31 January 2024

Learning by ear and learning to listen was a good education

By Lark Music

In the Green Room with violist Adam Newman, the newest member of YCAT Hans Keller Artists, the Adelphi Quartet

The Adelphi Quartet all come from different backgrounds but collaborate so well to develop our music.
I have Welsh roots with a tradition of singing in my family – I sang in a choir as a boy but nobody played an instrument at home. We lived in Liverpool and as a child my mum took me to the local Irish centre, close to the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, where I started to play the Irish fiddle.

Mum knew someone who was involved there so I got into music in an unconventional way, not taking grades at school but experiencing music through listening to Irish pipes, banjo, and Irish flute. I was learning by ear – and learning to listen was a good education.

Later, when I started taking classical music lessons, I was put in the beginners’ class, which turned out to be tricky for the teachers and for me as I could already play.

I started playing the violin at seven and joined a youth orchestra when I was 12. I knew then this was what I wanted to do… to study music and make a career of it. I started to play the viola at 14 and my dream was always to go to the Royal Northern College of Music – their representatives would come to my school’s annual careers day and I was the only one who went up to their table! I spent my last two school years attending the Royal Northern’s Junior School every Saturday.

I began playing viola in professional concerts as an undergraduate, as most did. Somehow there was always a feel of nervous desperation in the air  playing one’s first professional gig before finishing your undergrad degree, so the pressure was on. I performed at Wigmore Hall on a few occasions during that time and these experiences were hugely inspiring.

Our own valid superpower

With the Adelphi Quartet we continue to learn and each member brings something different to the group. We all have our own valid superpower through our love of music and desire to further our understanding of the art form.

Violinist Maxime Michaluk, from Belgium but with Ukrainian heritage, has been in Salzburg since he was 18 – a small place, centred around music – and his youthfulness is the very appealing factor he brings to our group. Second violinist, Esther Agustí Matabosch, from Spain, whose sister founded a music school in Barcelona, really complements Maxime creating a true team. Then there’s cellist Nepomuk Braun, from Germany, who’s both practical and a great communicator – that may come from having siblings who are also musical.

Rainer Schmidt introduction

The Adelphi Quartet met as students at the Mozarteum Salzburg seven years ago and I joined them in January 2023, through university professor Rainer Schmidt of the Hagen Quartet.

Each member of the Adelphi Quartet has a desire to continually develop their music and through the Hagen Quartet’s encouragement we strive to be the most human as musicians – not just to be strong instrumentalists but to access creativity away from the instruments and the crucial fundamentals – through text, poetry, movement, and how to interpret notation.

As well as structure, harmony, and form – which are glorious subjects to talk about – Hagen encourages us to go even further.

People naturally respect Rainer (Second Violinist of Hagen Quartet), so when the Adelphi Quartet was looking to replace a musician, Rainer suggested that I could be a good fit.

It really helped in the early introductions as we all feel that to be a musician who is worth listening to, we need to be curious, willing, and open;  keen to develop and inspire. These were the qualities we saw in each other.

One new person can be a good thing to refresh a group and we’re all renewed by each other, building on a musical relationship. We’ve really found our feet through the summer; certain things work quicker as we’ve developed a common language and a particular way to rehearse.

We were excited to  play at Wigmore Hall as YCAT Hans Keller artists. There’s  something special about a foreign group playing in the UK as we have such a tradition with so many different societies in villages, towns, and cities with great halls as well as wonderful churches which make lovely venues. It was a  thrill for us to perform at Wigmore Hall again, and its glorious acoustic always feels like being in a church.

The Adelphi Quartet played in the Wigmore Hall lunchtime series on 5 December, 2023 last year.

For forthcoming concerts, visit wigmore-hall.co.uk to book YCAT  tickets 

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