Domus Ensemble

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Domus was among the finest British piano quartets from the latter 20th century and best known for performances and recordings of the Brahms, Dvorák, and Fauré quartets for piano and strings. The group…
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Domus was among the finest British piano quartets from the latter 20th century and best known for performances and recordings of the Brahms, Dvorák, and Fauré quartets for piano and strings. The group was also known for its performance venue, a portable geodesic dome that could seat 200! That curious structure also provided the ensemble with its name. In the open air, Domus often performed in parks, on hilltops, and even within the busier areas of cities. It regularly concertized throughout the U.K., Europe, Australia, and elsewhere across the globe. Because of the size of the portable dome, Domus' concerts had relatively small audiences, and so the group often drew more attention for its recordings. That said, they became well known for their close relationship with audiences, not least because of their open rehearsals. Besides music by the three composers mentioned above, Domus' repertory encompassed works by Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Mahler, Ernö von Dohnanyi, Suk, Martinu, Kodály, and such contemporary composers as Judith Weir. Domus made more than a dozen recordings during its 15-year existence, most available from the Virgin Classics and Hyperion labels.

Domus was formed in 1979 at the Prussia Cove, U.K.-based International Musician's Seminar. The original membership was pianist Susan Tomes, violinist Krysia Osostowicz, violist Robin Ireland, and cellist Timothy Hugh.

Over the next several years Domus drew notice particularly throughout the U.K. and in 1985 made its first recording for Hyperion, a disc of the two Fauré piano quartets, which was given the award as the best chamber music recording of the year by Gramophone Magazine. The mid-'80s brought changes to the ensemble's personnel: cellist Richard Lester replaced Hugh and violist Timothy Boulton succeeded Ireland. While the ensemble went on to make further, mostly highly praised recordings for Hyperion, it began recording for Virgin Classics from 1987, its first effort being an acclaimed disc of the First and Third piano quartets of Brahms.

Domus continued to regularly tour the U.K., Europe, and elsewhere, and by the early '90s, each member had a thriving solo career. In 1994 the players decided to disband. Executives at Hyperion persuaded them to make one final recording, the piano quintets of Fauré. Richard Marwood served as second violin, and the recording was released in 1995 to rave reviews, the effort drawing another Gramophone award for best chamber music recording of the year.