Quick Questions: Chiaroscuro Quartet

We talk to the brilliant Chiaroscuro Quartet ahead of their first concert at Turner Sims as our new Associate Artists. The ensemble perform Haydn and Beethoven on Thursday 14 October, with more concerts to come!…

TS: How did the group come together?

CQ: The quartet formed in 2005 at the Royal College of Music. In 2006 the music world celebrated 250 years since the birth of Mozart and the early music department at college wanted to have a quartet perform a Mozart quartet and be coached by Sir Roger Norrington. When the project was over we all liked each other so much that we decided to continue as a quartet.

TS: You play on period instruments. What differences will the audience notice from your instruments, and the sound you produce compared to other visiting quartets and groups?

CQ: We use gut strings and period bows appropriate to the repertoire we are playing. We also tune lower than the audience might be used to. To be geeky about it, we tune 432 instead of the standard today at 440 or even 442. Although we all studied historical performance and baroque music our aim is not to “educate” the audience on how this music might have been performed back in the days. We simply really enjoy approaching the music with the awareness of its origin yet making it our own somehow. The sound the gut strings allows us to really explore such a big range of colours- from the most fragile to the big resonant openness.

TS: You all have busy international careers. How do you plan your schedule as a quartet within that?

CQ: We have certain periods “blocked” for quartet very far in advance and try to organise our individual careers around that. We very rarely change these periods as the quartet is a priority for all of us.

TS: Apart from the cello player you stand to perform your concerts, How does this change the dynamic of the group?

CQ: It provides us with a certain sense of freedom. It makes it easier somehow to read each other. We rehearse sitting down and sometimes if we’re tired during rehearsals we stand up just to add that extra energy and freedom of movement.

TS: What composers and repertoire can audiences look forward to across the concerts you’ll bring to Turner Sims over the next two years?

CQ: We will be performing a lot of pieces from the very core of the quartet repertoire like some late Beethoven quartets as well as Haydn. We are also planning some quintet collaborations and might also bring some less well known quartets.

TS: Your Desert Island Music?

CQ: Hard question to answer as a group but if we could bring 4 discs then there might be some jazz records in there like Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday and some Bach for sure.

It’s such a pleasure for us to be Associate Artists at Turner Sims! We have been coming here regularly for years and truly enjoy performing in this nice acoustic. The audience is always so welcoming and we can really feel their enthusiastic warmth every time we play here.

Chiaroscuro Quartet

TS: How do you relax?

CQ: During quartet periods we cook a lot together. It’s something we all enjoy doing and it feels very nice to prepare a meal together and to then sit down and enjoy the food after a busy day rehearsing.

TS: Any favourite foods that you would you have provided when you visit Turner Sims?

CQ: Yet another tricky question. We all enjoy Asian food so might treat ourselves to some sushi or a nice hearty Indian curry.

The Chiaraoscuro Quartet are Turner Sims Associate Artists 2021-23. They perform at Turner Sims on Thursday 14 October, with further performances in 2021-22 taking place on 9 January, 3 May, and 21 June 2022

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