‘Morphs and Magpies’ – the Ligeti Quartet’s mischievous new programme

The Ligeti Quartet are well-known for their inventive and engaging programming of contemporary music, and their latest invention is no less intriguing. 

György Ligeti String Quartet No. 1, ‘Métamorphoses nocturnes’
Gregers Brinch String Quartet No. 1
Tanya Tagaq Sivunittinni (arr. Garchik)


John Zorn  Cat O’Nine Tails
Alfred Schnittke String Quartet No. 3

‘Morphs and Magpies’ draws together 5 composers who share a similarly mischievous and resourceful approach to composition, as the Quartet’s first violinist, Mandhira de Saram explains:

‘We wanted to call it ‘Morphs and Magpies’ because most of these pieces borrow, thieve and transform! Schnittke quotes Beethoven’s Große Fuge, Lassus’s Stabat Mater, and uses the Shostakovich cypher “DSCH”; he then cleverly integrates these fragments by using them as the basis for the harmonic language and form.

Zorn uses oodles of quotes and when he’s not quoting, he’s borrowing from all manner of different composers, styles and genres: Paganini, Death Metal, even Looney Tunes music! Ligeti‘s 1st Quartet is a set of variations, and Tagaq, with the help of arranger Garchik, translates and then transforms Inuit throat singing into the string quartet medium.’

Some of the Quartet’s previous programmes include ‘Microcosms’ (focusing on the expressive power of miniatures), ‘Disapora’ (music that reflects on identity and belonging in the 20th century), and ‘Fellow Travellers’ (a juxtaposition of iconic 20th-century composers from America and Soviet Russia).

You can hear the first outing of ‘Morphs and Magpies’ on Saturday 17th February as part of the International Concert Series at Steiner Hall.

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About the Ligeti Quartet

The quartet have been at the forefront of modern and contemporary music since their formation in 2010 and 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.

“The Ligeti Quartet is one of the most important discoveries to be made in the performance of music in our time.” David Harrington (Kronos Quartet)

Having played at landmark venues around the world including Carnegie Hall, Curtis Institute, Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room, Barbican Hall, and Kings Place, the quartet also regularly escape the stage to appear at museums, galleries, theatres, pubs, an IMAX Theatre, a fishing boat, and on iceberg sculptures as part of a Greenpeace campaign. In October 2017 they were Fellows of the inaugural Barnes Ensemble Festival in Philadelphia.

They have commissioned many new works and have collaborated with artists from all types of musical backgrounds including Anna Meredith, Elliot Galvin, Kerry Andrew (Juice Vocal Ensemble, You Are Wolf), Laura Jurd, Meilyr Jones, Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy), Seb Rochford (Polar Bear), Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming), Shed 7 and Submotion Orchestra. They are currently working on a long-term project with Ernst von Siemens prize-winning composer Christian Mason to create a series of ‘Songbooks’ for string quartet, based on overtone singing traditions from around the world.

The Quartet are passionate about supporting emerging composers and taking new music to diverse audiences. As Ensemble in Residence at the Universities of both Sheffield and Cambridge, they regularly lead composition workshops, and undertake education and community outreach work. They took part in the Cheltenham Festival Composers Academy 2017, and are City Music Foundation Artists (2016-18).


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