Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Virtuoso String Quartet

The Virtuoso String Quartet (Marjorie Hayward and Edwin Virgo, violins; Raymond Jeremy, viola; Cedric Sharpe, cello) was organized by the Gramophone Company of England (HMV) in 1924, and was, apparently, the first chamber music group formed specifically for making recordings.  Their recording career was brief, however.  By the late 1920s, ensembles with international reputations, such as the Budapest Quartet, were recording for HMV, and the Virtuoso Quartet with its more localized reputation was shunted aside in favor of these.  A pity, for the Virtuoso Quartet was a fine ensemble whose performances are passionate and compelling, and whose recordings, which include four Beethoven quartets and quartets by Tchaikovsky, Franck, Debussy and Ravel, as well as numerous shorter works, have become sought after by collectors.

I have three of their Beethoven quartet recordings available, as well as a group of shorter works, headed by Ravel's Introduction and Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet (with harpist John Cockerill, flutist Robert Murchie, and clarinetist Charles Draper) and including the first of Frank Bridge's "Three Idylls" for string quartet, composed in 1906.  (Benjamin Britten, who was Bridge's pupil, wrote variations for string orchestra on the second of these Idylls.)

Beethoven: Quartet No. 6 in B-Flat, Op. 18, No. 6 and
Schubert: Moment Musicale
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded from December 6, 1926, to January 31, 1927
HMV D 1206 through D 1209, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 83.68 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 57.02 MB)

Beethoven: Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded May 20 and June 18, 1924
HMV D 953 through D 956, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 94.01 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 32.44 MB)

Beethoven: Quartet No. 12 in E-Flat, Op. 127 and
Dittersdorf: Quartet No. 5 in E-Flat - Minuet
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded from October 26, 1925, to October 12, 1926
HMV D 1183 through D 1187, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 107.58 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 72.12 MB)

Ravel: Introduction and Allegro
(with John Cockerill, harp; Robert Murchie, flute; Charles Draper, clarinet)
Bridge: Three Noveletten - No. 3 in E-Flat
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded February 4 and March 18, 1929
HMV C 1662 and C 1663, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 36.10 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 25.29 MB)

Bridge: Three Idylls - No. 1 in C-Sharp Minor
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded June 18, 1928
HMV C 1593, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 20.47 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 13.87 MB)

Bridge [arr.]: Londonderry Air and
Haydn: "Emperor" Quartet - Theme and Variations
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded July 1 and November 21, 1927
HMV C 1470, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 22.17 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 16.52 MB)

Julius Harrison: Widdicombe Fair - Humoreske, Op. 22 and
Haydn [attrib.]: Quartet in F, Op. 3, No. 5 - Serenade
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded November 21, 1927, and July 8, 1928
HMV B 3137, one 10-inch 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 15.74 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 11.25 MB)

Since this was originally posted, I have made available two additional transfers of VSQ recordings.  I list them below, for the convenience of having all my files of their recordings in one place:

Gossec: Tambourin (arr. Cedric Sharpe)
Grainger: Molly on the Shore
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded July 1, 1927
HMV B 2589, one 10-inch 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 16.40 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 9.56 MB)

Franck: Quartet in D Major
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded January 14 to April 20, 1925
HMV D 1006 through D 1011, six 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 149.02 MB)
Link (FLAC files, 74.09 MB)


  1. Dear Bryan, At last, a proper home for your treasures! Welcome to the blogoball and thank you again for the years of pelasure and enlightenment you have given us. Best wishes, Nick

  2. The Beethoven Op. 127 & Bridge are a great addition to this ensemble's legacy. Many thanks for restoring these to currency. I think Cedric Sharpe later joined the BBC Symphony, where his lateness resulted in at least one telling-off from Adrian Boult!

  3. What a beautiful blog you have! I also have several 78s from this ensemble in my collection, (Debussy sq a.o.) - your transfers are very good! My compliments! I invite you to see my blog: http://satyr78lp.blogspot.com

  4. I'm trying to find John Cockerill's "Arabesque", a 1946 Columbia recording. I don't suppose you have that?