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First Nights Last Rites was launched in 2017 as part of our residency at the St Magnus Festival.

Commissioning brand-new music to partner late ‘great’ works from the quartet canon, FNLR explores a fresh context for long-loved masterpieces.

Our first commission was by the RAM’s head of composition, Philip Cashian, and was supported by the Britten-Pears Foundation and the St Magnus International Festival. Philip chose one of his own favourite pieces, Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, as the starting point for his Quartet No. 2, and we performed both at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall during the Festival. Much of the pleasure of rehearsing the two works together is to explore the ways that the new work has been influenced by its partner. Schubert’s last movement is a famously furious tarantella. Not to be outdone, Phil’s fourth movement, Reeling, was one of the wildest and most fiendishly difficult pieces we have ever learned! Further performances are planned for Autumn next year.

First Nights Last Rites is a flexible format that can work as a stand alone, one hour performance or be expanded to a full concert with interval. We can also present the two works together as a lecture-recital or in an ‘open rehearsal’ format.

If you would like more information, please get in touch at or via the website’s contact page.