The English String Quartet is one of the world's oldest continuously constituted chamber groups and is widely known for its broad repertory and emphasis on British music. It has toured extensively around the world, recorded for numerous record labels (in the CD era for Chandos, Meridian, and Unicorn-Kanchana), and played broadcasts concerts on the BBC and other countries' radio systems.
During its long life, the quartet has included someRead more eminent names in British string playing history, including violist-composer Frank Bridge, cellist Ivor James, and violinists Marjorie Haywood, and Nona Liddell.
In 1982, major shifts in its personnel occurred when a new first violinist and new violist were chosen. These were the husband and wife team of Diana Cummings and Luciano Iorio.
Cummings' father, Frank Cummings, was himself a fine violist from Perth, Australia, who moved to London and had been a member of both the Blech Quartet and the London String Quartet. Diana was born in London and started to play both violin and piano at a young age. She was the leader (concertmaster) of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra. String playing talent has asserted itself for three generations in her family; her son Damian became concertmaster of the same orchestra thirty years later, and her brothers Julian (violin) and Douglas (cello) are also professional string players.
While studying on an Italian Government Scholarship and an award from the Countess of Munster Trust with Remy Principe in Rome, she met violist Lucian Iorio while both were studying at a summer music course in Taormina.
Iorio had studied to be both a lawyer and a musician and was also a pupil of Remy Principe. He became a professional violist and joined two major Roman ensembles, I Solisti di Roma and Quartetto Nuova. His meeting Diana Cummings was a factor in deciding to come to London to study with Gwynne Edwards. They married, returned to Italy, and founded the Cummings-Iorio String Quartet; Iorio also started the Gruppo Roma Musicale.
Returning to London in 1971, they formed the Cummings String Quartet with Julian and Douglas Cummings. But soon he accepted a position as principal violist with I Solisti Veneti, one of Italy's premiere chamber orchestras, which required frequent touring. He left it in 1975, and began a successful career as a freelance orchestral player, called on to join the major London orchestras when their viola sections needed enlarging, and as a commercial sessions player. Meanwhile, Diana was also active as a frequent extra player with London orchestras and as a soloist, as well as concertmaster of the Northern Chamber Orchestra (1975-1985).
In 1982, the couple joined the England Quartet, the same year Diana became Professor of Viola at the Royal Academy of Music. Since then the rest of the membership of the quartet has rotated: The second violinist is Keith Lewis, who had been a member of several chamber groups and an instructor at the University of Valencia in Venezuela, where also played in several ensembles. Tamsy Kaner, the cellist, was a member of the Scottish National Orchestra, then the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and often played in chamber music concerts.
The English String Quartet has won the British Music Retailers Association Award for Excellence in Chamber Music for its Meridian recordings of Mendelssohn String Quartets. Read less