The Revolutionary Drawing Room Quartet: Official Links
RDRQuartet Official Site: The Revolutionary Drawing Room
New CD Album 2016 Release (Uppernote): Revolutionary Flute Quartets
Butterfield Official Site: Adrian Butterfield
Butterfield (Royal College of Music): Adrian Butterfield (RCM)
RDRQuartet: RDRQuartet Twitter
RDRQuartet: RDRQuartet YouTube
RDRQuartet: CD A Viennese Quartet Party
RDRQuartet: CD Mozart Clarinet Quintet with C.Lawson
1. Haydn, Mozart, Dittersdorf and Vanhal: four composers with four well defined characters! How did you come up with the idea of re-uniting them together again in the same Album? How do their different characters emerge from their very music? And also how and when did you decide to choose the name The Revolutionary Drawing Room for your group, a name which truly represents the spirit of 18th century?
R. Alford (cello): The name of the group was thought of by the founding cellist of the ensemble, Angela East.
A. Butterfield (violin): It is a rather distinctive name which arouses a lot of attention! The Drawing Room part derives from the withdrawing room found in the houses of the patrons of musicians in the Georgian era in England in the 18th century, a room to which families and their guests retired after dinner. Revolutionary refers to the years spanning approximately 1789-1848 during which there were many upheavals in Europe.
The idea of our Viennese Quartet Party programme was suggested to me by an audience member who came up to me many years ago after a concert and asked if we knew about the story of these four composers playing together in Vienna in 1784.
R. Stott (viola): I have loved reading the Reminiscences of Michael Kelly, the Irish tenor who sang in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, in which he relates the Quartet Party story. He was quite a character!
A. Butterfield (violin): It’s true, these four composers were possessed of very differing temperaments.
Haydn is well known for his joy and sense of humour and that is reflected in the false ending of his quartet Op.50 No.1 which was designed to tease his audience. He was, though, also possessed of such wonderful originality in his use of musical ideas and form.
Mozart overflowed with beautiful melodies but Haydn’s Op.33 quartets inspired him to write music of great imagination and complexity and the opening of the Dissonance quartet is a particularly extraordinary example of this.
Dittersdorf wrote some interesting programmatic music and his A major quartet seems to us to have moments of story-telling too, especially the Minuet movement which feels very much like party music!
Vanhal, a pupil of Dittersdorf, comes across as a more serious character. The slow movement of his E flat major quartet is especially beautiful and close in style to Haydn.
2. You, as single performing musicians (I mean you four members of the RDR Quartet), recorded also a wonderful Series of CDs devoted to many other authors of the first and second half of the 18th century from Jean-Marie Leclair to Handel to C.P.E.Bach to Luigi Boccherini. According to your opinion, who, among those composers, really exerted a strong musical influence on the composers of the First Viennese Group, Haydn, Mozart, Dittersdorf, Vanhal etc. and then Beethoven and so on?
A. Butterfield (violin): Our individual experience of performing a vast range of baroque repertoire has had a great influence on our performance of Haydn and Mozart.
J.S. Bach’s two most famous sons, Carl Philipp Emmanuel and Johann Christian, were especially influential!
K. Parry (violin): For example, J.C. Bach looked after Mozart when he came to London as a boy and his tuneful, rococo style can often be heard in Mozart’s music.
Handel and J.S. Bach became stronger influences later thanks to the encouragement of one of their patrons, Gottfried van Swieten.
3. In October 2016, you are going to launch your The Beethoven Cycle, a series of peformances featuring all the Beethoven Quartets, and this also by underlining the strong philological association, which exists among the last Quartets by Haydn and the first ones by Beethoven: how do you feel, in their music, the Revolutionary character from an old Innovator (Haydn) and to a new Innovator (Beethoven)? And many anecdotes exist on this peculiar situation directly from those times!
A. Butterfield (violin): The relationship between Haydn and Beethoven is a fascinating one.
Beethoven asked Haydn for some lessons but these took place at a time when Haydn was preparing for his second visit to England in 1794 and it seems that Beethoven became frustrated that he didn’t have his teacher’s undivided attention.
The fact that Beethoven’s first set of quartets were being written at the same time as Haydn’s final set and that they were commissioned by the same person, Prince Lobkovitz, is intriguing, especially since Haydn only managed to write 2-and-a-half of his set of six. He wrote in the manuscript of the third quartet, «Old and weak am I; all my strength is gone.» and yet he went on to write The Creation and The Seasons after this so the pressure from his pupil clearly got to him.
R. Alford (cello): The revolutionary character of Beethoven’s music is unmistakeable, especially his use of sforzando accents and other surprise dynamics as well as shocking harmonic shifts.
It is easy to forget, though, how innovative Haydn and Mozart were and that so many of the devices that Beethoven used had already been pioneered by his predecessors.
The Overture to Mozart’s Don Giovanni, for example, contains dramatic crescendos that lead to sudden pianos, a device that Beethoven was to develop on a grand scale and Beethoven’s scherzos were a clear development of the myriad examples written by Haydn.
