Andrew Watkinson and Ralph de Souza, Violins
Garfield Jackon, Viola
David Waterman, 'cello
The Endellion String Quartet is now in its forty-first season — which is to be its final one — and is renowned as one of the finest quartets in the world. It was founded in January 1979 and three of the original players continue to be members. Ralph de Souza joined them in 1986. As Gramophone stated in 2013, ‘There’s always a feeling when listening to the Endellion String Quartet that you’re listening to the Urtext method of quartet playing. Maybe 35 years of playing together has brought to them as a group a uniformity of thought and instinct that allows them to play as a single entity.’
The Endellion marked its fortieth year by commissioning Sally Beamish, Prach Boondiskulchok, Jonathan Dove and Giles Swayne each to write a short piece for string quartet. The unrivalled greatness, rich variety and sheer volume of the quartet repertoire have long nourished the Endellion’s longevity. However, there are relatively few short pieces for string quartet and the Endellion wished to contribute to making good this deficit. The London première of these pieces took place at Wigmore Hall in May 2019. The Guardian commented on the Endellion’s ‘warm sound and impeccable style … they function as an indivisible expressive unit, playing with that innate understanding of each other that only comes from a long experience of making music together … superb … real eloquence and passion … outstandingly done’.
Also new in the Endellion’s repertoire was a string quartet by the renowned pianist, Evgeny Kissin, which they performed, amongst other places, in Prague, where the composer currently lives. They gave the UK Première on 27 February 2019 at West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge.
In Britain, the Endellion String Quartet has appeared at nearly all of the major series and festivals and has broadcast many times on BBC radio and television. It has appeared at the Proms and been featured in the week-long BBC Radio 3 programmes ‘Artist of the Week’ and ‘Artists in Focus’. Its presence in London has been marked for many years by an annual series at Wigmore Hall and also by appearances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall where the quartet members were Artistic Directors of several ‘Quartet Plus’ series. The Endellion also continues its prestigious Residency at Cambridge University which began in 1991, gives a regular Spring series at The Venue Leeds and has a new series at Balliol College, Oxford. It has worked with guest artists including members of the former Amadeus Quartet, Sir Thomas Allen, Joshua Bell, Michael Collins, Benjamin Grosvenor, Marc-André Hamelin, Stephen Hough, Steven Isserlis, Mitsuko Uchida and Tabea Zimmermann.
The Beethoven and Schubert Quartets, both essentially melancholy in tone, were superb. Beethoven’s Op 18 No 1 had a grandeur and an almost operatic intensity, with real eloquence and passion in its anguished Adagio. Their interpretation of Death and the Maiden was stark and fiercely dramatic, uncompromising in the second movement’s grieving variations and whirling into uneasy, almost manic exhilaration at the close. Outstandingly done.
The Guardian May 2019
The Endellion musicians kept the opening movement up to tempo and made it tremendously exciting, as they exchanged phrases without dropping a stitch. This aspect became even more enjoyable in the scherzo-like Allegretto…. The contrasting passages were finely done, too. The Adagio was played with concentration and spiritual feeling and rose to an immensely resolute climax… the Finale was delightfully launched by Waterman’s cello and the rhythm was always airborne, the coda fiercely intense.
Classical Source, September 2016, Wigmore Hall Beethoven Op 59/1
One doubts if [one] could have imagined a finer performance than that given by the Endellion Quartet, its playing of this centrifugal masterpiece of European art was incredibly fine. Tempos were absolutely right… so too tuning, phrasing and that wondrous element of genuine chamber-music playing – the authentic ‘give-and-take’ of like-minded players, each secure in the knowledge of their colleagues’ artistry – was a joy.
… it was a privilege to hear this performance.
Musical Opinion, June 2014, QEH Haydn and Britten