, in which severity could melt seamlessly into charm, and drama into geniality″, the Carducci Quartet is recognised as one of today’s most successful string quartets.


JACK Quartet (image credit: Henrik Olund)

Who or what inspired you to take up the cello, and make it your career?

My mom was a big part of it; she began ear training and piano skills with me from a very young age, bought me my first (eighth-size) cello, and started me on Suzuki training when I was just shy of age four.  While I was obviously not thinking about a career at this point, because music has been part of my life as long as I can remember it made the decision fairly easy later in life.  The incredible breadth and diversity of the recordings of Yo-Yo Ma were frequently played in the house and a master class I had with him in high school was truly inspiring.  I think the experiences that really cemented it for me were my three summers at the Kinhaven music camp in Vermont, where I first realized just how gratifying chamber music could be, especially with friends.  The new music bug also bit me fairly early through the vehicle of Kronos Quartet recordings.  My dad bought many of these which I borrowed (stole) as a teenager, I think I never gave many of them back!

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing?

My cello teachers have been hugely important in helping me hone my craft, both in musical and technical terms.  Troy Stuart at the Peabody Preparatory gave me a great foundation when I was in high school and transitioning into advanced repertoire, and then Steven Doane at Eastman really helped me refine these skills and be able to isolate all the technical difficulties in a piece of music and be able to put them back together in a way that was expressive and with clear interpretation.  Also at Eastman I developed my new music chops through collaborations with countless composers and performers, too many to name here.  I will note that my experience playing with the Eastman Musica Nova Ensemble under the direction of Brad Lubman was crucial, and helped me learn to parse difficult scores with precision and clarity.  Our professional as well as personal interactions with the Arditti Quartet have also been invaluable; without them much of our repertoire (as well as corresponding performance practices and attitudes) would simply not exist.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The JACK Quartet specializes in contemporary music performance, and now we are constantly learning new (and often very difficult) repertoire.  This has forced me to learn music very quickly, which means careful study of scores and annotation of parts as well as practice sessions and rehearsals that are efficient as possible.  Striking a balance between this immense amount of work and maintaining a personal life can be very challenging, as the former tends to take priority over the latter.  However the work is well worth it, and I realize I might not be able to keep this pace up forever, so I figure it is time to strike while the iron is hot!

What are the special pleasures/challenges of ensemble playing?

I think the sublimation of the ego into something greater than oneself is simultaneously a special pleasure as well as a challenge of ensemble playing.  I find the joy of chamber music performance to have little to do with self-congratulation and more to do with gratitude to be part of amazing shared musical experiences.  That being said, it is often difficult to relinquish control, and much of chamber music interpretation has to do with compromise.  Sometimes everyone’s opinions align, but many times they conflict.  It’s important to try out everyone’s ideas and come to decisions about which direction to take that make everyone happy.  Many times I find that I have been stubborn about my viewpoint, only to realize that a different approach was equally valid (or in fact better.)  You have to choose your battles carefully.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Our Xenakis disc has had much to do with our career trajectory and these quartets remain some of my favorite music to play.  Tetras in particular can generate so much energy in the crowd when performed live that you can practically feel electricity in the air.  The music of Helmut Lachenmann also holds a special place in our repertoire and we hold our interactions with him near and dear to our hearts.  (Shameless plug: our recording of the Lachenmann quartets will be released on Mode Records in the coming year.)

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

Le Poisson Rouge in New York City very much feels like a home base for us at this point.  We know the audiences will be excited and primed for the music we present there and the crowd reactions are always supportive and overwhelming.  As far as more traditional venues go, our performances at Wigmore Hall in London have been incredible experiences.  The hall has an amazing sound and warmth to it but is also small enough to feel very intimate.  I can not think of a more ideal place for chamber music.  (Shameless plug #2: I should probably add our disc that was just released on the Wigmore Live series to the previous list of performances/recordings we are most proud of.)

Favourite pieces to perform?

