Reviews

“The excellent Elias String Quartet … That [Biss and the Elias Quartet] are frequent partners was certainly apparent during this rewarding program … The program … also included a superb rendition of Janacek’s String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters.” … [Sara Bitlloch's]  playing was remarkable throughout, her bold, rich tone and expressive nuances contributing to an intense and deeply felt interpretation of Janacek’s heartfelt love letter.”

The New York Times, April 2013

“Playing of wonderful exuberance and fire …  these superb players could almost convince you Schumann was looking out on a cloudless sky when he wrote [the piano quintet]” (Schumann and Dvorak piano quintet (ONYX))

The Guardian

“A revelation” (Schumann and Dvorak piano quintet (ONYX))

BBC 3, CD Review

***** (Schumann and Dvorak piano quintet (ONYX))

Classical Music Magazine

“This music thrives in performances of individuality and character … and that’s what Biss/Elias offer in abundance. It’s a Schumann Quintet to place among the best of the rest, and a Dvorak that I simply couldn’t stop listening to.” (Schumann and Dvorak piano quintet (ONYX))

Gramophone Magazine, Critics Choice December 2012

“Erschütternd ausdrucksstark…”

Mannheimer Morgen, April 2012

“…noch immer musizierte das Elias-Quartet mit einer abgeklärten Konzentration, dass es zum Staunen war”

Weilheimer Tagblatt, February 2012

“They make a beautiful sound, burnished yet translucent, and play with vigour and subtlety…the Schumann is a delight” (On the Haydn/Schumann Wigmore Live CD)

Sunday Times, June 2012 

“The Haydn features a dazzling presto finale brimming with theatrical gaiety and virtuoso flair, while the Schumann is explored with marvellous collective vigour and sensitivity” (On the Haydn/Schumann Wigmore Live CD)

The Independent, April 2012

“It was the willingness to push the dramatic edge of the work [Janacek], however, that transformed this performance into something extraordinary”

The Washington Post, March 2012

“Few quartets at any stage of their evolution have this much personality”

Philadelphia Inquirer, March 2012

“Extraordinarily expressive”

The Strad, December 2011

“One of the month’s few real highlights…the group showed a predilection for slow, shapely, breathable phrasing, and seemed to set the hall itself ringing”

The Strad

Britten Quartets 2,3, Divertimenti (Sonimage):

“Sophisticated phrasing, subtle colouring and impeccable tuning…”

The Independent on Sunday

“These are highly sensitive, touching performances…Nobody who buys this new disc is likely to regret it.”

Gramophone (Editor´s choice)

“Imaginative, full-blooded playing and impeccable ensemble…triumphantly dramatic.”

Classic FM Magazine (Editor´s choice)

“Having revealed themselves as superb exponents of Mendelssohn’s music, the Elias players now seem natural Brittenists, but the styles are not without their common features: clarity, economy, lyrical decisiveness, faultless technique.”

The Sunday Times

“Magic moments abound…This remarkable ensemble´s ability to live and breathe each phrase with an enraptured sensitivity proves even more revelatory in the Third Quartet…”

The Strad (The Strad Recommends)

“Performance **** ” (On the Britten CD)

BBC Music Magazine

“The Elias is the best young quartet I’ve come across in years … There were times during the Kings Place concerts when the Elias’s first violin, Sara Bitlloch, with her soaring confidence, dazzling high register, rythmic energy and, above all, beautiful portamenti (slides between notes), brought Menuhin’s playing to mind.”

Paul Driver. The Sunday TImes, 2009

“Performance: ***** ” (On The Wigmore Live CD)

BBC Music Magazine, October 2009

“Playing with complete unanimity of purpose – a kind of quartet version of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.”

Gramophone, 2009

“As a debut disc, this is scarcely credible. The performances, recorded live at Wigmore Hall, have a refinement, vigour and emotional depth suggesting that the Elias Quartet has nothing further to aspire to. One could not reasonably ask for more searching, subtle, self-possessed, sheerly beautiful accounts of Mozart’s Dissonance quartet, K465, or Mendelssohn’s E minor quartet, Op 44, No 2, not to mention Schubert’s Quartettsatz. The players are individually brilliant, but their interplay is profound, and it is no doubt significant that first violin and cello, melody and bass, are sisters (Sara and Marie Bitlloch). The recording is ideally balanced for a string quartet.”

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The Sunday Times, May 2009

“Many think this young quartet will be the next Amadeus, and these performances support such a view. Their mutual rapport is obvious and their performance of Mozart’s ‘Dissonance’ Quartet (K. 465) reveals a deep affinity with the composer.”

Sunday Telegraph

“The soaring performance of Mendelssohn’s E minor String Quartet Op 44 No 2 alone justifies the cost of this CD. The impassioned opening, crisp scherzo, song-like andante and urgent agitato finale make it among the composer’s most satisfying works, here warmly played. … the musicianship of this young quartet is irresistible. Schubert’s Quartettsatz and the andante from Mendelssohn’s Op 44 No 1 make up the rest of this rewarding live recital.”

