The Clarinet Quartet flex (Clarinet/Violin/Viola/Cello), while less common, is home to some beautiful works. The best known are the three quartets from prolific Swedish-Finnish clarinettist/composer Bernhard Crusell; an important figure in the history of the clarinet, having also composed three clarinet concertos among other works involving clarinet and orchestra. These are predated however by three delightful, little known period arrangements of Mozart works; being common practise at the time to arrange popular works for different ensemble combinations to increase their versatility and revenue.
Compared to the more traditional clarinet quintet, the more intimate setting of the quartet (with single strings) lends an immediate textural and timbral clarity to the proceedings, while still retaining power and expressive capabilities at least on par with a string quartet.
Other works alongside the Mozart and Crusell include the darkly brooding, powerful quartet from English composer Alan Rawsthorne (composed immediately following WW2; premiered by famous English clarinettist Frederick Thurston) and the internationally renowned Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki's seminal quartet (both gripping and absolutely haunting; premiered by Sharon Kam). Marking an important stylistic change in his output, Penderecki's quartet uses ingenious blends of different combinations within the quartet. An exciting, rarely heard combination, the medium has something unique to offer.
Clarinet & Piano Quartet
Clarinet / Violin / Cello / Piano
Here's our Clarinet/Violin/Cello/Piano Quartet flex, home to arguably one of the greatest chamber music masterpieces of all time, Messiaen's unequivocally moving Quartet for the End of Time; if you’ve not heard this piece live you don’t know what you're missing! Composed during Messiaen's time in the Gorlitz, Germany POW camp Stalag VIII-A (now part of Zgorzelec, Poland), the work was inspired by text from the Book of Revelation (Rev 10:1–2, 5–7, King James Version), and is quite literally about 'the end of time', the end of everything.
The medium actually dates back to the late 19th Century, combining the sonorities of a traditional piano trio with the textural/timbral clarity of clarinet and violin and the mellow blend of clarinet and cello. Using different pairings within the ensemble affords the composer an amazing variety of colours and possibilities, along with a very powerful full quartet sound; creating an exciting combination both visually and acoustically.
Arguably cemented as a new medium by Messaien, other major works include quartets by; Walter Rabl (a young contemporary of Brahms), the highly regarded German composer/conductor Paul Hindemith, the largely self-taught Japanese master Toru Takemitsu, prolific British composer/pianist/conductor Thomas Ades and the late American composer/conductor/horn-player/jazz-musician Gunther Schuller (who famously coined the term 'Third Stream' for his work combining classical and jazz techniques). It is a unique medium with much to offer.
Violin / Viola / Cello / Piano
Another staple medium of chamber music, here is our Piano Quartet flex (Violin/Viola/Cello/Piano). This medium developed in the late 18th Century, where Beethoven did much for the popularity of the ensemble. It is closely related to the traditional Piano Quintet of String Quartet with the addition of Piano. However with a single violin line, the Quartet has a slightly more intimate feel. A wealth of fantastic works by composers such as Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Dvorak, Saint-Saens, Strauss, Bax, Copland and Enescu to name only a few, make this a worthy contributor within our ensembles.
Selected for the 2016/17 St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme