Medici String Quartet

Medici String Quartet

String Quartet


The Medici Quartet was widely known both for its critically acclaimed performances of the Beethoven quartets and various works by English composers, in particular, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Gerald Finzi, Michael Tippett, and John Tavener. The group was featured on BBC programming and partnered with several European medical institutes to study the therapeutic benefits of music. Over the Medici Quartet's career, it worked with members of the Royal Shakespeare Company in numerous productions.

The Medici Quartet was formed in 1971 by the ensemble's longtime first violinist Paul Robertson, who was a mere 17 at the time. The other members were second violinist David Matthews, violist Paul Silverthorne, and cellist Anthony Lewis. Following a London debut at Wigmore Hall in 1974, it began performing with pianist Clifford Curzon, who soon became the group's mentor. It was Curzon who taught the ensemble much of the piano quintet repertory and initiated the concert series using members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. In this endeavor, the Medici Quartet worked, from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, with many actors from the company and director John Caird, performing concerts with the actors giving readings, often about the composer's composition as it related to his life. In 1982, Ivo-Jan van der Werff became the quartet's violist. From 1988-1990, the Medici Quartet recorded the Beethoven quartets and Grosse Fugue for Nimbus to great critical acclaim. More personnel changes were ahead: Colin Callow replaced Matthews as the second violinist in 1991, and he, in turn, would be succeeded by Stephen Morris.

1996 was a pivotal year for the group: the three-part television series Music & the Mind was broadcast by the BBC (which Robertson wrote and narrated), and the quartet was appointed artists-in-residence at the University of Surrey. The Medici Quartet began appearing in concerts concerned with the therapeutic benefits of music. As a result, it developed partnerships with some of the leading European medical institutes, including the Amsterdam Medical Centre and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. In 2003, the Medici Quartet gave an acclaimed six-concert series of the Beethoven quartets at Blackheath Halls in London. The following year it repeated the cycle in a series of concerts at the Petworth Festival in West Sussex.

The Medici Quartet disbanded in 2007 owing to Robertson's sudden health problems. However, the group re-formed in 2008 for a "farewell" tour and continued reconvening occasionally, including for the premieres of John Tavener's Toward Silence in 2009 and Scatter Roses Over My Tears in 2013. The final performance of the Medici Quartet was in 2016, the year Robertson passed away.

The Medici Quartet made numerous recordings on the Nimbus, EMI, and Signum labels, among others. In 2019, Nimbus released 2 reissues of the quartet: Felix Mendelssohn: String Octet; César Franck: Piano Quintet, and Dmitri Shostakovich: Octet Pieces; Quartet No. 8; Piano Quintet.