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Amadeus Quartet Archive gifted to the RCM

Wednesday 1 March 2017


The Royal College of Music has been generously gifted a significant collection of archive materials from the Amadeus Quartet, one of the most celebrated string quartets of the 20th century.

The archive, which features some of the countless reviews and interviews from the group’s 40 years together, has been donated by the quartet’s cellist Martin Lovett, an RCM student from 1942 to 1945. It was assembled over many years by his wife Dorinde van Oort-Lovett, who, with help from family members of the other Amadeus musicians, was able to compile the dates and locations of all of the group’s 4,000 concerts and most of their programmes.

Dorinde van Oort-Lovett says ‘This collection of thousands of scraps and interviews, chronologically organised, reveal the story of the Amadeus career: the triumphs, the struggles, the illnesses, the broken strings, the anniversaries and celebrations; the changes in repertoire, and the collaboration with numerous distinguished colleagues. Hopefully younger musicians, students and music lovers will find inspiration in this wonderful material, leading to new publications and studies about this unforgettable ensemble.’

The archive also contains many fascinating images, including a group photograph with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears at the premiere of the composer’s String Quartet no 3 (below). This work was written for the quartet and is one of the pieces featuring in a special concert to celebrate Martin Lovett’s 90th birthday, taking place at the RCM at 3pm on Sunday 5 March.

RCM Director of Research Richard Wistreich says: ‘These archives present a significant new resource for exploring this extraordinary ensemble’s contributions to both British and international musical life in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Not least, the archive will be of great importance to the RCM’s long-term research project about the shaping of the cultural landscape of Britain in the post-war years though the interactions of ‘home-grown’ musicians and émigrés fleeing Nazi persecution. The Amadeus Quartet Archive provides a detailed portrait of the realities of elite musicians’ ‘life on the road’, as well as a complete record of the repertoire of the one of the greatest string quartets of modern times.’

Materials from this archive and film footage of the quartet will be shown in a free exhibition from 11am–2pm on Sunday 5 March in the RCM’s Grove Room, before the afternoon concert. Tickets for the concert are £5 and can be booked by visiting our events pages. The day also features a free pre-concert talk from Daniel Snowman, exploring the history of the Amadeus Quartet.

Both images from Amadeus Quartet Archive © Martin Lovett / Dorinde van Oort-Lovett