The Art of the String Quartet: Old and New



Lecture: The Art of the String Quartet I

Berwick Parish Centre

Thursday, August 15, 1.00-3.00 pm

Michael Worboys, BMS Artistic Director

This lecture is the first of three that introduce the string quartet art form to a general audience. No prior musical knowledge is assumed. The lectures will cover general background, history, context and cultural significance, as well as taking a closer look at some key string quartets, including those to be performed in the concerts. The course will be supported by audio and video examples. Attendance at the concerts, while desirable, is not essential as the course can be followed independently of the live performances.

Content of Lecture One: What is a string quartet? Instruments, general setting, structure, early examples, and focus on the works to be played on Aug 24th by the Dulcinea Quartet.



Performance: Dulcinea Quartet

Berwick Watchtower

Saturday, August 24, 1.00-2.15 pm


Minn Majoe violin
Haru Ushigusa violin
Martin Wray viola
Kirsten Jenson cello

Mozart           D minor String Quartet K421                      

Barber            String Quartet Op. 11                                 

Schubert        Quartettsatz D703               

The London-based Dulcinea Quartet was formed in 2008. They have developed an international reputation that has included regular tours to Japan. Programmes comprise both the classical string quartet repertoire and contemporary works. The Dulcinea Quartet is part of ANIMA, a chamber ensemble that plays contemporary music alongside animated films. As well as working closely with up-and-coming composers and animators, the ANIMA ensemble has recorded several film scores.

Mozart’s D minor quartet dates from around 1783 and is dedicated to Haydn. It was composed while Mozart’s wife Constanze was in labour with their first child.

The American composer Samuel Barber wrote this, his only string quartet, in 1935–36. He arranged the middle movement for string orchestra as his well-known Adagio for Strings. 

The Quartet Movement (Quartettsatz), D 703 was composed by Franz Schubert in 1820.  It was intended as the first movement of a complete string quartet but, like his Unfinished Symphony, it remained uncompleted.



Lecture: The Art of the String Quartet II

Berwick Parish Centre

Thursday, September 5, 1.00-3.00 pm

Michael Worboys, BMS Artistic Director

This lecture is the second of three that introduce the string quartet art form to a general audience.

Lecture Two in the series will chart the historical development of the string quartet and some of its most renowned ensembles, and review the works to be performed on Sep 11th by the Frankland Quartet. 



Performance: Frankland Quartet

Berwick Watchtower

Wednesday, September 11, 1.00-2.15 pm


Sophie Appleton violin
Sarah Roberts violin
James Slater viola
Daniel Hammersley cello

Haydn                        String Quartet Op. 103                  

Egidija Medeksaite   Megh Malhar      

Ravel                          String Quartet in F Major  

The Frankland Quartet was formed by members of the Royal Northern Sinfonia who share a musical empathy and is a spin-off from a touring group created in 2017. Their Beethoven concerts last year were widely acclaimed, and they performed Haydn and Beethoven on BBC Radio 3 as part of the 'free thinking' festival in 2018. Members of the quartet, as well as their regular work with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, have played in orchestras such as the Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Academy of St Martins in the Field and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.

In 1803, Haydn, in failing health, accepted a commission for six quartets from Count Moritz von Fries. What we have are two movements that may have been composed earlier in his life. Haydn added the following words to the score: “Gone is all my strength, old and weak am I.”

Egidija Medeksaite lives in Durham. Megh Malhar is a Hindustani classical raga. The name derives from the Sanskrit word Megh, meaning cloud.

Maurice Ravel completed his String Quartet in 1903 at the age of 28. It is dedicated to his teacher, Gabriel Fauré.



Lecture: The Art of the String Quartet III,

Berwick Parish Centre

Thursday, November 14, 1.00-3.00 pm

Michael Worboys, BMS Artistic Director

This is the final of three lecture series that introduces the string quartet art form to a general audience. Lecture Three will select a bucket list of “unmissable” string quartets and review the works to be performed on November 21st by Quatuor Bozzini. As always, no previous knowledge is assumed.



Performance: Quatuor Bozzini

Berwick Watchtower

Thursday, November 21, 12.00-2.00 pm  (note the earlier start time, interval)


Clemens Merkel violin
Alissa Cheung violin
Stéphanie Bozzini viola
Isabelle Bozzini cello

James Weeks            Leafleoht   

Michael Worboys      Properties of Matter: Expansion and Contraction 

Shostakovich             String Quartet 15, Op. 144

Formed in Montréal, Canada in 1999, Quatuor Bozzini has been an original voice in contemporary and classical music. Alex Ross, in the New Yorker, has acclaimed the Quartet for their “extraordinary playing”. They have nurtured a diverse repertoire, unbiased by the currents of fashion. This has led to almost two hundred commissioned pieces, as well as over three hundred premiered works and many albums.

A Quatuor Bozzini concert is an intensely shared experience, with meticulous and sensuous attention to detail.

James Weeks lives in Durham and recently won the British Composer Award. Leafleoht (the title means 'leaf-light' in Anglo-Saxon) arose from a memory-image of wind in the leaves of a hedge near the sea.

Michael Worboys lives in Berwick-upon-Tweed. His work Properties of Matter: Expansion and Contraction starts from the premise that sound is a material medium, involving vibrations of matter, with the ability to affect our thoughts and emotions.

The String Quartet No. 15, completed in 1974, was Dmitri Shostakovich's last quartet and comes from the end of his life. It has been thought of as his personal requiem. Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 15 is structured as a continuous sequence of six slow movements and is one of the most moving of all his compositions.



Workshop: Sound in Space – Space in Sound 

Berwick Parish Centre

Thursday, November 21, 3:00–5:00 pm

Jointly curated by Prof. Mike Worboys (University of Greenwich) and Dr. John Stell (University of Leeds)

More details may be found here.



Community performance: James Tenney 'In a Large Open Space'

Berwick Parish Church

Thursday, November 21, 6:30-7-30 pm

More details may be found here.