I mentioned Tetras earlier, and should specify that Lachenmann’s String Quartet No. 3 “Grido” is also exhilarating to perform.  Wolfgang Rihm’s String Quartet No. 3 “Im Innersten” is always an overwhelming emotional and cathartic experience to perform.  There must be something about third string quartets, because I must also mention Georg Friedrich Haas’s String Quartet No. 3 “in iij Noct.” here, which is performed in complete darkness.  We insist that the condition of darkness be so profound when we perform it that you can’t see your hand in front of your own face.  The piece has a quasi-improvisational structure to it that allows for a bit more spontaneous music making than many other pieces in our domain.  All these conditions add up to an experience that elicits a range of responses: from terrifying to ecstatic, hallucinatory to synaesthetic.  It’s a blast!  Rounding out the list is Horatiu Radulescu’s String Quartet No. 5 “Before the Universe was born” which pulls a range of harmonics and complex spectral sounds out of our instruments unlike any other music we’ve played.  It is an experience both spiritual and transcendent.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Many of my favorite musicians are already listed in my responses to the above questions and so imagine me re-listing all of the above here.  There are many cellists whose recordings have been highly influential to me, including Rostropovich, du Pre, Isserlis, and many others.  I’ll also take this opportunity to note that my tastes vary widely to include much more than classical and contemporary classical music.  I am often fascinated by autodidactic musicians who developed their own sophisticated musical languages.  Frank Zappa comes to mind, as well as electronic musicians Aphex Twin and Autechre.  Björk has a unique vocal instrument as well as an idiosyncratic approach to the craft of songwriting.  The Swedish metal band Meshuggah has developed a complex polyrhythmic style that is hard to duplicate successfully in any other musical form.  There are many others, again too numerous to mention.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

This may be cheating a bit as it is in the near future, but we are about to travel to Bali to perform with a full gamelan and traditional dancers on a huge outdoor stage at a festival attended by an estimated 8,000 people.  I believe it will be quite memorable!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

You must figure out what is the most unique contribution you can make to the music world and follow that path.  It is not enough just to play well anymore, but you have to figure out what makes your interpretation or performance different and memorable in order to stand out from the crowd.  You also have to love and care about your work.  I think it is nearly impossible to make a personal stamp without putting your heart into it.

What are you working on at the moment?

Trying to stay sane until our break in July!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To be surrounded by people you love, to be doing work that is gratifying and rewarding, to always be learning and growing as a person, to smile and laugh and enjoy the simple pleasures of life, and to be at peace with yourself so that you can know true compassion for others.

Comprising violinists Christopher Otto and Ari Streisfeld, violist John Pickford Richards, and cellist Kevin McFarland, JACK is focused on the commissioning and performance of new works, leading them to work closely with composers Helmut Lachenmann, György Kurtág, Matthias Pintscher, Georg Friedrich Haas, James Dillon, Toshio Hosokawa, Wolfgang Rihm, Elliott Sharp, Beat Furrer, Caleb Burhans, and Aaron Cassidy. Upcoming and recent premieres include works by Jason Eckardt, Zeena Parkins, Payton MacDonald, Huck Hodge, James Clarke, Mauro Lanza, Simon Steen-Andersen, Walter Zimmermann, , and Toby Twining.

JACK has led workshops with young composers at Princeton University, Yale University, the American String Teachers Association of New Jersey, University of Iowa, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Darmstadt Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik (Germany), New York University, Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, Eastman School of Music, University at Buffalo, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University, University of Huddersfield (United Kingdom), University of Washington, University of Victoria (Canada), and Manhattan School of Music. In addition to working with composers and performers, JACK seeks to broaden and diversify the potential audience for new music through educational presentations designed for a variety of ages, backgrounds, and levels of musical experience.

The members of the quartet met while attending the Eastman School of Music, and they have since studied with the Arditti Quartet, Kronos Quartet, Muir String Quartet, and members of the Ensemble Intercontemporain.


