Elias String Quartet at Royal Northern College of Music

Elias String Quartet portrait

Elias String Quartet return this Summer to round off RNCM’s exploration of Mendelssohn’s exuberant canon of chamber music works, and this time it’s a family affair.

Fanny and her younger brother Felix shared an unbreakable bond and passion for music throughout their entire lives. From their earliest days, they displayed prodigal talents both as performers and composers. However, Fanny’s recognition and career prospects would always be constrained by 19th-century societal norms.

Like many women of the time, she was discouraged from writing ensemble pieces, so her String Quartet in E flat major is the only work she wrote for the grouping. It remains one of the first surviving string quartets written by a female composer.

Felix’s Four Pieces for String Quartet Op 81 have sometimes been erroneously labelled as his String Quartet No 7, but he didn’t write them as a complete work. His unexpected death at age 38, just six months after his sister’s, sparked a surge in demand for his music. The publisher Breitkopf & Härtel grouped some of his standalone pieces together and published them as this set posthumously.

Closing off this Mendelssohn cycle, Elias presents Felix’s last string quartet, written as a requiem for his sister. Felix was devastated and heartbroken by the passing of Fanny and struggled to cope with the sorrow of her death. When he finally convinced himself to compose again, he transformed his pain and anguish into his final work, creating an unrelentingly dark musical outpouring of his grief.

Elias String Quartet

The Elias String Quartet take their name from Mendelssohn’s oratorio, Elijah, of which Elias is its German form. Hailed as one of the most intense and vibrant quartets of their generation, they formed at the RNCM in 1998 and have had a strong association with the College ever since. As Artists-in-Residence, they work closely with our students in workshops and masterclasses, giving them unprecedented insight into ensemble musicianship.

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel String Quartet in E flat major
Felix Mendelssohn Four Pieces for String Quartet Op 81
Felix Mendelssohn String Quartet in F minor Op 80

Elias String Quartet:
Sara Bitlloch, Donald Grant violin
Simone van der Geissen viola
Marie Bitlloch cello

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