Castalian String Quartet

  • 09/11/2017
  • 8pm
  • €10
  • National Museum of Archaeology

Sini Simonen Violin
Daniel Roberts Violin
Charlotte Bonneton Viola
Christopher Graves Cello

Formed in 2011, the Castalian String Quartet is rapidly emerging as an exciting voice on the international chamber music scene. In the past three years they have won top prizes at major international competitions and have performed widely throughout Europe and beyond. For their performance during the Three Palaces Festival, they will play Haydn’s String Quartet in E flat, Op. 76 No.6, the String Quartet Ainsi La Nuit by Dutilleux and Schumann’s String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op.41 No.1.

The Castalian Quartet is rapidly emerging as an exciting voice on the international chamber music scene. In 2016 they were the only European quartet to progress to the live rounds of the Banff International Quartet Competition where they won 3rd Prize. 

Previous awards include 1st Prize at the 2015 Lyon and 2013 Kammermusik Hannover Competitions. Formed in 2011, the Castalian Quartet studied with Oliver Wille (Kuss Quartet) at the Hannover University of Music, Drama and Media, graduating with a Masters. 

Future engagements include performances of the complete Haydn Op.76 Quartets at Wigmore Hall, and concerts in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Heidelberger Frühling Festival, and Zwischentöne Festival in Engelberg. Further afield they tour China, the US, Canada and Colombia. 

The Quartet has performed widely in Europe, recent highlights including recitals at the Aldeburgh and East Neuk Festivals, Sommerliche Musiktage Hitzacker, Quartetaffairs in Frankfurt (broadcast by NDR) and Turin Chamber Music Series. The Castalian Quartet were selected for representation by the Young Classical Artists Trust in 2016.

HAYDN:  String Quartet in E flat, Op. 76 No. 6

DUTILLEUX: String Quartet Ainsi la nuit


SCHUMANN:  String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 41 No. 1

JOSEF HAYDN (1732-1809):  String Quartet in E flat, Op.76 No.6

  1. Allegretto  –  allegro
  2. Fantasia  –  adagio
  3. Menuetto  –  presto
  4. Finale  –  allegro spiritoso

This Quartet is the last in a group of six quartets known collectively as the “Erdödy Quartets”. They were commissioned by Count Joseph Erdödy in 1796; composed between 1796 and 1797, and published in 1799. The quartets that make up Op. 76 are amongst Haydn’s most celebrated works. No. 6 is a perfect example of Haydn at his best. The 2/4 first movement is in strophic variation form whereas the second is in 3/4 and shares a near identical basic motif to the second movement of Op. 76, No. 4. The third and fourth movements are a minuet and a sonata form allegro, both exemplifying styles which Haydn constantly used in his string quartets. The slow and finale movements are considerably profound and the tension between major and minor modes adds to the drama and is a characteristic found in several other quartets of the group.

HENRI DUTILLEUX (1916-2013) : String Quartet Ainsi la nuit (Thus the night)

  1. Nocturne
  2. Miroir d’espace
  3. Litanies
  4. Litanies II
  5. Constellation
  6. Nocturne II
  7. Temps suspend

Before starting on the actual composition of his work Ainsi la nuit (1976), Dutilleux spent some time studying the intricacies of string-playing techniques of the time. He had not attempted to write a work for string quartet since his days as a student at the Paris Conservatoire. Dutilleux completed Ainsi la nuit in 1976 and the work was premiered on January 6, 1977, in Paris.

The final version of the piece has seven movements with four “parentheses” lying in between the first five movements. Dutilleux did not like to leave the individual movements of his works untitled so he gave one to each of them. The “parentheses” are mostly used to recall or foreshadow musical material in the rest of the work. For this reason, Ainsi la nuit is often associated with the idea of memory.

Many of the characteristics of Dutilleux’s later works are displayed in Ainsi la nuit, including “fan-shaped” writing, the outlining of a tonal triad in a seemingly atonal work, and a similarity of some melodies to the modality of Gregorian chant.  Dutilleux’s “fan-shaped” writing can best be described through a piano composition in which the placement of the pianist’s fingers create a mirror image between the hands. In Ainsi la nuit, this is accomplished through the voices of the four string instruments.

When performed by the Castalian Quartet, Ainsi la nuit is mesmerising with perfect, delicate delivery.

ROBERT SCHUMANN (1810-56):  String Quartet No.1 in A minor, Op. 41 No. 1

  1. Introduzione: Andante espressivo  –  allegro
  2. Scherzo  –  presto
  3. Adagio
  4. Allegro

The quartet’s last piece is one of Schumann’s most cherished works. It is one of three quartets that were dedicated to Mendelssohn who considered them to be the best works of Schumann’s earlier period. Schumann had been interested in string quartets from 1836 when he began attending rehearsals of the quartet led by Mendelssohn’s close friend, Ferdinand David. In 1838, as editor of the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Schumann had declared Beethoven’s Op. 127 and Op. 131 quartets as being works ‘for whose greatness no words can be found’ and that they ‘represent the outermost limits that human art and imagination have yet reached’. After much study of Beethoven’s late quartets Schumann turned his hand to the genre. Op. 41 No. 1 opens with a rather bleak introduction which breaks out into a sunny Allegro. The Scherzo is a wild and driven ternary form movement whose trio Intermezzo brings a peaceful air of serenity. The quartet perform the dreamy and timeless Adagio very emotively, demonstrating the reflective side of Schumann. They then round of their concert with the exhilarating Presto finale which sweeps away any regrets culminating in a joyful climax in the major.

Mesmerising music delicately played by an exciting quartet in the international chamber music scene.