Britain's Smith Quartet is a key ensemble in the world of contemporary music, having endured several personnel changes to become one of the world's foremost chamber groups with that specialty.
The Smith Quartet was founded in 1988 by violinist Charles Mutter and Darragh Morgan, violist Nick Pendlebury, and cellist Philip Shepard; the 2010s membership consists of violinists Ian Humphries and Rick Koster, violist Nic Pendlebury, and cellist Deirdre Cooper. The quartet has commissioned more than 200 works from such top chamber composers as Jon Lord, Gabriel Prokofiev, Tunde Jegede, Donnacha Dennehy, Kevin Volans, Joe Cutler, and Michael Nyman, whose fourth and fifth string quartets they recorded for the MN Records label in 2018. The Smith Quartet has also been active in the fields of electronic and film music. They have appeared at major festivals in Britain and beyond, and in 2015, as Associate Artists at St. John's Smith Square London, they performed complete cycles of the works of Nyman and Philip Glass, along with music by Howard Skempton, Gavin Bryars, and Steve Martland. Another major contemporary event to which the Smith Quartet was central was 2016's minimalism unwrapped, where they gave the world premiere of Wayne Siegel's North Shore, collaborated with David Lang of the American ensemble Bang on a Can in a concert of minimalist music from the U.S., and reprised their Nyman cycle. In the cinematic realm, they were heard in the BBC 2005 documentary film Holocaust: A Music Memorial Concert from Auschwitz, performing Reich's Different Trains, which they also recorded for the Signum label. The Smith Quartet's many collaborative projects have included projects with Malian vocalist Rokia Traoré, jazz pianist John Taylor, dance groups Ultima Vez and Shobana Jeyasingh Dance, and the rock group Pulp. The Smith Quartet's catalog of recordings has appeared mostly on the Signum and BBC labels.