String Quartet

Heath Quartet

“The music’s potency and bravura were conveyed with thrilling conviction…” The Guardian

Oliver Heath, violin
Sara Wolstenholme, violin
Gary Pomeroy, viola
Christopher Murray, cello

© Patrick Ford


The Heath Quartet formed in 2002 at the Royal Northern College of Music. There were selected for representation by YCAT, awarded a Borletti-Buitoni Special Ensemble Scholarship and in 2012 won the Ensemble Prize at the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern where they are now regular visitors. In 2016 they won the Gramophone Chamber Award for their recording of the complete string quartets of Sir Michael Tippett, and in May 2013 became the first ensemble in fifteen years to win the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artists Award.

Their award-winning release of the Tippett was followed by two discs recorded for the Harmonia Mundi/PIAS label featuring Tchaikovsky’s first and third quartets (November 2016) and the complete Bartók quartets (June 2017), the latter of which won the 2017 Limelight Chamber Music Award and was nominaed for the 2018 Gramophone Chamber Music Award – both projects were part-funded by the Quartet’s Borletti-Buitoni Trust Special Ensemble Scholarship 2011.

During the 2019/20 season the quartet will perform a complete Beethoven quartet cycle over the course of three return visits to Middlebury College in Vermont as part of an ongoing residency. Beethoven also features in their debut at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, returns to Wigmore Hall and Handelsbeurs Ghent as well as in various appearances throughout the UK. The music of the Second Viennese School is also high on their agenda this season, with works by Berg, Webern and Schoenberg appearing on their forthcoming recording programme. Longtime artistic collaborator Carolyn Sampson (soprano) joins them on the recording, as well as in recital for their debut at Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona.

Click here to download the Heath Quartet’s full 2019/20 biography


From The Green Room


  • More info  
    Béla Bartók - Complete String Quartets

    Label: Harmonia Mundi [PIAS]

    Release Date: 09 Jun 17

    Shortlisted for the 2018 Gramophone Chamber Award!

    Winner of the Limelight Magazine 2017 Recording of the Year and Chamber Recording of the Year awards

    The string quartet was of central importance to Bartók throughout his career. His six quartets were written (between 1907 and 1939) at crucial turning points in the composer’s creative development. From the elegiac tone of Quartet no.1 (reflecting an unhappy love affair) to the sadness and wry parody of no.6, composed on the eve of World War II, by way of the mirror forms and atmospheric ‘night music’ of nos.4 and 5, they represent perhaps the biggest interpretative challenge in the genre alongside the Beethoven quartets. A challenge triumphantly met here by the Heath Quartet.

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    Tchaikovsky: String Quartets 1 & 3

    Label: Harmonia Mundi [PIAS]

    Release Date: 18 Nov 16

    The Heath Quartet make their harmonia mundi début with this contrasting programme of Tchaikovsky’s String Quartets: his Quartet No. 1 (famed for its plaintive Andante cantabile) and the tempestuous No. 3 (dedicated to the memory of Ferdinand Laub).

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    Tippett: String Quartets 1-5

    Label: Wigmore LIVE

    Release Date: 01 Dec 15

    GRAMOPHONE AWARD WINNER 2016: Chamber Category

    Sir Michael Tippett’s complete String Quartets are given fresh perspectives by the vibrant and adventurous Heath Quartet. The first ensemble in 10 years to receive the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist Award, the Heaths bring irresistible energy to these works. From Quartet No. 1, premièred in what was the first professional performance of the composer’s music, and Quartet No. 3, written during the Second World War whilst Tippett, a committed pacifist, faced a prison sentence, to his landmark fifth and final quartet, Tippett’s stirring and powerfully individual writing is recorded in the intimate acoustic of Wigmore Hall.

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    28 Feb 19 Ligeti / Haydn / Beethoven
    Chichester Assembly Rooms

    ”…they captivated the audience with their ensemble rapport and virtuosity…”
    Raymond Greenlees, Chichester Observer, 7 March 2019

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    19 Nov 18 Britten/Tippett US Recital Tour
    American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia

    ”The Heath not only conveyed total mood and atmosphere on a dime, but they are also wrought of a single-minded sound.”
    Peter Dobrin, The Inquirer, 19 November 2018

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    23 Jun 18 Debut New Zealand Tour
    Auckland Town Hall

    ”It was a fortunate audience that experienced the Heath Quartet giving a soul-affirming demonstration of what chamber music is all about.”
    William Dart, New Zealand Herald, 25 June 2018

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    15 May 18 Calixto Bieito's 'The String Quartet's Guide to Sex & Anxiety'
    Birmingham Repertory Theatre

    ”Calixto Bieito’s intense theatrical collage brings together four first-rate actors and the miraculous Heath Quartet”
    ★  ★  ★  ★  Michael Billington, The Guardian, 16 May 2018

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    19 Jun 17 Bartók Complete String Quartets
    Recording, Harmonia Mundi [PIAS]

    ”Their cool, limpid sound and crystalline clarity elucidates Bartók’s contrapuntal argument while their modern vibrato-lite style, impeccable intonation and precise chord voicing makes sense of his unconventional harmonic language. Rhythms are taut as a drum but not overdriven, they seem to find the ideal tempi; always well propelled, though time is allowed for bold gestures to register.

    This is a set to treasure for years to come. For newcomers, it’s an ideal way in to a set of works that are admittedly hard to get your head around; for the converted, a refreshing alternative that will have you marvelling anew at the bold, uncompromising invention of a haunted genius.”
    ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Warwick Arnold, Limelight Magazine, 15 September 2017

    “…To fit all six quartets on to two CDs, the odd-numbered works occupy one disc, and the even-numbered the other. There are things to admire in all six of the Heath performances, but hearing them in that order emphasises their strengths and occasional weaknesses. The careful balancing of textures and clarity of the part writing are regularly impressive. The unfolding of the counterpoint in the first two quartets, and whirlwind delicacy and transparency of the final section of the Third, are spellbinding. And their treatment of the deeply tragic finale of the Sixth, which never becomes lachrymose, could hardly be bettered….”
    ★ ★ ★ ★ Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 7 June 2017

    “Most quartets with aspirations would consider a Bartok cycle as important a statement as a Beethoven one. Rightly so, for these six works, formally ingenious, technically challenging and texturally resourceful, still stand as one of the great pillars of 20th-century art music. The Heath Quartet play each with an electrifying intensity, maintaining an irresistible impetus and negotiating abrupt character changes with aplomb.
    Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times, 4 June 2017

    “…The true joy of this survey by the Heath Quartet, taken from live recordings at the Wigmore Hall, is the pungency of performances that capture the essence of Bartók, from the desperation of youthful, unrequited love in the First Quartet, to the anguish of the last, written as war loomed. There is a freshness and immediacy running through every performance which informs the bold modernism of the Third Quartet, notably the feverish, folkish urgency of its final movement, and the surreal language of the Fifth. This is a substantial achievement by the Heath Quartet, which offers new insights into one composer’s fascinating body of work.”
    Ken Walton, The Scotsman, 12 June 2017

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    23 Nov 16 Tchaikovsky String Quartets Nos 1 & 3
    Recording, Harmonia Mundi [PIAS]


    “[…] it’s good to hear these outstanding young British musicians in still relatively neglected works […] The soulful, impassioned Third Quartet is a masterpiece, apparently a response to the premature death of Ferdinand Laub, the violinist who had premiered the first and second quartets. In the hymn­like introduction, andante sostenuto, and especially the andante funebre e doloroso, the Heath players pour out Tchaikovsky’s grief for his friend with a depth of tone and virtuosity – in the allegros – that matches the finest Russians on disc. A notable debut.”

    Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 20 November 2016 

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    19 Jul 16 Beethoven Ryedale Festival
    Castle Howard Young Gallery, York

    ”The Heath Quartet are a superb ensemble of talented musicians […] the brief gem of the Presto was full of energy and played to perfection. The Cavatina was simply gorgeous and the Andante heartbreakingly sublime.”
    Steve Crowther, The Press, 21 July 2016 

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    16 May 16 Bartók Bartók Quartets - Complete Cycle
    Wigmore Hall
    “Sooner or later, the Wigmore Hall’s season-long exploration of the music of Béla Bartók had to confront the Hungarian composer’s six string quartets, a mighty challenge both spiritually and technically. Here in the second of their pair of concerts this week, the fast-rising Heath Quartet climbed the even-numbered peaks with a brilliance that showed exactly why Bartók’s testimony stands second only to Beethoven’s and qualifies (despite the major contributions of Martinů and Shostakovich) as the greatest 20th-century string quartet cycle.
    This is music both daunting and profoundly satisfying for listeners and players alike, yet the Heaths took all the difficulties in their stride, performing with fierce intelligence and feeling, passion and virtuosity. […] Constantly seeking out new quartet sonorities, Bartók certainly found them in the Sixth Quartet of 1939, a time not only of war but of his mother’s death and his own impending exile. It is little wonder that each movement is headed “Mesto”, but this “Sad” introduction to each of the first three movements is progressively extended until it takes over the finale completely. The Heaths captured all its haunting desolation….”

    John Allison, The Telegraph, 14 May 2016 

    “…the lament which closes that quartet [No 2], with the players forming two answering duos, was exquisitely rendered, as was the elegiac final quartet with its irredeemably bleak conclusion…”
    Michael Church, Independent, 17 May 2016 

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    26 Feb 16 Tippett Wigmore LIVE Recording
    Wigmore Hall

    “This double album comprises Tippett’s quartet oeuvre of five works, as given at Wigmore Hall in four recitals during the 2013/14 season. The works, dating from 1935-91, form an arc of questing development across his career […] No 2 remains, I think, the best: quietly authoritative from the outset, transfigured in its slow-movement fugue, Beethovenian in its finale. The Heath players manage the perennially tricky idiom with flair.”
    Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, 17 January  2016 

    “Listen to the first three string quartets on this two-disc set blind, and you’ll be convinced that you’re in the presence of genius. These are superbly wrought, highly individual pieces, their energy and rhythmic zest uniquely affirmative – a description which sums up much of Sir Michael Tippett [5]’s early output […] superbly played here by the Heath Quartet, the close recording balance highlighting just how difficult these pieces are to bring off […] This is a terrific set. Some composers are justly neglected. Tippett isn’t one of them – all hail the Heath Quartet for making this absorbing music available in such exciting performances.”

    Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk, 30 January 2016 

    “…The admirable Heath Quartet, formed at the Royal Northern College in 2002, played the cycle in four concerts at Wigmore Hall, from which these incisive, vibrant performances are taken. Each quartet has a distinctive character, No 1 close to the sound world of Tippett’s Concerto for Orchestra, Nos 2 and 3 nodding towards his opera The Midsummer Marriage, No 4 in one movement of four unbroken sections, and No 5, one of his last compositions, at once lyrical and sorrowful. Well worth exploring.”
    Fiona Maddock, The Guardian, 17 January 2016 

    “…Whether from historically informed awareness or simply the experience of living and working in the here and almost-now, London 2013-14, they bring more rhetorical breath than their colleagues to the spacious introduction of the Third Quartet and the halting, flowering lyricism of the First Quartet’s slow movement. Authentically Tippettian life-force surges through the Second here, still the best-known of the cycle. The Heaths positively skip through the first movement’s playful heterophony, much harder than it sounds, before alighting on a finely judged, downbeat conclusion in another modern interpretation of Tippett’s heritage from Beethoven […] they accumulate the confident requirement of resolution (so like Beethoven in this way, Sibelius too) that comes, in these live recordings, with a heightened sense of inevitability and satisfaction compared to studio-bound productions. The Wigmore hush – and the Heaths’ response to it – is most beneficial in the long, fragile span of the Fifth’s finale. Caution is thrown to the winds most memorably in the Fourth Quartet, the cycle’s charged flashpoint. The Heaths maintain tension throughout, withholding arrival-points from this birth-to-life narrative, whereas The Lindsays allow breathing space in the central, Bartókian nocturne. Both approaches are persuasive, but no one has dramatised the finale’s palindrome, with a spooky hall of mirrored harmonics at its centre, with the poise of the Heaths. A tremendous achievement.”

    Peter Quantrill, Gramophone, March 2016 

    “…This Wigmore Hall Live release sets a new standard; not only does it contain great music but also superb performances and ideal recorded sound; a potent combination of artistry and technology.”
    Colin Anderson, Classical Source, September 2016 

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    05 Jan 16 Mozart & Elgar Heath Quartet & James Baillieu
    Wigmore Hall
    “…playing with breathtaking unity of purpose […] all five players found the profound depth and warmth at the heart of one of Elgar’s greatest masterpieces.”

    John Allison, The Telegraph, 6 January 2016

    “[…] thickness of tone was more effectively used in the Elgar, especially the second movement, launched by Gary Pomeroy with a strong and beautiful viola melody. This is the music the composer asked to hear on his deathbed. Baillieu and the Heath players shaped its gradually building and subsiding climaxes convincingly, and twice captured the feeling of time slowing down that Elgar writes into the music…”

    Erica Jeal, The Guardian

    ” […] The complex structure of the Moderato [Elgar] with its folky interjections – here played with a sultry string tone, contrasting with the piano’s dry staccato – was shaped expertly, the elusiveness of the opening gradually acquiring more rhythmic definition and, through Oliver Heath’s poised second subject, melodic direction. The strong individual lines spoke with a unified voice, and the performers’ technical and interpretative prowess were equally impressive. Pomeroy’s exquisitely expressive viola melody opened the Adagio, accompanied by the piano’s hymn-like processional tread […] Baillieu and the Heath Quartet made a persuasive case for the Piano Quintet, conveying an innate appreciation of the ‘give and take’ which creates the characteristic restlessness of spirit so often present in the composer’s music, while still achieving a strong sense of unity…”

