The Edinburgh Quartet is Scotland's premier string quartet. Resident at the Ian Tomlin School of Music, Napier University Edinburgh and at Glasgow University, it also plays an important role in the musical activities of the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Founded in 1959 by Professor Sydney Newman, it is one of the UK's longest-established university-based quartets.
After its formation, the Quartet quickly became established as one of the foremost British ensembles. Its repertoire is firmly rooted in the great classical European tradition of the last three centuries, and it is active in the promotion of Scottish composers, as well as in commissioning of contemporary music. Having worked closely with Michael Tippett, the Edinburgh Quartet’s recording of Quartet No 1 was selected by the composer for release shortly before his death. Close relationships were established with some of the most distinguished composers of the time. Indeed, their work in this field earned them the first PRS award from the Scottish Society of Composers. Kenneth Leighton and Hans Gal worked intimately with the Edinburgh Quartet in the preparation and performance of their works, and the Quartet have recently released two CDs of Leighton’s work and have just finished recording Hans Gal’s four string quartets. Today collaborations continue with many contemporary composers.
Foreign tours have been a frequent feature of the Quartet’s season. In addition to regular journeys to European countries and the USA, the Edinburgh Quartet toured extensively in South America and in many of the Caribbean islands in the 1960s and early 70s - pioneering expeditions to many areas which had not experienced this sort of music before. The 1980s saw the Quartet playing regularly behind the Iron Curtain, and in the Middle East. These international connections are still active, and have been enriched in recent years by the Quartet’s regular visits to the islands of Cyprus and Malta.
In addition to fulfilling their regular series of engagements over a wide area, the players are more involved than most string quartets in the promotion of chamber music in Scotland, playing both in Scotland’s cities - a regular series is given in Edinburgh and Glasgow - and throughout the country’s rural areas. Major works of the quartet repertoire are toured to the remotest locations of the Highlands and Islands, providing an intimate and complete musical experience to communities that may otherwise receive only scaled-down performances by larger companies or perhaps no music at all.
This outreach work has always been linked to the Edinburgh Quartet’s education programmes: workshops in primary schools, master classes and workshops in music schools, conservatoires and universities, as well as various summer schools, have contributed hugely over the years to the musical development of Scotland’s young and old alike.
with the Edinburgh Quartet in 2006