Now into its third decade, the Smith Quartet remains at the leading edge of the new music world. A champion of the works of the world’s most celebrated composers, commissioning over 200 new pieces with recent works from Michael Nyman, Kevin Volans, Joe Cutler, Donnacha Dennehy, Tunde Jegede, Gabriel Prokofiev and the late Jon Lord. In 2015 the quartet gave the world premiere of Graham Fitkin’s new work Distil at the Cheltenham Festival as part of a collaborative project with percussionist Joby Burgess. The work went on to receive the RPS chamber music prize for best chamber composition. The group has not only collaborated with eminent classical musicians such as Burgess, pianist John Tilbury and guitarist David Tanenbaum but also with a diverse array of artists from other disciplines including rock group Pulp, Malian singer Rokia Traoré, jazz musicians John Taylor and Django Bates and dance companies Shobana Jeyasingh, Siobhan Davies and Ultima Vez.
In 2005 they were featured in the BBC’s The Culture Show in discussion with Steve Reich and in the BAFTA and Emmy award-winning BBC documentary film Holocaust – A Music Memorial Concert from Auschwitz performing Reich’s Different Trains. Filmed on location, the film marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
The quartet’s touring schedule has taken them around the world appearing in many prestigious festivals including: Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Vancouver Festival, Düsseldorf Festival, Cheltenham and Edinburgh Festivals, La Biennale di Venezia, Jauna Muzika Vilnius, Vale of Glamorgan, the Flanders Festival Brussels and New York’s Bang on a Can Festival. As Associate Artists at St. John’s Smith Square London they featured all the works of Michael Nyman and Philip Glass, as well as iconic British composers including Gavin Bryars, Steve Martland and Howard Skempton.
The quartet has regularly recorded for the BBC and enjoyed an ongoing relationship with Signum Classics. Their fourth album for the label, Dance, Is a collection of newly commissioned dances by composers from the world of classical, jazz, rock and world music. The album received accolades in both the national and international press. Previous albums on the Signum label include Steve Reich’s Different Trains and the complete Philip Glass quartets which led Classic FM magazine to ask “How long before the Kronos is labelled the ‘American Smith Quartet’? …they are ahead of the curve at generating new repertoire and taking the experimental back catalogue seriously”. Other albums of note include Django Bates’ You live and learn… Apparently and the hugely popular Diamond Music by Karl Jenkins on Sony. 2016 saw the the release of the final disc, with acclaimed pianist John Tilbury, of all the Morton Feldman works for piano and strings, performed and recorded live at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Of their performance of Piano and String Quartet at St. John’s Smith Square in April, 2016, Ivan Hewett from the Telegragh wrote “…Feldman’s feeling for proportion and weight was exquisitely displayed in the piece, but only because the performance was so beautifully judged…In their wonderful performance Feldman’s masterpiece took on a lovely vernal glow…”.
In 2015 the quartet, as part of the Kings Place “minimalism unwrapped” series, gave the world premiere of North Shore by Wayne Siegel as part of their “European Mavericks” concert. They also collaborated with David Lang (bang on a can, New York) in a concert of American minimalist music featuring Arke Luggage, written by Lang for the quartet and soprano Else Torpe. In the Autumn they concluded their Kings Place cycle with a performance of Michael Nyman’s complete quartets. The following year, they performed North Shore again at the beautiful Copenhagen Library.
The Smiths continued its long established collaboration with Shobana Jeyasingh Dance in 2017 with a UK tour of Material Men redux, a new full length version of the original production that premiered to rave reviews at the QEH, London 2015. The production had its Italian premiere in the stunning Teatro Alighierias part of the 2017 Ravenna Festival. The quartet also appeared at the historic Chiostro della Biblioteca Classense, performing an all British programme featuring Steve Martland’s Patrol and Michael Nyman’s 5th Quartet.