Fitzwilliam String Quartet
Fitzwilliam String Quartet
The Fitzwilliam String Quartet is among the longest established string quartets in the world, it first became known internationally through its close personal association with Dmitri Shostakovich.
The original members of the Fitzwilliam String Quartet (FSQ) first sat down together at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, in October 1968. Their first concert appearance took place in Churchill College the following March, ahead of their public debut at the Sheffield Arts Festival in June – making the FSQ now one of the longest established string quartets in the world, and possibly unique in having reached a half-century with an original player still on board. After graduating from Cambridge in 1971, they accepted their first professional appointment as Quartet- in-Residence at the University of York, succeeding the celebrated Amadeus Quartet. There, the group built a niche for itself in concert venues around Yorkshire and the rest of the United Kingdom, at the same time joining a select company of quartets to have emerged under the guidance of Sidney Griller at the Royal Academy of Music.
International recognition came early for the FSQ as the first group to record and perform all fifteen Shostakovich string quartets, drawing on the players’ personal connection with the composer. The quartet has since appeared regularly across Britain, Europe, North America, the Middle and Far East and Southern Africa, and has made many award-winning recordings for Decca, Linn and Divine Art. The FSQ remain one of the few prominent quartets to play on older set-ups, yet simultaneously bringing about the addition of over 50 new works to the repertoire.
Whilst the FSQ’s pre-eminence in the interpretation of Shostakovich has persisted, the authority gained has also been put at the service of diverse other composers, from the early seventeenth century to the present day. Their involvement in 2013 with celebrating Britten’s centenary, and before that the chamber works of Delius and Grainger, are only the more recent manifestations of the players’ enthusiasm for using anniversaries to promote less familiar music. Following Vaughan Williams in 2008, it would appear that Britain has gradually taken its place alongside Russia and Vienna as a principal area of speciality; while in 2015 they looked further north, to honour the joint 150th birthdays of Glazunov, Sibelius and Nielsen.
Having been Quartet-in-Residence at York for twelve years, at Warwick for three, and at Bucknell (Pennsylvania, USA) from 1978, their university work continues at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and now at St Andrews. They have also been granted their own chamber music festival in the famous ‘book town’ of Hay-on-Wye.