The Maggini Quartet has generally been ranked among the leading string quartets from the United Kingdom since its founding. While the group has performed and recorded standard-repertory works by Haydn, Schubert, and others, its chief focus has been early 20th century British music. Its concerts and recordings have thus focused on quartets by Vaughan Williams, Britten, Bliss, Bax, Moeran, Elgar, Walton, and of newer works, such as the Naxos quartets of Peter Maxwell Davies.
The Maggini Quartet was formed in 1988 and is based in London. The name of the group was taken from sixteenth century violin maker Giovanni Paolo Maggini, one of whose violins is owned and played by the group's second violinist David Angel. The other members of the ensemble are first violinist Susanne Stanzeleit, violist Martin Outram, and cellist Michal Kasnowski. The members have also performed as soloists and have held professorships at various music schools in the U.K. (Laurence Jackson was the founding first violinist, but left the ensemble just before the Naxos cycle was completed.)
By the early '90s the ensemble had attracted wide audiences and much critical acclaim on concert tours at home, across Europe, and in the United States. Among its first recordings were a CD of Schubert works that included the famous String Quartet No. 14 "Death and the Maiden" (derived from a thrilling live performance from London's Wigmore Hall) and another featuring works by Szymanowski and Bacewicz, both issued in 1994 on the British label ASV.
From 1994-1996 the Maggini players were named Ensemble in Residence by the Arts Council England, South East Region. By this time the group began recording for the Naxos label. Its first efforts included a 1996 CD devoted to works by lesser-known British composer Frank Bridge and one by the far better-known Edward Elgar. The latter recording (1997), which featured the E minor quartet and piano quintet, with pianist Peter Donohoe, received several awards, including the most prestigious classical award from France, the Diapason d'Or.
The ensemble has won numerous other awards, including the Gramophone Chamber Music Award in 2001 for a CD of Vaughan Williams' string quartets and Phantasy Quintet. In 2002 the Maggini Quartet began premiering and recording the 10 Naxos quartets by Maxwell Davies, who was commissioned by the label to produce the set of works, completed in 2007. The ensemble has been the resident quartet at Canterbury Christ Church University, and founded a new festival in Swaffham, Norfolk, beginning in 2012.