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Ralph de Souza, Rachel Isserlis
Matthew Jones viola
Sebastian Comberti, Jane Salmon cellos

Divertimenti has become widely acclaimed as one of the most exciting and innovative British chamber groups of its generation. Four of the players in this outstanding ensemble were founder members at its inception in 1978. All five are top ranking players with a wealth of world wide concert experience between them, as soloists and orchestral principals as well as chamber music players. Long standing friends, they share an evergreen love of music making, and a passion for the rich sonorities of the string ensemble repertoire.

The core group is a quintet for two cellos. In addition, Divertimenti Ensemble can expand to sextets and octets, and adapt to perform quintets for two violas and also quartets, trios, duos and solos. This unusual flexibility is supported by energetic and innovative programming.

Schubert’s great C major Quintet forms the backbone of many programmes, while other exciting and beautiful quintets for this combination have been discovered. Divertimenti has a long tradition of breaking new ground with adventurous repertoire, and championing the work of lesser known composers. A serious dedication to twentieth-century compositions, together with a particular focus on the rich seam of works by British composers, has enabled the creation of attractive and challenging concerts.

Touring throughout the UK and Ireland, the Ensemble has appeared for music societies and major festivals such as Aldeburgh, Bath, King’s Lynn and Lichfield. Divertimenti has also given concerts in National Trust and other stately homes as well as in Italy, France, Germany and Greece.

The Ensemble’s recording activities have included numerous programmes for BBC Radio 3, notably live broadcast concerts at St George’s, Bristol and Pebble Mill, Birmingham. Early interest was attracted by a recording of chamber music by Colin Matthews, and of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet on the Meridian label. Two further recordings on the Hyperion label – Howells and Dyson Quartets, and Mendelssohn and Bargiel Octets – received unanimous praise from the critics, the latter being singled out for recommendation by BBC Radio 3’s Record Review and by International Record Review. Both recordings received recommendations from BBC Music Magazine and Classic fM (as Record of the Month).

Highlights include the second ever performance of Arnold Bax’s Quintet No 1, together with Dame Ethel Smyth’s Quintet, at the Lichfield Festival, both enthusiastically received. The Bax Quintet has subsequently been recorded on CD for the Dutton Epoch label – “a thoroughly likeable and valuable release” (Gramophone).

Another recent discovery was the Beethoven Kreutzer Quintet; a transcription for string quintet with two cellos of the famous violin sonata, published in 1892, with scores provided by the Beethovenhaus in Bonn. A recent addition to their exclusive repertoire is the Joseph Miroslav Weber Quintet, which has been released on the Cello Classics label, together with the Brahms String Quintet in F minor (a reconstruction of the original instrumentation of his Piano Quintet Op 34) – “the lyrical flow in this beautiful account is unimpeded” (Sunday Times). Compelling masterworks of the Russian Romantic School by Catoire and Taneyev, as well as Glazunov's sunny and Tchaikovsky-inspired String Quintet also feature in Divertimenti’s repertoire. A welcome find which Divertimenti has taken particular pleasure in uncovering, is the Quintet movement by the Danish follower of Mendelssohn, Niels Gade, a work, which incorporates both the ardour and the freshness of a composer at the beginning of his career. The 2010 season will include a fine quintet by Beethoven’s pupil, Ferdinand Ries (Souvenir d’Italie) of 1836. Divertimenti is now offering a new composition composed especially for the ensemble by renowned composer Sally Beamish (a founder member of Divertimenti) for their 40th Anniversary season in 2018-19.

In 2021 Divertimenti welcomed three new members: Ralph de Souza, late of the Endellion Quartet, as leader, Matthew Jones, viola, while Jane Salmon, from the Schubert Ensemble complete the new line-up to take the group forward to a new and exciting chapter.