The New Works Competition began over eight months ago with 114 submissions, with only a selection of six pieces making it through to the next stage. Online voting decided the Quartet's three finalists. Those family and friends who could not make it to the final on Friday evening at JdP Music Building could listen to it via live streaming on the Villiers website and cast their votes.
The Villiers Quartet consists of the talented violinists James Dickenson and Tamaki Higashi, violist Carmen Flores and cellist Nick Stringfellow. Such an enthusiastic and committed ensemble are continuing to develop a high profile in the British Chamber music scene, eager to perform contemporary composers' works along with several projects involving multimedia and film.
The three finalists, Andrew Guo, Ian Munro and Kristina Wolfe, were joined by BBC Radio 2's Paul Gambaccini who expertly compèred the final.
Wolfe's work entitled 'Planctus' reflected her specialisation in electronic music and 'spectral' experimental sound. Munro's 'String Quartet No. 1' created a vision and landscape. His technical understanding of performers and his craftsmanship as a composer came through in this performance. Munro is already making waves as a composer, having already won the Grand Prix at the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Belgium in 2003. He also holds a position with the Australia Ensemble, who are resident at the NSW University Australia. Guo's 'Fantasy for String Quartet' brought to mind rich images of a pastoral setting. His career as a young composer is set to blossom from this rewarding experience. He is an encouraging example to other young musicians who should follow their passions and continue to aim for live performances of their works.
During the post interval vote counting, the ensemble performed Britten's Three Divertimenti for String Quartet with flair, confidence, and passion. Then the moment the audience and supporters were waiting for: with only four votes separating the third from first place the winner was Kristina Wolfe's 'Planctus', second was Ian Munro's 'String Quartet No. 1' and in third place was Andrew Guo's 'Fantasy for String Quartet.'
Following an international tour and programs throughout the year, Oxford audiences will eagerly await The Villiers return in November 2016. Be sure to watch for details of this program later in the year. Reserving your seat ready for their return in Autumn would make great sense to music lovers and students alike.