Before their WMC debut last Friday, we sat down with two of the members of the Marmen Quartet, our new Young Quartet in Residence for 2019, to talk about their residency, their inspirations and what they hope to bring to their time working with Wiltshire Music Centre. Read on to find out more about these talented players!
JM - Johannes Marmen (violin)
BGC - Bryony Gibson-Cornish (viola)
How did the quartet form?
JM: We started at the Royal College of Music in 2013 when we were all doing our postgrads. Our first piece was Beethoven’s Op. 74 and we played only that for at least 6 months before we continued with some Haydn and eventually Bartok.
What’s the most exciting part of performing chamber music?
BGC: For me, the level of spontaneity found in chamber music is very exciting… it is possible to have one musician inspire the group to go in a different direction than previously planned or rehearsed. This allows the audience to enjoy the ultimate conversation between players and reminds us that live performances can offer something completely different from your average CD recording.
You’ve won many prestigious awards and accolades, including as inaugural winners of Music In The Round's 'Bridge' scheme and a Royal Philharmonic Society award, but what do you feel is your biggest professional achievement to date?
JM: The summer of 2017 was very busy for us. We travelled across the U.K. and Europe playing in several renowned festivals, were recorded by the BBC, and collaborated with other established musicians in bigger chamber music works. At that point I felt very strongly that we’d gotten to the point where a broad spectrum of organisers, audiences and peers trust us and consistently enjoy what we express with our music making. That seal of approval and the now firmly established nature of our group is our biggest achievement yet.
What are you most looking forward to in your year as Young Quartet in Residence at WMC?
BGC: We are really looking forward to developing relationships with regular audience members at WMC, as well as primary and secondary school students in the area. Live music thrives when there is a passionate community to perform for and work with - also having the opportunity to realise artistic projects and develop creative concert programmes during our residency will be an exciting aspect of the coming year.
You’ve worked with many notable artists, including Peter Cropper, Alfred Brendel and Gunter Pichler, and as part of your WMC residency you’ll be mentored by John Myerscough. What do you look for from a professional mentor?
JM: We look for someone who doesn’t only want to teach us all they know about quartet and music, but who also sees us for the individuals that we are and understands the personality of our group. We strongly believe that a quartet should have a unique voice, so we like working with coaches who see and appreciate the essence of our playing style, and by doing so can improve the areas that are lacking whilst still encouraging the personal and unique qualities to develop and blossom. This sense of mutual understanding is at the very core of chamber music playing.
Whilst in residence at WMC, you’ll be working with our Creative Learning Team to run music workshops in local primary and secondary schools. What does it mean to you to be able to share your skills and experience with children during these formative, and why is it so important?
JM: It’s extremely important to meet young people and show them why music is amazing. It’s less about the skill and experience and more about transmitting our passion for playing and all the enriching feelings and emotions that we humans experience through music. I think it’s essential to establish early on in people’s lives that classical music is not about sitting in front of a piano learning boring things about keys and scales. It’s about life, emotions, characters, theatre and fun. It means a lot for us to get the chance to pass that on to the younger generations.
What’s your desert island score?
BGC: Ah, the impossible question! At the moment, my appreciation is gravitating towards Beethoven and his body of string quartet works. So, if I was allowed to cheat a little, I would take all sixteen of his quartets with me… What I love about his string quartets is that the development of his compositional style can be traced throughout his quartets from each period, but also his early quartets are just as challenging as his late quartets. We are looking forward to getting to know all of his quartets intimately in 2020 - more news on that soon!
Thanks to Johannes Marmen and Bryony Gibson-Cornish for their time. If you would like to read an audience review of their first concert here at WMC, you can do so here.
Don't forget that you can experience the immense musical talent of our two other Artists in Residence for 2019, jazz pianist Derek Paravicini and Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale.
Live music thrives when there is a passionate community to perform for and work with.Bryony Gibson-Cornish, viola player from the Marmen Quartet