Monday 8 July 2019

From duo to septet: meet the Oculi Ensemble.

The Oculi Ensemble is a flexible group of string players which grew out of the Badke Quartet, and so the ensemble can provide programmes varying from two players to seven. Jon Thorne, who plays viola with the ensemble, explained that the evolution of life and the complexities of families meant that the players of the Badke Quartet felt that the new flexible ensemble was the logical development.

One of the features of the ensemble is that all the players have a string quartet background, and between them they have quite an array of distinguished instruments with a Stradivarius, two Guarneri and a Grancino, Jon calls it an amazing collection of instruments, commenting that they are very fortunate. The regular players in the ensemble are Charlotte Scott (violin), Emma Parker (violin), Jon Thorne (viola), Simon Tandree (viola), Nathaniel Boyd (cello), Pau Codina (cello) and Stacey Watton (double bass).

The ensemble have a group of concerts coming up shortly when they will be playing in Chichester (12/7/2019) and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam (15/7/2019) with a programme of Mozart and Brahms quintets plus Webern, and at LSO St Lukes in London (19/7/2019) with a programme of Richard Strauss, Mozart and Brahms. Further ahead the ensemble is at the North York Moors festival and back in London in the Autumn

The ensemble plays the classical repertoire, and can offer programmes based on anything from duos to septets, and Jon comments that it is nice to be able to play this wider repertoire properly. Currently they give around ten to fifteen concerts per year, but are hoping to grow this.

Their first disc is due out at the end of this year or early 2020 and will feature an all Richard Strauss programme with not only the string septet of Metamorphosen and the sextet from Capriccio but the early piano quartet, first string quartet and a fragment which was specially released from the family archives for the ensemble to play. I caught them in the Strauss Sextet at Conway Hall last year [see my review] and the planned inclusion of the Strauss Quartetsatz did not happen because the music had not arrived from the archives, but thankfully it was there in time to be recorded.

The Strauss disc is already recorded, so the ensemble is now thinking about their next one. The Badke Quartet gave the UK premiere of the Bruch quartets, so they are thinking about some Bruch chamber music, or the Borodin Sextet, which Jon calls 'a gorgeous work'.

Full details of the ensemble's concerts from its website.

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