Chilingirian Quartet with Timothy Brown
St Peter's Church, Shaldon
Bridge Road
TQ14 0DB
United Kingdom
Type: Concert
Date: Sunday 21 June 2015
Start Time: 7.30pm
Performer(s): Chilingirian Quartet with Timothy Brown
Host Organisation: Shaldon Festival
Box Office Contact: Malcolm Watson
Box Office Email:


Concert supported by Exeter and District Classical Music Trust

Levon Chilingirian (violin)
Stephen Orton (cello)
Ronald Birks (violin)
Susie Mészáros (viola)
Timothy Brown (horn)

HAYDN String Quartet in B flat major, Op.55 No.3
MOZART Horn Quintet in E flat major, K407
DVORAK String Quartet No. 13 in G major, Op.106


Concert Review

To have remained an internationally-acclaimed ensemble for well over four decades is a towering achievement, so the Chilingirian String Quartet’s forthcoming visit to the Shaldon Festival was, therefore, eagerly awaited.

We were not disappointed. A demanding programme, expertly and sympathetically executed and featuring a superb guest appearance by the horn player, Timothy Brown, brought the 2015 Shaldon Festival to a fitting conclusion.

The quartet was founded in London in 1971 and has remained in the public eye ever since, having given performances all over the world, including no fewer than fifteen tours of the United States. It was an honour to welcome them to the festival.

The programme began with Haydn’s Op. 55 No. 3 String Quartet in B flat major. Haydn wrote over sixty string quartets and is regarded as the “father” of the genre. At least ten of these are written in this key but this one is notable for the prominent place given to the first violin and its use of chromaticism, a device probably derived from Mozart’s influence.

This device is made use of at the outset, with all players in unison. This sonata-form movement, marked Vivace assai, with its elusive second subject, has an extended development section and is brought to a conclusion after introducing new harmonic and contrapuntal ideas, expertly and skilfully executed by this quartet. The second movement, a theme and variations marked Adagio ma non troppo, is unusual in being slow but is nevertheless dignified and pensive. The quartet achieved a warm and delicate rendering of this movement. The vigorous and jolly Menuetto of the third movement, with its delightful trio section, was notable for the beautiful way the quartet’s individuals were so perfectly integrated. The bustling Presto finale requires some expert virtuosity, particularly in the ensemble writing and this was brilliantly carried out, leading to a resounding, joyful ending.

The Mozart Horn Quintet, in E flat major K407 which followed, introduced to us the talented and internationally renowned horn player, Timothy Brown. In this work, the second violin is replaced with a second viola, so the whole ensemble has a greater richness and warmth and also accentuates the prominence of the violin. This is a work demanding great virtuosity from the horn player and our soloist was clearly a match for the piece. The opening Sonata has a light character with wide leaps for all the players in a playful discourse. The Andante is rather like an accompanied duet for horn and violin and our two players brought this off most impressively. The technical brilliance needed in the two outer movements is here replaced by a decorative lyricism. The sparkling Rondo finale, with its witty ending, contains difficult but humorous contrapuntal part-writing towards the end and our players completed this excellent piece with terrific panache. It was rewarding to see the way in which the horn soloist and the quartet became a single entity in this work.

The audience was rewarded with an encore: Glazunov’s Idyll for Horn and Strings. For this the quartet reverted to its usual format of two violins, viola and ’cello. The piece begins with all the strings muted and as it progresses, the mutes are gradually taken off, first the ’cello, then the first violin; at this point it was interesting to hear the beautiful contrast in timbre between the muted and unmuted strings and the horn. As the central section is reached, the remaining mutes are removed and the piece then slowly and sedately subsides into tranquillity, leading to a long, low note on the horn to the accompaniment of the muted strings, whose final chord is a backdrop for the horn’s reprise of the opening phrase. This is a lovely piece, made all the more interesting by tonight’s artistes.