    Claire Seymour, Seen and Heard

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    01 Jul 15 Carolyn Sampson & the Heath Quartet
    Wigmore Hall, London

    “…imaginatively planned recital by the Heath Quartet. The Schoenberg was paired with a new work by American composer John Musto, a song cycle for soprano and string quartet that is similarly on the theme of venturing into a new and strange world […] Three chorale preludes by Bach turned into eloquent chamber music in the hands of the Heath Quartet […] The Heath Quartet passed seamlessly from the late romantic to the modern, as Schoenberg leaves tonality behind in the last movement and breathes the air of another planet…”
    Richard Fairman, The Financial Times, 2 July 2015 

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    15 Feb 15 Myths of Eastern Europe
    Perth Concert Hall

    “This Sunday, it was Baillieu and the Heath Quartet whose performance of music by Martinu, Bartok and Szymanowski made it an afternoon to remember….I’d certainly like to hear them again, and I’d crave a re-run of the following work, that is if the Heath could replicate their magnificent performance of Bartok’s first quartet. You could run out of superlatives when describing this. There was passion, a huge spectrum of colour, outstanding individual performances and a display as a whole which proved there was only one winner – those in the Concert Hall lucky enough to witness it.”
    The Courier, 18 February 2015 

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    26 Apr 14 Tippett series
    Wigmore Hall, London

    “Follow that? Only the poised and poetic Heaths could do so, showing the fluid maturity of a great quartet in stitching together the song-fragments of the Fifth Quartet’s first movement.   But it was the great finale which crowned, or haloed, the evening…. Tippett’s risky model was the “Song of Thanksgiving” at the heart of Beethoven’s Op. 132 Quartet which this same team had played so exquisitely….in ENO Fidelio.
    David Nice, The Arts Desk, 27 April 2014 

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    13 Apr 14 USA tour
    Phillips Collection, Washington DC
    “The Phillips Collection continued its sterling weekly concert series Sunday, presenting the Heath Quartet, a talented British group on its first U.S. tour. Now a dozen years old, the group plays with a winsome blend of impetuosity and discipline. In matters of basic quartet grooming, they are well-nigh impeccable….I have seldom heard such pure ensemble intonation.”

    Robert Battey, Washington Post, 14 April 2014 

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    03 Dec 13 Tippett series
    Wigmore Hall, London
    “The Heath Quartet’s brilliantly coloured and thoughtfully argued performances of Tippett’s first and third string quartets underlined the similarities and differences between the two composers…To beauty, add candour, urgency and tenderness.”

    Anna Picard, The Times, 5 December 2013

    “The Heath played the First and Third Quartets here, seizing on the lyric moments as they emerged from the passages of densely worked counterpoint, and shaping all the fugal writing with great skill. It was absorbing to hear all this music live again…”
    Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 4 December 2013  

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    25 Sep 13 Beethoven Fidelio
    English National Opera
    “After Florestan is freed, a string quartet floats down in cages from the ceiling to play some late Beethoven … the Heath Quartet plays so beautifully that one eventually gives in and enjoys the balm of the music.”

    Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 27 September 2013 

    “…. the calm sublimity of Beethoven’s Heiliger Dankgesang (beautifully played by the Heath Quartet)…”

    Barry Millington, The Evening Standard, 26 September 

    “…But then came the most startling coup of the evening, with Bieito interpolating part of the searching third movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op 132 between the last two scenes where the Leonore No 3 Overture sometimes sits. As Florestan and Leonore take the first tentative steps towards rediscovering intimacy (or not) after their traumatic separation, heavenly music sounds from above and the members of the Heath Quartet are lowered from above in cages.”

    Edward Seckerson, The Arts Desk, 27 September 2013 

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    15 Sep 13 Ettlinger and Bruchsaler Schlosskonzerte
    Schloss Bruchsal, Germany

    “…bei der vortrefflichen Aufführung…aufbrandete.
    Und genau so spielten es die fünf Musiker, bei aller Verve klanglich ausbalanciert, mit dem Rückgrat eines immer präsenten, doch niemals aufdringlichen Klaviers.
    Bergs verdichtete Diktion…fand im Heath Quartet höchst engagierte Fürsprecher.”
    Claus-Dieter Hanauer, Badische Neueste Nachrichten, 17 September 2013