Update, 12 April 2021:
All our shops, the Maltings Gallery and our outdoor covered café are now open. You can also book River Trips along the River Alde and Pizza in the Tipi. Concerts will restart in late May. Read our re-opening plans here.

Britten Weekend 2018

The String Quartets

The composer David Matthews wrote that ‘Like many of his predecessors, including the two composers closest to him in spirit, Mozart and Schubert, Britten found the string quartet medium a rigorously stimulating challenge to his creative powers’. This weekend provides a perfect opportunity to hear Britten’s responses to this compositional challenge in programmes that explore the background to and influences on his chamber works.

For a composer whose mature career was dominated by opera and vocal writing, Britten’s four quartets, written over nearly four decades, are fascinating, pivotal moments. Spanning a period from the 1930s to the very end of his life, they provide intriguing snapshots of a career and of influences both musical and biographical. From the elegant pastiche of the Divertimenti and the expansive open-hearted First Quartet to the gentle ebb and ambiguity that conclude the Third, these are heart-on-sleeve works.

To hear the Third Quartet in the hall in which it was premiered is always a rare privilege, and we will be taken on an imaginative journey by Robin Brooks in his newly devised Britten/Henry James mix, before we hear the remarkable and touching quartet in its pure form. Such experiments are one of the hallmarks of our work here. It is also a pleasure to welcome back the outstanding Doric Quartet. The ensemble’s performances preface its eagerly awaited new recording of the complete Britten quartets.

The weekend blends our work as a performance centre with our year-round activity as a leading international creative campus. The Britten–Pears Young Artists performing over the Britten Weekend have been participating in the Transatlantic Encounters masterclass course. This has been a week of intensive chamber music coaching by Alasdair Tait, Mark Steinberg, Vivian Weilerstein, Donald Weilerstein and Isabel Charisius, who have been uncovering the shared ideas and ideals of two great teaching traditions from either side of the Atlantic.

Britten and America

Friday 19 October 7.30pm

Doric String Quartet
Tesla Quartet
Thalea String Quartet
Olivier Stankiewicz oboe
Alasdair Beatson piano


Benjamin Britten Three Divertimenti (1936)
Aaron Copland Movement for String Quartet (1923)
Britten Temporal Variations for oboe and piano (1936)
Erich Korngold Piano Quintet in E, Op.15 (1922)

Britten and Purcell

Saturday 30 October 11am

Henry Purcell Fantasias (1680, transcribed for string quartet)
No.6 in F
No.7 in C minor
No.8 in D minor
Benjamin Britten Phantasy Quartet, Op.2 (1932)
Purcell Fantasias
No.9 in A minor
No.10 in E minor
Britten String Quartet No.2 in C, Op.36 (1945)

Britten–Pears Young Artists I

Saturday 20 October 2.30pm

Merz Trio
Trio Isimsiz
Thalea String Quartet
Isabel Charisius viola

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Piano Trio in B flat, K.502 (1786)
Benjamin Britten Phantasy in F minor for string quintet (1932)
Erich Korngold Piano Trio, Op.1 (1910)

Britten–Pears Young Artists II

Saturday 20 October 5.30pm

Castalian Quartet
Danny Koo violin
Isabel Charisius viola
Hélène Clément viola
Daniel Lebhardt piano

Benjamin Britten Elegy for solo viola (1930)
Britten Suite, Op.6 (1935)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart String Quintet in G minor, K.516 (1787)

Britten Quartet No.3

Saturday 20 October 9pm

Doric String Quartet
Andrew Wincott John Marcher
Kelly Burke May Bartram
Robin Brooks director

Benjamin Britten String Quartet No.3, Op.94 (1975)
Henry James (1843–1916) The Beast in the Jungle (1903)
adapted by Robin Brooks 45’ with text

Britten and Elgar

Sunday 21 October 11am

Doric String Quartet
Alasdair Beatson piano

Benjamin Britten String Quartet No.1, Op.25 (1941)
Edward Elgar Piano Quintet in A minor, Op.84 (1918)