Ligeti Quartet are:
Mandhira de Saram (violin 1), Patrick Dawkins (violin 2), Richard Jones (viola), Val Welbanks (cello)
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
We have all found our way to music, and professional music, from different angles. We’re lucky to have found each other…there aren’t that many people in the world who want to dedicate all of their time to playing modern and contemporary music for string quartet!
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
We received coaching from various chamber musicians as part of the European Chamber Music Academy; the founder Hatto Beyerle and the pianist Ferenc Rados were particularly memorable. We’ve also been lucky to have spent some time with the Kronos Quartet who are immensely inspiring, musically and professionally.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Any grant applications: it’s already a challenge to write them while trying to focus on a performing schedule, and then you never know if you will be accepted or rejected. Musically, any string quartet finds tuning the greatest challenge, to play in tune we have to listen in the same way, think alike, listen alike, and even be in the same mood – it’s what we practise the most.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
Our first Songbooks album of music by Christian Mason is currently deep in the mixing stage. It has been years in the making and we think it will be totally worth it.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
Ligeti’s two quartets from the mid 20th century are at the core of what we play as a group – they are both very different and represent a lot of the musical styles and concepts found in the modern string quartet.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Most of our discussions are about choosing concert programmes. We are lucky that we usually can choose to play our favourite music at the time, but there are limits. We have to make sure our concerts aren’t too long, they have to suit the audience and the venue, and we have to ensure we have enough time to prepare every programme. We like to play new music, so we naturally can’t play the same things very often, but a lot of music also needs to be played more than once. The premiere usually isn’t the best performance after all.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Union Chapel in London – it has such a unique atmosphere and when we play there we feel like we’re close to the audience.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
It wasn’t exactly a concert but in 2015 we performed as part of a Greenpeace protest in front of Shell’s London headquarters, standing on iceberg sculptures next to Aurora, Greenpeace’s giant polar bear.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
One thing we love about playing modern and new music is the range of experiences that the music can offer: some pieces demand an emotional response, some are more experimental or Zen, some are purely intellectual, and some are connected to the wider world (including nature, science, history, and politics). We believe we have succeeded if we can communicate some of that experience to the audience.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
The world of music is very big, there are so many things that you can listen to or play, that there is no single pathway to becoming a musician.
Ligeti Quartet perform at Listenpony#19 on 2 October 2019, 7:30pm at Crypt on the Green, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0EA. Further information
The Ligeti Quartet have been at the forefront of modern and contemporary music since their formation in 2010. They have established a reputation as one of the UK’s leading ensembles, breaking new ground through innovative programming and championing of today’s most exciting composers and artists.