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The Coull Quartet at 30

The Coull Quartet was appointed Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Warwick in September 1977. Philip Gallaway reflects on 30 rewarding years in the post.

What exactly does being Quartet-in-Residence involve? - A question we are frequently asked, and one to which we are able to provide a well rehearsed answer, but it is more difficult to explain the concept behind this rare relationship between a leading academic institution and a self-contained musical ensemble.

The Coull Quartet in 1977Whilst the Quartet’s role at the University has changed slightly since our appointment in 1977, we continue to give an annual series of concerts at Warwick Arts Centre (that’s around 170 concerts in all!). We also teach many promising string players and chamber ensembles and coach, direct and often play in the various University orchestras.

But one of the most rewarding aspects of being ‘Quartet-in-Residence’ comes from being truly  involved in the life of the University - we enjoy giving other performances around the campus, ranging from informal ‘play-throughs’ for staff and students, to private performances for VIPs and invited guests. One advantage of a string quartet is that it is able to perform in almost any space, and these more intimate occasions can be especially memorable.

We also take our ambassadorial role very seriously and have developed links with a number of educational institutions ranging from primary schools to music colleges both locally and further afield. We enjoy coaching talented schoolchildren at home and abroad and always encourage them to make the University of Warwick their first choice. Warwick has an enviable reputation for recreational music-making and, although there is no academic music department, the standard of performance is often very high. Some of the most exceptional musicians move on to music college after obtaining their degrees at Warwick.

Why are we still at Warwick after thirty years? I think we feel very much at home in such a positive environment and certainly our enthusiasm for providing encouragement and inspiration to the students remains undiminished, as does our love of performing the unsurpassable (in our view!) string quartet repertoire. We are, of course, extremely indebted to the University of Warwick for their loyal support, which has enabled us to pursue and achieve many of our goals.

We have seen enormous changes over the years, and when we arrived to take over the post from the Fitzwilliam Quartet (in residence from 1974-1977), the Arts Centre’s professional concert series was fairly modest, mainly due to the lack of a suitable concert hall. (The Butterworth Hall opened in 1981.) Today, Warwick Arts Centre is an important and successful concert venue, and the Coull Quartet’s series remains the main chamber music ingredient of an exciting and varied programme. We have seen a few changes in the Quartet too: Gustav Clarkson is the ‘new boy’, having joined in 2004, whilst Nicholas Roberts has been with the group for seven years. Roger Coull and I are founder members of the Quartet, which had been together for three years before being chosen to take up the residency.

To celebrate 30 years at Warwick we have chosen a series of programmes containing many of our all-time favourites. During our residency we have been privileged to work with many great  artists, and this season we are featuring three with whom we have frequently performed and recorded; David Smith, cellist of the Alberni Quartet, Angela Malsbury, clarinettist with many leading London-based ensembles, and pianist Allan Schiller, who was our first guest artist at Warwick back in 1978.

2008 Concerts in Butterworth Hall

Monday 28th January 8pm

  • Matthews Quartet No 6 Op 56
  • Brahms Quartet in A minor Op 51 No 2
  • Beethoven Quartet in C# minor Op 131

Wedensday 7th May 8pm

  • Mozart Quartet in B flat K589
  • Bridge Piano Quintet (with Allan Schiller, piano)
  • Schubert Quartet in G major D887

Monday 19th May 8pm

  • Mozart Quartet in F K590
  • Bridge 3 Idylls
  • Schubert Quintet in C D956 (with David Smith, cello)

For more information about the 30th Anniversary programme and booking information, visit the Warwick Arts Centre website.

For more information about the Coull Quartet, visit their website