Endellion Quartet: Intimate Letters
How do you translate passion into music? What do you risk when you pick up a pen to write music, write words or even a letter? “To write at all,” said the critic Susan Sontag, “is an act of ardour.” This performance of music and poetry explores two passionate quartets, written forty years apart, and the famous “Letter Scene” in Pushkin’s poem – and Tchaikovsky’s opera – Eugene Onegin.
The Endellion Quartet began their performance with Tchaikovsky String Quartet No. 3 in E-fl at minor, Op. 30. A passionate and monumental work, 35 to 40 minutes long, it is a memorial to the Czech violinist Ferdinand Laub, who led the fi rst performances of Tchaikovsky’s fi rst two quartets. The poet Ruth Padel followed with a performance of her poem “Writing to Onegin”, based on the “Letter Scene” in Eugene Onegin, which for the critic Susan Sontag exemplifi es the risk all writers take when they put pen to paper.
To round off the evening, Endellion performed Leos Janáček’s last completed work: String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters”. This work, that Janáček said was “written in fire”, was inspired by his passion for Kamila Stösslová, a married woman 38 years his junior, with whom he fell in love when he was 63. The viola, intended to personify Kamila, had a prominent role throughout this piece.
THE ENDELLION STRING QUARTET, Andrew Watkinson and Ralph de Souza on violins, Garfi eld Jackson on viola and David Waterman on cello, is “arguably the fi nest quartet in Britain, playing with poise, true intonation, excellent balance and beautiful tone” (New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians). They play across the globe, from the Americas and Far East to Europe. “Everywhere, the Endellions set the audience ablaze’ (Daily Telegraph). The quartet was formed in 1979 and named after St Endellion in Cornwall, and has been ‘Quartet in Residence’ at Cambridge University since 1992.
RUTH PADEL, Professor of Poetry at King’s College London and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, is an award-winning poet who has published ten poetry collections and several muchloved books on reading contemporary poetry. “A poet of great eloquence and delicate skill, an exquisite image-maker who can work wonders with the great tradition of line and stanza. Her voice has an astonishing resonance” (Colm Toibin)