The Castalian Quartet may be only five years old but during its short existence it has garnered a prize every year in major international competitions.
The first was in Hanover 2013, another one in Lyon the following year and in 2016 they picked up yet another award in Banff. So what about this year? “It’s far too early to say,” laughs Sini Simonen, who plays the violin and is the newest member of the quartet. The places where they have picked up the prestigious awards also indicate the width of their touring. “We’re very lucky to be able to tour as it melds the quartet together,” says Sini, who has been with the quartet for just over two years.
Sini is from Finland, the viola player is from France but the cello and the other violin are played by two young Brits. Young is the right word, Sini admits she is very old and when asked she says she is thirty. This young group has toured all over Europe as well as China and now give recitals throughout the UK. On the 22nd of March they will play a concert with music by Schubert, Schumann and Beethoven at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. “We have never played at the Gallery before and we are all very excited about it. I have just moved from Denmark and now live in Penge, so it will be an extra treat for me, as I have heard so much about it.”
Sini started playing the violin when she was only four, inspired by her mother who had played in her youth but gave it up. “I always said as a child that I would never become a professional musician because I would never have enough time to practise, but at the age of fourteen I knew that all I wanted was to become a musician. And you have to start young in order to build a career.” The Castalian Quartet has managed to build a fine career for its four members, Sine on violin, Charlotte Bonneton on viola, who with Daniel Roberts founded the quartet in 2011. Daniel plays violin and on cello is Christopher Graves.
All four have impressive CVs in their own rights in spite of their youth. Sini was a member of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra before she was lured to the renowned Esbjerg Ensemble in Denmark. Charlotte has appeared as a soloist with orchestras all over Europe and after studies in Paris she obtained a Master of Arts Degree with distinction at The Royal Academy of Music in London. Chris has played principal cello with many leading orchestras including the Philharmonia and the London Chamber Orchestra. Daniel is in demand both as a soloist and chamber music teacher and his teachings have taken him as far as China.
Sini finds the touring very inspiring and admits that the audiences behave very differently. “In Italy, the audience can be raucous, like at a party, in Germany they take it very seriously as classical music is ingrained in their culture and in China there is a real boom in classical music especially among the young. If I am honest, my favourite audience is German.”
And German is the music the quartet has chosen to play at their Dulwich concert. “I was determined that we should include the String Quartet in A Minor by Schumann, it is an incredible piece of music, turbulent and neurotic. The other two pieces by Schubert and Beethoven are equally magnificent and now part of our repertoire which we will play next month at Wigmore Hall.”
The concert will also give the audience a chance to listen to two remarkable instruments. The musicians may be young but their instruments are rare antiques. Sini plays a Giovanni Battista Guadagnini violin from 1760 and Daniel has an equally fine violin by Joseph Guarneri filius Andrea from 1705.
The concert will be a rare opportunity to hear this fine quartet, which is rapidly emerging as an exciting voice on the international chamber music scene. And if you wonder where the name comes from; Castalia was a nymph in Greek mythology transformed into a fountain at Delphi. It is said she inspired the genius of poetry – and also four young musicians.
Castalian String Quartet
Wednesday 22 March 7.30
Dulwich Picture Gallery
£20, £18 Friends, Under 18s £10, includes a glass of wine after the concert
Tickets can be obtained at www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk
Or from the desk at the Gallery
Or on the ticket line 8299 8750 between 10 am – 4 pm
This event is organised by Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery