Oculi Ensemble will offer a Festival of Chichester highlight

Emma Parker
Emma Parker

Violinist Emma Parker and friends from the internationally award-winning Badke Quartet return to the Festival of Chichester in a new guise this year.

They have formed the Oculi Ensemble to continue their rich history of collaborations, inviting the finest chamber musicians to join them in an approach which will be much more project based.

They will be performing as part of the Amici Concerts series within the Festival of Chichester, with a date at St Pancras Church, Eastgate Square, Chichester on Friday, July 12 at 7.30pm.

Their programme will be Brahms String Quintet op 88; Mozart String Quintet in G minor k516; and Webern Langsamer Satz for string quartet – a programme they will soon also be taking to the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

“We came quite a long way with the Badkes which has now merged into this larger ensemble. After maybe 14 years of being the Badke Quartet, we decided – and we thought about it for a long time – to merge into something larger and more flexible, being in a situation now of having families and having to think about mortgages and so on. Rather than meeting up every single day to rehearse as a quartet, as I said, this will be much more project based. We might meet maybe four times a year to do specific projects. The Badkes as such no longer exist, but now are part of something bigger which means that we can do duets, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, septets – up to seven people.”

The point is that it will allow them to bring string quartet rigour to pieces requiring larger numbers – pieces which are generally neglected, performed just at festivals by a group of musicians effectively thrown together for the purpose: “It means that we can now bring to those pieces exactly the kind of precision that you would bring to a string quartet.”

In a way, the Badkes have been liberated: “This is something that we feel would be really amazing to do . We thought what better way to use our quartet training for all these years than to put it into doing something bigger. Everyone who plays with us has played in a quartet. They have all undergone this rigorous training so that when we are putting the quintets and sextets and septets together, we all know we have that fastidious background that working with a quartet gives you.

“For Chichester we are doing a Brahms quintet which is absolutely gorgeous, just luscious, and we are putting it next to a Mozart quintet. They are two polar opposite composers. The Brahms is very lush and very romantic and has got a completely different sound world to the Mozart. In the Mozart, it has all got to be much more transparent and clean and pure and a much more sweet sound, and that’s one of the great things in rehearsing, that we can really get that different sound world. You wouldn’t want to be speaking Spanish with a French accent, and this is a similar thing.

“That’s one of the things we can spend a long time concentrating on. You are talking about vibrato. You are talking about dynamic range. You are talking about the contact point… all the things you can do to get it just right.

“And we are also doing the Webern which is an absolutely beautiful piece. We have got two quintets and the quartet, and it is an extremely beautiful romantic piece which is breath-taking and can stand alone. That’s the challenge. We have got to have the right length programme. We don’t have time for another full quartet, so we were looking for a movement that could stand alone, and this is really powerful.”

Emma plays on a Pietro Giovanni Guarneri (1655-1720) violin, on loan from a private donor.

Tickets £17/£15; under 25 years £5. Disabled access.

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