After the interval, the Chilingirian String Quartet returned to perform Dvorák’s Op. 106 String Quartet in G major. This was written on the composer’s return to his native Bohemia after an extended, and ultimately unrewarding, stay in the USA. The cascade of sound which begins the opening Allegro moderato leads to a second theme reminiscent of a folk tune. The composer cleverly blends these together into a rich canvas of musical ideas leading to a dancing conclusion. The Adagio ma non troppo second movement is the heart of this piece and its melancholic and emotional intensity is exactly the kind of music in which the Chilingirian String Quartet excels. The poignant song-like themes grow into a brilliant climax from which a beautiful melody emerges, progressing to a quiet ending. The Molto vivace third movement is a riot of Czech folk-type themes, rejoicing in cross-rhythms and with not one but two soft and melodious trio sections. The finale opens with a short, subdued introduction, marked Andante sostenuto, leading to the energetic and joyous Allegro con fuoco whose central episode recalls melodies from the opening movement, but in a slow, thoughtful mood. However, the overwhelming effect is the Czech exuberance, leading to a triumphant conclusion. Our players gave a spell-binding and mesmerising account of this, Dvorák’s last string quartet, and were rewarded with a well-deserved extended period of applause.

The audience’s persistence resulted in a return to the stage for an encore, the Minuet and Trio from Haydn’s Op. 55 No. 2 String Quartet in F minor, a companion to the opening piece. Although the quartet itself is in the key of F minor, this minuet is in F major. This carefully-crafted gem opens with dialogues between pairs of instruments, with a rhythmic buoyancy and poise. The minuet and its repeat enclose the insistent Trio, in the minor key, sounding a little like a variation on the minuet. The inclusion of this little jewel of the classical period rounded off the concert perfectly.

The evening’s performance was highly memorable and one felt privileged to be present at such an occasion. The Shaldon Festival this year has been marked by some outstanding performances and this was certainly one of them, a perfect conclusion to yet another successful Festival.

Christopher Morris

String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 55, No. 3, Hob.III:62

Virtually the creator of the string quartet, over his long career Haydn developed it into one of the most expressive, intimate and profound of all musical styles up to the time of Beethoven, who arguably took it to its limit. Haydn composed his quartets in sets, usually of six, each new set appearing after a break of two or more years. Opus 55 No. 3 is part of a set of three, later dedicated to the man who was the principal second violin in Haydn’s Esterházy orchestra, the Hungarian Johann Tost.

The quartet opens with all four players in unison, before each takes his own harmonic path. The E flat Adagio allows the first violin ornate decoration in its central section. It is followed by a cheerful Minuet and Trio and a dashing final movement.

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791) Quintet in E Flat major for Horn and Strings, K. 407
Mozart’s works for solo horn were composed almost exclusively for one particular player, Ignaz Leutgeb, his life-long friend and Salzburg compatriot. Leutgeb held the position of first horn in the Archbishop of Salzburg’s private orchestra and was, by all accounts, an extraordinarily gifted player. The Horn Quintet in Eb major is the most difficult to play and pushed the player and the valveless instrument of his time to the limit. It was composed toward the end of 1782 in Vienna when Mozart was entering a period of great success and productivity and perhaps the happiest time in his life.

Like all Mozart’s chamber music the Horn Quintet is utterly charming and perfectly constructed. Interestingly, Mozart chose a string complement that includes two violas instead of the traditional double violins. With the weight shifted to the lower voices the ensemble sound gives greater warmth as an accompaniment to the horn. In addition, the single violin becomes more prominent. Many consider it to be essentially a concerto than a pure chamber work of equal players.

ANTONÍN DVORÁK (1841-1904) String Quartet No. 13 in G major, Op. 106
Early in 1891 Dvorák became professor of composition at Prague Conservatory. However, a few months later he was invited by Mrs Jeanette Thurber to be artistic director of her new National Conservatory of Music based in New York. Her aim, to which Dvo?ák was sympathetic, was to develop a national America style of art music. He immersed himself in spirituals and plantation songs from the South, and transcriptions of American melodies. It resulted in famous masterpieces like the “New World” Symphony No. 9 and the “American” String Quartet. However, homesick for his native Bohemia, Dvorák returned home in April 1895. He enjoyed a long, lazy summer living with his family in the quiet Czech village of Vysoka. In the autumn he wrote this remarkable string quartet in G major, Op.106, finishing it in just under a month. Gervase Hughes, a noted Dvorák scholar, believes it was a “hymn of thanksgiving for his safe return, alive and well, to his native land.” Hughes goes on to say “….except perhaps in the third movement, the mood is appropriately and emphatically ‘national’.