Who or what inspired you to take up your chosen instrument and make music your career?

My mum and dad: Dad was a devoted brass band player, there was always music in the house (he had a gorgeous walnut radiogram, with piles of records – mostly 78s!). They fixed up violin lessons for me, made me practise, came to almost every concert I did, helped get me in the NYO, and thence to Cambridge.

Who or what are the most important influences on your playing?

My colleagues in the Fitzwilliam Quartet! But before that, our mentor, Sidney Griller and his quartet; the Smetana Quartet; the Beethoven and Borodin Quartets (for Shostakovich); violinist Alfredo Campoli (the ideal violin sound); conductors Otto Klemperer and Roger Norrington (two totally opposite approaches to Beethoven); clarinettists Alan Hacker and Lesley Schatzberger (opening my eyes to historical performance practice); Dmitri Shostakovich himself – the greatest man I have ever met, whose very presence and humility imparted a belief in what we were doing, and a confidence to press on into the future; the greatest performer I have ever heard (not in the flesh, sadly): Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau;

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Starting off and making headway in the real world as a professional string quartet; playing to Shostakovich; our New York debut – then the complete Shostakovich cycle there; re-building the quartet post- Chris Rowland (it took over twelve years!), and maintaining its profile and pre-eminence in these times of age discrimination in the music world; getting John Eliot Gardiner to observe the spirit and letter of Beethoven’s metronome marks (without seeming too cocky for my position!); getting my own playing onto a higher level, in order not to let the other three down (whilst spending a disproportionate amount of time on admin….).

What are the pleasures and pitfalls of ensemble work?

As a “team player” (which is the most satisfying role for a violist) one can achieve collective heights one could never achieve on one’s own – especially since the FSQ plays to a higher standard than I could ever reach myself! Those concerts (which happen rarely) when everyone is pulling together for the common benefit of quartet and composer, when you feel anyone can do anything, and everyone else will respond and be with each other. The pitfalls are when that doesn’t happen…. Or when individuals prioritise themselves before the group.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

The Shostakovich cycle, of course – although many of them we play better now! The Franck quartet. The Brahms clarinet quintet (with Lesley Schatzberger). Wolf’s Italian Serenade – as virtuosic as we could get in the old days! Then, latterly, our first ever public performance of Schubert’s Death & the Maiden (after 42 years! – as good as I’ve ever heard it from anyone…..).

Who are your favourite musicians?

The ones I play with: my colleagues in the quartet, plus Anna Tilbrook (piano), Moray Welsh (cello), Lesley Schatzberger (clarinet), Carolyn Sparey (viola); also those influential musicians mentioned above.

The Fitzwilliam Quartet

What is your most memorable concert experience?

16th November 1972, Lyons Concert Hall, York: packed to the rafters to witness us play Shostakovich No.13 with the composer in the audience. I have never in my life experienced such electricity in the air, or intensity of applause.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians/students?

Don’t get in the way of the music or the composer! Be faithful to both the spirit and the letter of the score – i.e. inform yourself as to the exact meaning of the notation, the performing conventions and sound according to the period of music in question. Aim to perfect every aspect of your “craft”, in the service of both the music and your own self-expression – but never impose the latter: this would imply that your own personality is not strong enough to stand on its own. Ego is no substitute for the humility and character required to communicate with your audience.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Manchester United overturning the rich pretenders from Man City next year!

What is your most treasured possession?

My family, my friends, my health, my viola, a lock of my late daughter’s hair

What do you enjoy doing most?

Drinking good beer or wine, eating Italian food (or Indian), playing (now watching…) cricket, walking, cycling.

The Fitzwilliam Quartet with pianist Anna Tilbrook perform music by Hugo Wolf, Rebecca Clarke, Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms on Sunday 8th May as part of the London Chamber Music Society’s Sunday Concerts series. More information/tickets

The Fitzwilliam Quartet