As a young man in the 1790s Beethoven probably saw Haydn as old-fashioned but he wrote his Op.74 quartet just after Haydn’s death in 1809 almost as a tribute to his former teacher and perhaps he had come to realise that he had learned rather a lot from him.
K. Parry (violin): Our Beethoven quartet cycle starts in October 2016 at St. John’s Smith Square in London and we will perform his complete quartets there over a period of three years.
It is still quite rare to hear Beethoven quartets on period instruments and this is a very exciting project for us.
There is plenty of standard 19th century repertoire by composers such as Mendelssohn and Schubert that we want to explore, but we like to mix that with much more rarely performed works by composers like Boccherini, Spohr, Viotti, Donizetti and even Coleridge-Taylor.
A. Butterfield (violin): We work regularly with wind players and piano and our new recording of the flute quartets of Mozart as well as those of his contemporaries in Mannheim and Paris, with Rachel Brown, is due for release in August 2016 on Rachel’s Uppernote label.
K. Parry (violin): However a composer we always come back to is Haydn. Maybe one day we will work our way through all of his wonderful quartets!
4. You, both as a quartet and as single performers, are also an important example of musicians and entrepreneurs, creating and founding your own Ensembles and Musical Seasons, what’s your very first advice to those young musicians who want to follow this particular type of path? What can you say from your experience?
A. Butterfield (violin): Being an entrepreneurial classical musician certainly doesn’t become any easier!
But if you love the music you want to perform enough and are prepared to work incredibly hard you can still do well. One needs to be innovative and imaginative in terms of the way one presents programmes.
Our Viennese Quartet Party idea is a good example of that!
So many audience members have told me how much they appreciate being given some explanation of the context of the music I am performing for them and this is particularly true of music from long ago.
R. Alford (cello): With so much studio-recorded music available these days it is vital that concerts offer more than just perfection of ensemble and intonation, important though those are. Live performance should be dangerous and spontaneous so that audiences go away having been so thrilled and moved that they will be inspired to go to more concerts in the future.
5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.
A. Butterfield (violin): Favourite compositions are such an impossible question! I tend to have favourites that are the pieces I am working on at that moment!
R. Stott (viola): Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro will always be a highly treasured piece and it happens to be very relevant to our Quartet Party programme.
A. Butterfield (violin): The slow movement of Haydn’s last completed quartet, the F major Op.77 No.2, is always one we love to come back to. It has an almost prayerful, elegiac quality to it that never fails to move us.
6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?
R. Stott (viola): Alessandro Rolla (1757-1841) is an interesting musician who is little known. We have played one of his quartets and we think his music deserves more exposure.
A. Butterfield (violin): I have championed Jean-Marie Leclair‘s music for some years now. He was a French baroque violinist/composer (1697-1764), who wrote a large amount of wonderful violin and chamber music as well as an opera
7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.
R. Stott (viola): Telemann’s Die Donnerode (TWV 6:3a/6:3b).
8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
K. Parry (violin): Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style is a very important book and Paul Griffiths‘ The String Quartet, A History contains much useful information. And I know you want to add another book.
A. Butterfield (violin): I met and was coached by Hans Keller many years ago. He was a controversial figure who made people think by challenging received ideas. I refer regularly to his book The Great Haydn Quartets.
9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.
K. Parry (violin): In search of Haydn (Seventh Art Productions), The Genius of Mozart and The Genius of Beethoven (top documentary films), excellent introductions to the lives and times of three extraordinary composers.
And for fun: Amadeus – the remarkable film of Peter Shaffer’s play.
10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?
K. Parry (violin): Surely Vienna? Mozart and Haydn even played quartets together here! And what about Mannheim?
A. Butterfield (violin):Vienna is obviously a good choice, but I wonder whether Mannheim would be a bit different and an opportunity to remind the reader about our new recording that is just coming out of Flute Quartets by Mozart and some of his colleagues in that city.
K. Parry (violin): Oh, yes! Certainly!
A. Butterfield (violin):The Mannheim orchestra was famous for its meticulous discipline and for numerous novel and strikingly dramatic effects such as the Mannheim crescendo (a passage that started very softly and built up very gradually to a great fortissimo), the Mannheim rocket (a rapid rising arpeggio figure across a wide range with crescendo) and the Mannheim sigh (an affettuoso use of slurs as aspirating figures with diminuendo). Mozart spent a number of months in Mannheim getting to know the talented musicians there especially the flautist, Wendling, who brought about the commissions for Mozart’s flute quartets and concertos. Mozart desperately wanted a job at the court there yet sadly it wasn’t to be, but his later music was greatly influenced by the musicians that he got to know in that orchestra. Our recording of Mozart’s flute quartets, with the flautist Rachel Brown, which she has to intermingle with works by his contemporaries in both Mannheim and Paris (such as Wendling, Gluck, Viotti and Danzi) is due for release on Rachel’s own Uppernote label in the next few weeks.
So, dear MozartEra fans, with this new CD Album Revolutionary Flute Quartets – Mozart, Mannheim & Paris, this summer another musical gem will be added to the exquisite and magnificent recordings by The Revolutionary Drawing Room Quartet! Dear Adrian, dear Kathryn, dear Rachel and dear Ruth, thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!
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