The Chilingirian Quartet is one of the world’s most celebrated and widely-travelled ensembles, renowned for its thrilling interpretations of the great quartets – and commanding performances of the contemporary repertoire.

The Quartet is composed of Levon Chilingirian (violin), Stephen Orton (cello), Ronald Birks (violin), and Susie Mészáros (viola) – highly accomplished musicians who blend four distinct voices into a single extraordinary sound. It is a sound that critics around the world have heralded as “balanced,” “passionate,” “warm,” “subtle,” and “dynamic.”

London has always been a meeting-point for the world’s musicians, and it was in London in 1971 that four prizewinning musicians met and decided to dedicate themselves to chamber music. Word of the new quartet spread rapidly, and within a short time the Chilingirian Quartet was claimed by London’s critics to be an ensemble that would have a major impact on the world of the string quartet.

BBC and World Service broadcasts of the Chilingirian Quartet were soon followed by invitations to the Edinburgh, Aldeburgh, and Bath festivals, and to the most important cities throughout Europe.

In 1976, a triumphant debut in New York made the Chilingirians a sought-after group throughout the United States. The Quartet has since made over 15 coast-to-coast tours of the USA and Canada. Extensive tours of Australia, New Zealand, South America, Africa, and the Far East make the Quartet equally well known around the world.

In 1988, the group became the first-ever Quartet-in-Residence at the Royal College of Music, where it continues to offer master classes to many of the world’s most promising young musicians.

The Quartet has built an extensive and critically-acclaimed discography of works by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Bartok, Dvorak, and other major composers. And, it released groundbreaking recordings of masterworks by contemporary composers such as Michael Tippett, John Tavener, Hugh Wood, and Michael Berkeley.

The Chilingirians have also appeared extensively on TV and radio programs around the world, including an ongoing series of broadcasts for the BBC.

Now in its fifth decade, the Chilingirian Quartet continues to tour, record, and teach, amassing one of the music world’s most impressive resumés.

Timothy Brown has enjoyed a long and varied international career as a horn player since his professional debut over fifty years ago.

He was Principal Horn in the Bournemouth Symphony, the BBC Symphony and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and has played as guest principal abroad with many orchestras including the Czech Philharmonic. He has worked with many distinguished conductors including Igor Stravinsky, Benjamin Britten, Otto Klemperer and Gunter Wand.

As a soloist and chamber player he has performed and recorded much of the horn repertoire on both period and modern instruments. His discography includes the complete Mozart horn concertos (on natural and modern horn), concertos by Vivaldi, Bach, Telemann and Haydn as well as chamber music by Mozart, Beethoven, Spohr and, with Ian Bostridge, Schubert and Britten.

Since leaving the BBCSO after twenty years’ service he remains Principal Horn with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields while also playing and teaching in Britain and abroad.

To visit the Chilingirian Quartet website click here

Parking Map for St Peter's Church, Shaldon


St Peter’s Church, Bridge Road, Shaldon, TQ14 0DB


1. Long Stay Public Carpark ½ mile from the church, reached through the village or off the A379 coast road to Torquay, postcode TQ14 0HP – 381 spaces, “pay & display” during the day but free after 6.00pm. Allow 15 minutes for the blue walking route shown.
2. Short Stay Public Carpark, opposite the church, postcode TQ14 0BP – 48 spaces, “pay & display” subject to a short stay 4 hour limit during the day but free after 6.00pm.
3. Extra parking – limited space adjoining the recreation ground reached from Ringmore Road but with easy pedestrian access to the Church along the estuary embankment. If using this area, please park “tidily” to maximise the usable space; this area is only available for parking as a special arrangement for the Festival.


Please telephone Malcolm Watson on 01626 873492 if you need help with letting someone alight at the church and/or need seating space for a wheelchair. In addition, there are a very few parking spaces close to the church which we can reserve for those with mobility difficulties on a first come, first served, basis.