Doric String Quartet will perform throughout the Britten Weekend at Snape Maltings Friday 19 – Sunday 21 October 2018

Hélène Clément, viola player for the Quartet, will perform on Britten’s own instrument, on loan from the Britten-Pears Foundation

The Quartet will also record the complete Britten String Quartets in the same venue for later release on Chandos

On Friday 19 – Sunday 21 October 2018, the Doric String Quartet will present Benjamin Britten’s complete String Quartets, having been invited by Snape Maltings to be the focus of their Britten Weekend. Appearing throughout the Weekend, the Doric Quartet will perform with guest artists including oboist Olivier Stankiewicz, and pianist Alasdair Beatson.

In the days leading up to the concerts, the Doric Quartet will also record Britten’s complete string quartets in the same venue for later release on the Chandos label. Britten has been at the heart of the Doric Quartet’s programming for several years and this event marks an important milestone for the ensemble and is the culmination of their long-term commitment to the repertoire.

The Doric Quartet’s viola player, Hélène Clément will perform Britten’s works on the composer’s own instrument. Given to Britten by his mentor and friend, composer Frank Bridge in April 1939 before Britten set sail for America, the viola was made by Giussani in 1843 and is of exceptional quality.

Hélène Clément said of the instrument: ‘I am so grateful to the Britten-Pears Foundation to have the opportunity to play this important instrument and to record and perform Britten’s own music on it is particularly special.

I have always found it a challenge to find an instrument which suits my style of playing with the specific type of sound that I have in mind, especially with historic instruments due to their tendency to favour the lower, bass registers giving them an almost cello-like sound. It was therefore extremely emotional to discover that Britten’s own viola – the instrument with which he experimented and the sound that he had in mind while writing his music – has this wonderfully light quality to it, with such an expressive A string.’

Clément continues: ‘As I played the instrument for the first time I was overwhelmed with emotion! I felt I now understood so much about Britten's highly expressive viola parts in each of his String Quartets, which are extremely exploratory of the whole register. It has brought so much to the way both me and the quartet perform Britten’s music, it is expanding the whole quartet’s sound in a way that feels naturally suited to his work.’

For a composer whose mature career was dominated by opera and vocal writing, Britten’s four works for string quartet, written over nearly four decades, are fascinating, pivotal moments. Spanning a period from the 1930s to the very end of his life, they provide intriguing snapshots of a career, and of influences both musical and biographical.


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