Spencer Dyke String Quartet

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This page presents a brief account of the Spencer Dyke String Quartet, a respected British ensemble of the first half of the twentieth century.

It is part of the site Classical 'Society' Records by Nick Morgan.

The Quartet was the most prolific of the ensembles which recorded for the National Gramophonic Society, and also recorded for Vocalion.

For dates of creation and latest update, please see 'Page information' in left sidebar.


The Spencer Dyke String Quartet was founded in 1918 by Edwin Spencer Dyke (1880-1946), its first and only leader. It was effectively reformed from the quartet of his teacher, Hans Wessely (1862-1926), after Wessely's retirement, with Spencer Dyke moving from violin II to violin I, Ernest Tomlinson (1877-1957)[1] and Bertie Patterson Parker (1871-1930) remaining as, respectively, viola and cello, and only Edwin Quaife (1880-1940) being newly recruited, as violin II.

The Spencer Dyke Quartet enjoyed immediate success, perhaps partly capitalizing on the esteem which Wessely's formation had enjoyed, and played throughout Britain (unlike the Wessely Quartet, it does not seem to have performed outside Britain). The Quartet collaborated in concert and on record with well-known soloists, and showed a notable commitment to modern music and to British composers.

The Quartet recorded extensively from 1924, first for Vocalion and then for the National Gramophonic Society, for which it went on to make most of its recordings until 1927. No recordings by the Quartet are known after that year. It also broadcast for the B.B.C., from early 1924.[2]

In 1927, two founding members left. Quaife resigned through pressure of work, and was replaced by Spencer Dyke's pupil Harold Tate Gilder (1899-1963). Tomlinson resigned through ill health, and was replaced by Bernard Shore (1896-1985). In the late 1930s, Shore was occasionally substituted by Frederick Riddle (1912-1995) and, on one occasion, by Pierre Tas (1902-1971).

In 1930, Patterson Parker, the founding cellist, died. He was replaced by Cedric Sharpe (1891-1978), who remained in the Quartet until it was disbanded.

Throughout the existence of the Quartet, Spencer Dyke owned a Stradivarius violin dated 1736; it is not known if he played this instrument in his recordings with the Quartet. In 1940, the Musical Times reported that the Quartet had used a set of instruments made by Mr. Alfred Dixon of Folkestone; again, it is not known how often this happened or in which circumstances.

It is not known exactly when the Spencer Dyke Quartet gave its last concert in public; no reviews have been located later than the mid-1930s. The Quartet continued to broadcast occasionally, as late as January 1944.[3] Tate Gilder and Shore were no longer billed as members for these late broadcasts. The following artists played in their places:

  • Edwin Virgo (c.1880-1949) (violin II)
  • James [A.?] Cooper (violin II)
  • Winifred Copperwheat (1905-1976) (viola)]

The Spencer Dyke Quartet appears to have played again after the War, whether in public or perhaps at the Royal Academy of Music is uncertain. It certainly did not survive the death of its leader in 1946.


The above page draws on:

  • concert and broadcast listings, previews and reviews in The Gramophone, The Manchester Guardian, Musical Opinion and Music Trade Review, The Musical Times, The Observer and The Strad
  • advertisements, notices and record reviews in The Gramophone and The Musical Times
  • Meadmore, W.S. 'More Gramophone Personalities', The Gramophone, Vol.VI No.67, December 1928, pp.336-40
  • 'Obituary', The Musical Times, Vol.88 No.1247, January 1947, pp.35-36
  • Genealogical sources consulted via ancestry.co.uk

There is a Wikipedia page about the Spencer Dyke Quartet. It is not complete or entirely accurate.

  1. Tomlinson, well-known teacher and viola player in several distinguished quartets including the Spencer Dyke String Quartet, is not to be confused with the composer and conductor Ernest Tomlinson (1924-2015)
  2. Earliest broadcast identified: Hours with Living British Composers John H. McEwen, 2LO London, Thursday 28 February 1924
  3. Latest broadcast identified: Frank Bridge, Home Service, Monday 17 January 1944