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Alan George

College positions:
Fellow Commoner, Quartet-in-Residence member
Fitzwilliam String Quartet

Dr Alan George

Alan George plays viola in our Quartet-in-Residence, the Fitzwilliam String Quartet.

He comes from Cornwall and studied violin with Colin Sauer at Dartington Hall, viola with Herbert Downes in London, and chamber music with Sidney Griller at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1968 he won an open scholarship to King’s College Cambridge, where he became one of the founder members of the Fitzwilliam, remaining as its only viola player for all 53 years of its existence (so far…). Indeed, he is now the longest-serving quartet player in Britain!

Since 1976 he has been actively involved with the period instrument movement, including eleven years as principal viola with John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Until 1988 he was lecturer in music and director of the chamber orchestra at the University of York, and is the author of four studies of Shostakovich’s chamber music, as well as numerous articles and programme notes; he has also presented talks on BBC radio and at various festivals and concert venues throughout Britain and America. He has been tutor in viola at the Royal Northern College of Music, and a visiting lecturer/examiner at many colleges and universities both here and abroad. He is now conductor of the Academy of St. Olave’s Chamber Orchestra (in York) and has been principal viola in Southern Sinfonia, as well as a lecturer with Martin Randall Travel. In 1981 he was made an Honorary Doctor of Music at Bucknell University, USA, and similarly honoured by the University of York in 2006.

He is a trustee of the registered charity Jessie’s Fund – a memorial to his daughter Jessica, who died of a brain tumour in 1994 – which helps sick children through the therapeutic power of music, and which the Fitzwilliam has supported in its concerts and recordings. His viola was made in Cremona (Italy) c1740/41, possibly by one of the Guarneri family, and his other instruments include one made for him in 1995 by Roger Hansell.

Select publications

  • Interpreting the String Quartets, in Shostakovich, the Man and his Music (Lawrence & Wishart, 1982)
  • Performing Haydn’s Quartets, in Haydn the Innovator, ed. David Young (Arc Publications, 2000)
  • The Soviet and Russian Quartet, in The Twentieth-Century String Quartet, ed. Douglas Jarman (Arc Publications, 2002)
  • Anton Bruckner Meets Franz Schubert, in The Bruckner Journal, 26, 2 (2022), ed. Michael Cucka

Select awards

  • D.Mus. (Bucknell, USA), 1981
  • D.Univ. (York), 2006

Further links