‘…outstanding coolness and flexibility… quicksilver tonal variety… sharp musical and technical reflexes.’
‘…(we) were rewarded with an astonishing group improvisation by the Elysian Quartet.’ New York Times
‘Feisty boundary pushers, four supremely talented classical musicians’
The Elysian Quartet is a British string quartet specialising in contemporary, experimental and improvised music, who formed while studying at London’s Trinity College of Music. In 2011 they celebrated ten years together with a one day mini-festival at The Yard, Hackney which featured performances and collaborations with many of the musicians the quartet have worked with over the years, including Adem, Simon Fisher Turner, and Joby Burgess (Ensemble Bash).
The Elysian Quartet are drawn towards projects which investigate the possibilities of what a string quartet can do, what sounds and noises it can make and the various ways performances can be presented. They have performed all over the world in a multitude of diverse scenarios: prestigous concert halls, theatres, sweaty clubs, a volcano, helicopters, wild meadows, multimedia art installations, beaches, fire sculptures, forests and once in a barn being dive bombed by bats. In recent years the Quartet have worked with the legendary vocalist and composer Meredith Monk, performing with her ensemble in Edinburgh, Wroclaw and Dartington in a work which requires them to sing and dance as well as play their instruments. They have twice been commissioned by BBC Radio Three’s Late Junction to create new music in collaborations with poet/rapper Kate Tempest and, more recently, with Syrian Kanun player Maya Yousseff. They have also premiered many new commissions including recent works by Graham Fitkin, Gameshow Outpatient and Keith Tippett.
The Elysian Quartet has also received much acclaim for its completely improvised performances and devised live scores for silent film, also developed through improvisation. The Quartet’s live film scores, including the Mary Pickford classic “My Best Girl”, Hepworth’s “Helen Of Four Gates” and various shorts, have been performed at the BFI London and venues across the UK. In 2011 the group opened the BFI’s major retrospective on Russian cinema in a collaboration with Max De Wardener and Ed Finnis on a new score for Eisenstein’s “The General Line”. They also opened the 2010 London Film Festival accompanying Herbert Ponting’s “The Great White Silence”, a collaboration with electronic composer Simon Fisher Turner, which they continue to perform at film festivals worldwide. The Elysians also co-wrote parts of the soundtrack for recent hit comedy film ‘In the Loop’. They have released two albums of Gabriel Prokofiev’s string quartets on the Nonclassical label. They have also recorded Max De Wardener’s ‘Bee Trilogy’ for Radiohead artist Stanley Donwood’s music/artwork project Six Inch Records and self-released an EP of their own music.
For the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad the Elysian Quartet performed Karlheinz Stockhausen’s infamous Helicopter String Quartet, in which the players perform from four separate helicopters flying through the air, as part of the first ever complete staging of the epic opera Mittwoch aus Licht.