The Observer, April 2009

“The Elias Quartet can spin a phrase with love without smothering it, as the slow movement demonstrates, and the finale is an invitation to smile. Tempos are always convincing, the music articulate and clarified but never sterile.”

Classical Source, May 2009

“This stunning young quartet has emerged, unheralded and unexpected, as a complete surprise: sterling technique delivering beautifully formed interpretations”

Carl Vine, composer

“Outstanding”

The Guardian

“The emotional chemistry here was manifestly unusual…pure magic”

The Sunday Telegraph

“The Strad magazine described one of their recent performances as ‘heaven-storming’ and that term might be used to describe their first Mendelssohn disc…one might think they were playing Beethoven, so bold and strong is their response; and so it is throughhout. They find all the Mendelssohnian charm…The Four Pieces too are very individually characterized: they have seldom sounded more different on record, and they emerge as every bit as rewarding as the two Quartets.”

The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music 2009

“the players more than deserved the standing ovation from an audience among whose numbers even the hardened professionals and most impassive critics were moved and impressed”

The Independent

“marvellous playing….poetic, charismatic, virtuosic”

The Sunday Telegraph

“A heaven-storming performance….Big things lie ahead of them”

The Strad

“ The Elias quartet have been together since they were students in Manchester in 1998, and they are now part of Ensemble 360, the group resident at the Sheffield Crucible. On the evidence of this disctheir playing has real character and intensity, and is at its most persuasive in the great A minor Quartet Op 13, an incredible achievement for the 18-year-old composer. The Elias also make a passionate case for Mendelssohn’s last completed work in the: the F minor Op 80, written in 1847 after his sister Fanny’s death and just a few months before his own.”

The Guardian, 2 February 2007

Mendelssohn String Quartets Op 13, 80 and 81 (ASV GLD4025)
“If any genre of Mendelssohn’s output dismisses the slightly cloying image of boy wonder-turned-romantic hero, it is the string quartets. And on this recording the seering intensity of the Elias’s playing lays bare their shock value.

Others may be quicker in the remarkable Sixth Quartet but the Elias clearly have four powerful personalities at work… which makes for a reading of great emotional tension.

The Elias are equally adept in bringing out the heart-stopping melodies that seem to flow so effortlessly in such movements as the gentle, consolatory theme that opens the slow movement of the sixth (the odd moment of portamento sensitively done) or the second of the Four Pieces.

The Elias are a quite exceptional quartet.”

Harriet Smith, Gramophone, May 2007

String Quartets, Op 13 and Op 80, Four Pieces, Op 81 ASV GLD4025
“Mendelssohn’s first and last quartets, the passionate A Minor and the terrifyingly bleak F Minor, are his masterpieces in the genre. The A Minor, as Sara Bitlloch, leader of the Elias String Quartet, argues in her eloquent note to this outstanding disc, is an astonishingly innovative work. Written when he was 18, it is in its way as extraordinary as the famous Octet of two years earlier — an admiring response to late Beethoven, yet utterly original. It inspires these ardent musicians to a performance of matching fire and delicacy that explodes the old notion of Mendelssohn as a composer lacking in profundity. Recommended. (Four stars)”

The Sunday Times

Goehr at 75, Wigmore Hall, November 2007
“The concert ended with (Daniel) Becker joining the outstanding Elias Quartet for the Piano Quintet from 2000, one of the most impressive of Goehr’s recent works.”

Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 7 November 2007

“..glowing performances of Borodin’s Second Quartet and Janacek’s wild and marvellous First. The Elias, which boasts the charismatic Bittloch sisters, Sara and Marie, as leader and cellist, was joined by Tim Horton in a heart-easing account of Dvorak’s A major Piano Quintet.”

The Sunday Telegraph

“From Friday to Sunday, concerts ran from 9.30am to 9.45pm, and one could scarcely fail to find stimulus. I found it notably in the Thursday-night recital, in which the Elias String Quartet followed Borodin’s Second Quartet with Janacek’s First. The Borodin quartet is one of the most heartwarmingly lyrical in the repertoire, a masterly unfolding of deathless tunes, and the RNCM-trained group played it with luscious sensitivity.

Their Janacek immediately won me over for the way they handled the spiky solo flourishes in the first few bars. Too often, these are scrambled, and one listens to the rest of the piece in the light of such a nervous agitation, but the Elias players gave them proper space.”

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, 21 January 2007

“…the marvelous playing of No.3 in A by the Johnston Quartet. Now led by the charismatic and virtuosic Sara Bitlloch, with her sister Marie as the superb cellist, this ensemble set a standard in the Schumann and in a poetic interpretation of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet, with Andrew Marriner, which even the more experienced Endellion were hard pressed to surpass two nights later.”

Michael Kennedy, The Sunday Telegraph, 16 January 2005

“The Johnston String Quartet, formed in 1998 by RNCM undergraduates and possessed of a charismatic cellist in Marie Bitlloch, gave an impassioned yet serenely assured account of the third of Schumann’s three string quartets (a single opus, all written in five weeks in the year after his marriage) and with Andrew Marriner, a profound one of Brahms’s late, lyrically fused yet mysteriously big-boned Clarinet Quintet.”

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, January 2005