Allegri Quartet - Biography
“The Allegri play intensely, but also gracefully; they know when to give the music space… exhilarating.” (The Times)
“The Allegri’s performance exemplified the kind of fully-functioning ecosystem that differentiates the finest ensembles from the mediocre.” (Evening Standard)
The Allegri Quartet is Britain's longest-running chamber music ensemble. Now entering their 67th season, the Allegri have sustained themselves over six decades through successive regeneration with the finest international performers. Based in London, today the ensemble comprises Martyn Jackson and Rafael Todes (violins), Dorothea Vogel (viola) and Vanessa Lucas-Smith (cello).
During the season 2019/20, the Allegri continue their relationship with the Southbank Sinfonia as their Associate Artists and also play at the Sinfonia’s summer festival in Anghiari, Italy. They also perform at the Llanfyllin Festival in Powys, Wales, where they have played for the last 40 years. In addition, they play six concerts at the Orange Tree Theatre for the Sunday concert series and, separately, at Stapleford Granary, Cambridgeshire, as part of the ACE Cultural Tours series. The Allegri also return to Kings Place and to Dulwich Picture Gallery, each in London, and to the Great Comp Music Festival, in Kent.
In recent years they have performed the world premiere of the rediscovered Ludwig Thuille’s Quartett-Satz in A at the Wigmore Hall and played at the Menton Festival in France in 2019, where, according to one review, their ‘first-rate chamber music enchanted the public’. They receive regular invitations to concert societies and leading concert halls and festivals.
The Allegri are committed to continually refreshing the string quartet repertoire and supporting the British musical scene, leading to them giving over 60 world premières since 1964. Highlights include specially commissioned pieces by leading composers such as James MacMillan, Jonathan Harvey, Colin Matthews, Elizabeth Maconchy, John Woolrich, Peter Fribbins, Anthony Payne, Matthew Taylor. Most recently, they premiered the string quartets of Alec Roth, which culminated in a recording.
The Allegri’s repertoire strengths are Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Haydn as well as Shostakovich and Szymanovsky. The Allegri also perform quintets and sextets with guest artists of the highest calibre such as James Campbell, Joseph Shiner (clarinet), Martin Roscoe, Peter Donohoe (piano) and Phil Dukes (viola).
The Allegri Quartet have an impressive and extensive discography dating back to the 1960s. Most recently, in 2016 the Allegri released a recording of Alec Roth’s string quartets on new label RTF Classical. In 2014, they released Ludwig Thuille’s string quartets on the Champs Hill label (BBC Music Magazine: “Ludwig Thuille's post-Classical tunefulness is memorably captured by the Allegri's gleaming precision and affectionate poise”). In 2013 they released the Beethoven Op.18 String Quartets Vol.1 on the Vivat label (5 star review and ‘Chamber Music Disc of the Month’ from BBC Music Magazine). Next the Allegri will record Beethoven’s Op. 18 Vol. 2, again with Vivat. Full details of all recordings can be found in our ‘Recordings’ section.
The Allegri Quartet places enormous importance on training the next generation of string and chamber music players. The quartet have enjoyed long-standing teaching residencies at Bangor and Middlesex Universities, teach chamber music for Benslow Music, and enjoy many other invitations to teach or coach at music colleges around the UK. From leading master classes and open rehearsals, through to coaching student groups, offering lessons, discussing and trying out student compositions, and working with academic staff on research projects, the Allegri will always dedicate time to educating and encouraging others.
The Allegri Quartet were founded in 1953 by Eli Goren, William Pleeth, Patrick Ireland and James Barton. They are named after Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), famous for his Miserere, who is reputed to have written the first music for a string quartet. So extensive and storied is their history – including a performance at 10 Downing Street – that renowned music writer Piers Burton-Page has detailed their first 50 years here.