Just in: Borodin Quartet are excluded from UK

From Charlie Bennett, Artistic Director of the Chipping Campden International Music Festival, Gloucestershire:


borodin quartet

We are saddened to have to announce that the Borodin quartet’s festival appearance has, through no fault of ours, or theirs, had to be cancelled. The members of the Quartet are devastated about this.

The reason is entirely down to the British Embassy in Moscow.

The quartet applied in plenty of time for a new long term UK visa (Tier 5) with the Wigmore Hall acting as their sponsor, but unbelievably they were denied entry clearance. Incidentally the application cost them £2000. They then applied (still in plenty of time) for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa for the Wigmore Hall in April and Chipping Campden Music Festival in May.

Normally this visa type lasts 30 days but when they went to the British Embassy in Moscow to collect their passports the PPE visa stated  ‘Number of entries: 1’ instead of the usual ‘multiple entries’.
They have never before seen a single entry PPE visa. They were told that they would need to make another application for the UK visit in May. There was no time to do it then as they were about to leave on a tour.

They were touring most of April and didn’t get back to Moscow until May 1st (all applications have to be made in person) so the chance of getting another visa in time was nil as there is a minimum 10 day waiting time and added to this there are 3 public holidays in Russia in May.

Without wishing to be cynical, it would appear there is some policy in place to make life difficult for the Russians, which is outrageous in these sort of circumstances.

We, the quartet, and their UK agent, have tried everything we could think of to get the visas in time but we met with a ‘brick wall’.

We realise many of you will be disappointed to hear this news and we apologise sincerely for the cancellation, but hope you will understand that it was entirely beyond our control.

After a lot of searching, emailing, and various international phone calls, I have managed to secure the superb Endellion Quartet to stand in at very short notice for this date. They are one the finest quartets in the world, founded in 1979, with three of the original founding members still in it and the fourth has been with them 30 years.

They couldn’t offer the same works (an almost impossible ask at such short notice) but have offered the below, which is a lovely programme, and  keeps two of the three composers from the original Borodin programme.

Charlie’s response may be overheated, and we know of no Foreign Office policy to make life exceptionally difficult for Russian artists, but it is getting to be much more arduous and expensive for non-EU artists to appear in Britain. See also here.


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  • Excuse me, the Borodin Quartet is “devastated” because it can’t play at the Chipping Campden International Music Festival?


    • Quite. Also, having seen them some months back when they were the most unsmiling, ungracious, uninvolving quartet I have seen for a long time, I wouldn’t pay to see them ever again. Immaculate playing and intonation yes, but completely soulless. I’d much rather hear the Endellion or any one of the many brilliant young quartets that are around.

        • Sorry, but would it have hurt them to acknowledge the existence of a paying audience? I don’t expect a smile with a violin stuck under your chin…but why not afterwards? Anyway, these days they exist on their reputation. There are many better quartets around.

          PS Eddie Izzard isn’t that hot these days. Give me Milton Jones any day.

    • Your comment, Olassus, might be read in two ways: either the members of the Borodin Quartet are a cold-hearted bunch who could not care less about having to cancel; or – and this is the implication of your italics, presumably there for emphasis – the Borodin Quartet is unlikely to set much store about playing in the Chipping Camden International Music Festival.

      I cannot comment on the former possibility. As for the latter, if this is your meaning, it is uncharitable and unjustified. The Chipping Camden International Music Festival has been running for many years and secures engagements with performers of the highest international standing. It is, to much of the world no doubt, invisible. But to participating artists, and to people of the Cotswolds and surrounding areas, a much-loved and quite extraordinarily rich event.

  • Why were they denied entry clearance in the first place? There is a whiff of the political to this.

    And the charges are outrageous.

  • This visa problem has been going on for years and is the reason Sokolov no longer comes to the UK. Although he is a Russian he has a permanent Italian residency but has to go half the length of Italy in person each time he wanted to come to the UK,, He refuses to do this and that is why he doesn’t come here any more.

    • Splendid isolation indeed. A very particular and curious island to live on, let alone to make music…;-)

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