Finalists in the 2009 Royal Overseas League competition and winners of the Tunnell Trust Award 2010/2011, the Piatti String Quartet are fast emerging as the UK's leading young string quartet. Having been chosen for the Park Lane Group young artist series, the Piatti Quartet have their Purcell room debut in October 2009 as part of the Peter Maxwell Davis 'Naxos' quartet series and they return to the Purcell room again in January 2010. Highlights for the forthcoming season include launching the Belfast Music Society's next International Chamber Music Festival, a collaboration project with renowned cellist Raphael Wallfisch and a return to Farnham castle for the Tilford Bach Society concert series. In 2010, the Piatti String Quartet are launching the 'Piatti Chamber Music Festival at Kingsand' Cornwall, following an extremely enthusiastic response at the 2009 pre-festival concert, and they will also be attending a two week residency in Aldeburgh with Hugh Maguire.
The Quartet has previously played throughout the UK at various venues and festivals including the Royal Festival Hall, St Martins in the Fields, St James Piccadilly and the National Gallery. The Quartet members are all past and current award-winning students from the Royal College of Music and Royal Academy of Music and have studied with members of the Amadeus Quartet, Chilingirian Quartet, Alban Berg Quartet, Keller Quartet, Maggini Quartet, Vellinger Quartet, Brodsky Quartet, Artis Quartet and with Jon Thorne. In 2009 they received the MBF Ensemble Award to attend the International Sommerakademie Prague/Vienna/Budapest where they performed extensively throughout Austria in venues including Brahms House and the Schloss Rothschild castle.
The Quartet have a growing empathy for English Music which has led to the world premier recording of the Hurlstone "Fantasie" for string quartet in 2006 and they are continuously looking to expand their English repertoire. The Piatti Quartet is extremely grateful for the generosity and support of the Nicolas Boas Charitable Trust, the Musicians Benevolent Fund, the Concordia Foundation and Ian Ellis.
String Quartet Op 76 No 3 in C major “The Emperor” Haydn
Poco adagio cantabile
Haydn’s six quartets op.76 were written in Vienna between 1796 and 1798 following a successful second concert tour of London. The C major quartet is nicknamed the Emperor Quartet after an anthem theme composed by Haydn for the second movement of the quartet: ‘Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser’ (God protect the Emperor Franz). Governed at the time by the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Franz II, Austria was at war on two fronts and, responding to general patriotic fervor throughout the country, Haydn composed his Miitary Symphony (Symphony no.100 in G) in 1794 and his Mass in Time of War in 1796.
The principal violin theme at the start of the first movement provides the basis of the melody and rhythm of the whole movement, which is later transformed into a kind of rustic dance:
The second movement is a set of four variations on Haydn’s anthem tune. After an initial statement of the theme, the first variation is one for the first violin, the second for the cello, the third for the viola and the last variation, high on the first violin, brings the whole to a gentle close.
The uncomplicated third movement - Minuet & Trio, alternates delightfully between the keys of A major and A minor and leads us to the Finale where, after three powerful opening chords, scurrying triplets in all instruments proceed to give the movement a strong drive and excitement throughout. The whole work is brought to its close with a final dramatic cello flourish.
String Quartet No 10 in Eb Op 74 “The Harp” Beethoven
Poco adagio – Allegro
Adagio non troppo
Allegretto con variazioni – Vivace
Vienna was again in turmoil when Beethoven composed this quartet in 1809. A series of twenty years of sporadic war with France was taking its toll on the people and, by the end of July, the imperial family had fled Vienna. This quartet belongs to the composer’s ‘middle period’ - just before deafness, ill health and financial problems came to dominate his life. However this magnificent work displays many features of his more mature period of composition. The accustomed title Harp Quartet was not a nickname given by Beethoven, but it no doubt refers to two short characteristic pizzicato passages on the three lower strings in the first movement.
The first movement opens with a slow introduction which precedes the Allegro section. Both parts are very dependant on the development of small motifs in the music rather than on large flowing melodies. The opening of the lovely second movement is a beautiful lyrical song for the first violin. The movement is sad, reflective and noble, and sensitive interplay between the players is vital here.
It is with some emotional relief that we reach the third movement - a Scherzo with two contrasting Trio sections marked Presto. This movement is fast and furious in a controlled way, and has an wonderful enigmatic quality which it shares with the Scherzo of the fifth symphony. It ends quietly and leads directly into the last movement without a break.
The last movement is a set of six variations derived from a theme which is first heard at the opening on the violin:
Every following variation expands some aspect of the melody or its rhythm. The first variation explores the harmony in staccato arpeggios; the second gives the viola a variation in triplets; the third experiments with offbeat passages for the first violin and viola; the fourth variation explores more lyrical and romantic ideas; the fifth is restless and agitated, and the last variation develops further thematic possibilities before a vigorous coda finally sweeps us to the end.
String Quartet No 1 in E minor “From my life” Smetana
Allegro vivo appassionata
Allegro moderato alla Polka
This first quartet by Smetana was composed in 1876. Containing an abundance of vitality and good memorable tunes, it has justifiably secured a place as one of the most popular works in the romantic chamber music repertoire. Smetana was born in Bohemia and was to become one of the most notable figures in Czech musical life. However, he hardly ever used Czech folk tunes directly in his compositions, and some extreme nationalists of his day criticised him for showing too much influence from the music of Liszt and Wagner.
Though other of his famous works bear descriptive titles, notably his popular symphonic poems ‘Má vlast’ (My Fatherland), and ‘Vltava’ - The Moldau (a beautiful depiction of the river which passes through Prague), his first string quartet is openly autobiographical with the sub-title ‘From my Life’. Smetana’s deafness was total by the time he wrote both the tone poems and his two string quartets. A profoundly sick man, he died of syphilis in a mental asylum at the age of sixty.
The composer himself gave an analysis of the first quartet as follows:
The first movement opens with a huge chord to introduce a long viola melody which offers many musical elements which are later developed. The second movement reflects the composer’s personal love of dancing, and the rhythmic vitalily of this Polka drives this music with great energy. In the intense slow third movement, the cello’s contribution is a most interesting one - whether in the opening sensuous recitative, or in the later fascinating pizzicato accompaniment passages. The sheer exhilaration of the last movement, which is full of light-hearted Bohemian spirit, is interrupted just before the end by a reflective re-visiting of previous themes, and the work ends in poignant tranquillity
“My intention was to paint a tone picture of my life. The first movment depicts my youthful yearning towards art and the romantic atmosphere. The second movement - a quasi Polka, brings to mind the joyful days of my youth. The third movment reminds me of the happiness of my first love, and the last movement describes my joy…checked by the catastrophe of the onset of my deafness.”