Classical: Rural Inspirations

Maxwell Quartet
Maxwell Quartet

Acclaimed Scottish ensemble the Maxwell Quartet visit Upper Chapel next Wednesday, 22nd February, for the latest concert in Music in the Round’s Spring Season.

They will take inspiration from their homeland, playing Sally Beamish’s beautiful Reed Stanzas, a piece written on the Hebridean Isle of Harris and influenced by its flora and fauna. Frank Bridge’s serene Three Idylls and an enchanting Mozart quartet provide the concert’s opener and finale.

The quartet talked to us ahead of the concert about these brilliant pieces, their life in music and their passion for education work.

Talk us through your programme, why these pieces?

We feel a strong affinity to Sally Beamish’s Reed Stanzas; it was originally written for the Elias Quartet, whose second violinist Donald Grant hails from the same rural highland village as me, and the work is imbued with the traditional music of the western isles of Scotland. The Three Idylls we will play will melt your heart! And Mozart, what can we say; his D major quartet is the perfect example of Mozartian beauty and elegance.

You’re leading Music in the Round’s string course in February too, what is it about education work you love so much? You’re certainly very good at it!

Education work is actually where we learn the most ourselves! It’s a process of constant discovery working with other people, whatever age and stage they may be. We all have many different ideas which we like to throw out to the students, challenging their comfort zones and opening their minds wherever possible.

You’ve been described as ‘fresh’ and ‘dynamic’, what sets you apart from other string quartets performing today?

On one hand, there is a world of technique and ensemble work that takes many years to develop - in fact, you never stop. But we all have many other diverse tastes and interests and it’s really important to us to develop that together too. That means we often embark on ambitious projects which bring together other musical styles such as folk music, electronic music, and contemporary music, or working with cinematographers, visual artists, and dancers.

What else are you up to at the moment? Any exciting plans for 2017?

2017 is a busy one for us! We’ll be going to Japan for the Osaka International Chamber Music Competition, and Trondheim for the competition there. We’re also really lucky to have residencies at Aldeburgh, Drimnin and in the South of France at Brel. That’s combined of course with lots of concerts up and down the country, making our first recording, and performing a host of new commissions. It’s going to be a mad year!

What are you listening to at the moment?

We have recently been listening to the first recording of Britten’s Quartet no.2, which we’re learning at the moment, by the Zorian Quartet.

We listen to all sorts of other things; at the moment we are great fans of Irish folk group The Gloaming, whose mysterious, wintry sound world is just beautiful.