The Fitzwilliam is now one of the longest established string quartets in the world, yet more recently its history is built around a younger generation of players combining amicably with one original member.
Originally founded in Cambridge in 1968, the group first became well known through a close personal association with Shostakovich, who entrusted them with the premières (in the West) of his last three quartets.
Their programme ranges chronologically from the birth of Praetorius in 1571 to the quartet’s own resident composer Marcus Barcham Stevens, which will demonstrate the unbelieveable wealth and diversity of language and expression available to the 21st century string quartet.
Pre-concert talks with Dr Alan George
Dr Alan George. Former principal viola with John Eliot Gardiner’s Ochestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and in Southern Sinfonia, as well as founder-member of the Fitzwilliam String Quartet and conductor of the Academy of St. Olave’s Chamber Orchestra in York. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music and King’s College Cambridge, and was a lecturer at the University of York until 1988 and professor of viola at the RNCM for several years. He holds Honorary Doctorates at Bucknell University and York.
Optional excursions accompanied by medievalist Dr James Cameron
Art historian specialising in English parish church architecture. He studied at the University of Manchester, and later at The Courtauld, and his PhD focused on sedilia in English churches. In 2017 he co-organised the conference Towards an Art History of the Parish Church at The Courtauld.
Concert 1: Tuesday 14 May, 5.15pm
Pre-concert talk at 4.45pm
Praetorius/Brahms, Chorale Prelude: Es ist ein Ros’ enstsprungen, Op.122/8
Mozart, Ave Verum Corpus
Suk, Meditation on the St Wenceslas Chorale
Schubert, String Quartet in G, D.887
Concert 2: Wednesday 15 May, 11.00am
Pre-concert talk at 10.30am
Purcell, Fantazias No.8
M Barcham-Stevens, Fantasias after Purcell
Bach, Excerpts from The Art of Fugue
Beethoven, Quartet in C sharp minor, Op.131
Concert 3: Wednesday 15 May, 5.15pm
Pre-concert talk at 4.45pm
Glazunov, Two Noveletten, Op.15
Shostakovich, String Quartet No.14
Tchaikovsky, Quartet No.2 in F, Op.22
Concert 4: Thursday 16 May, 11.00am
Pre-concert talk at 10.30am
Purcell, Music from The Fairy Queen
Delius, Late Swallows
Borodin, Quartet No.2 in D
Haydn, String Quartet in D minor, Op.76, No.2
Optional excursions itinerary
Suffolk is rural England at its most alluring with outstandingly attractive towns and villages. There is a clutch of parish churches of cathedral-like proportions which are at least partly Tudor in date. These glorious buildings, some of the most beautiful and best preserved parish churches in Europe, are evidence of the huge wealth the region accrued through the wool trade at the end of the Middle Ages.
Day -1 (arriving 1 day early, 13 May): Kedington, Clare
Leaving The Swan at 2.30pm, visit the mediaeval parish churches of Kedington and Clare.
Though an interesting compendium of several periods, it is not for its architecture that Kedington parish church is of national interest but for its contents. It retains, as practically nowhere else, ecclesiastical clutter accumulated from the Middle Ages to the Georgian era. In the words of Simon Jenkins, ‘Inside no inch is without diversion… nave and aisles contain every component of a parish church, tombs, screens, pews, altars, paintings, all tumbling out of the gloom…’. John Betjeman characterised the church as ‘a village Westminster Abbey’.
Day 1: Mildenhall, Bury St Edmunds
Morning visit to the churches of St Mary and St Andrew, and the church of St Mary and Cathedral of St James in Bury St Edmunds. One of the most magnificent parish churches in the country, St Mary in Bury St Edmunds is grander and architecturally finer than an adjacent church which became a cathedral in 1914. Begun in 1424, St Mary is endowed with the harmony of a building completed in a single campaign. The nave interior has ten pairs of arches underneath an unusually wide hammer-beam roof, famously adorned with carved angels, mythical creatures and saints. Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII and briefly Queen of France, is buried here.
Day 2: Lavenham
Leaving on foot at 2pm, we visit the Church of St Peter & St Paul in Lavenham.
The mighty tower of the Church of St Peter & St Paul is almost as high as the church is long. While the Decorated chancel dates to the early fourteenth century, the nave, begun in 1486, is one of the most perfect manifestations of Perpendicular in England, famous for its size, homogeneity and beauty. The fine furnishings include misericords, chancel screen and an exceptional pair of chantry chapels.
Day 3: Long Melford
After the morning, we leave for lunch in Long Melford and then visit the Church of the Holy Trinity. Choose to transfer back to the hotel or onwards to Sudbury.
Appropriately named, Long Melford consists basically of one broad street nearly a mile long which is lined with buildings of the 15th to the 19th centuries. Formerly residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural, there is now a range of shops, restaurants, pubs and antiques emporia.
Holy Trinity lies on the edge of Long Melford, on a rise beyond the green, past Tudor almshouses and clipped yews. It is one of the finest churches in England, and the longest, a masterpiece of Perpendicular rebuilt around the turn of the 15th–16th centuries. Large areas of glass, flint and ashlar flushwork, a castellated skyline and a great tower are impressive enough, but to this is added, uniquely for a parish church, an east end lady chapel. Inside, tombs and stained glass commemorate the wool-trading families whose munificence enabled this magnificence.
Price – per person
Single occupancy: double for single use £810. Two sharing: standard double/twin £790; superior double £840; junior suite £920; suite £990.
At a later stage, we may be able to offer superior double rooms for single occupancy at a higher price.
Admission to all concerts and pre-concert talks; accommodation for two nights at the Swan Hotel & Spa; breakfasts; two afternoon teas; dinners; interval drinks; programme booklet; tips for hotel staff.
The Swan Hotel & Spa, Lavenham: The Swan has been an inn since 1667, is one of the loveliest and best-known small-town hotels in England. It spreads through a number of contiguous half-timber buildings which date to the 15th and 16th centuries. The hotel does not have a lift and there are limited bedrooms on the ground floor – so please contact us if you have specific access requirements.
Price – per person
Single occupancy: double for single use £1,480.Two sharing: standard double/twin £1,410; superior double £1480.
Admission to all concerts and pre-concert talks; accommodation for three nights at the Swan Hotel & Spa; breakfasts; two afternoon teas; dinners; interval drinks; programme booklet; tips for hotel staff.
The extension includes: one additional night at the Swan Hotel (13 May) with dinner and breakfast, 4 excursions with all admissions and all necessary transport, the services of the lecturers, one lunch (16 May).
How strenuous are the excursions?
Though most of the area is flat, the excursions are moderately strenuous and would not be suitable for anyone who has difficulties with everyday walking and stair-climbing. There is a fair amount of walking between visits and standing around in churches.
Tickets to individual concerts
£25 evenings or £20 mornings. Each ticket includes admission to the concert and pre-concert talk, an interval drink and programme booklet.