When our Flinders Quartet violinist Wilma Smith was gifted a box set of CDs containing the 13 string quartets of Elizabeth Maconchy, we weren’t expecting the ripple effects to be so far reaching.

In hindsight, we needn’t have been so surprised. Wilma was a step ahead of us. She performed Maconchy’s 13th quartet in the 1985 Portsmouth International String Quartet Competition (now the Wigmore Hall String Quartet Competition) as the commissioned set piece. She had long been swayed into the Maconchy fan club.

Elizabeth Maconchy

Always ready and eager to discover unknown compositional voices, we listened to the discs in what is the sole commercially available recording of Maconchy’s quartets. Recorded in the 1980s by quartets including the Mistry Quartet (featuring Australia’s very own Caroline Henbest), each is a gem.

In a world of multiple Beethoven, Shostakovich and Bartók cycles, how have we missed Maconchy?

We all know that it’s not such a mystery. Every composition needs to be rehearsed, played, recorded, dissected and cherished by numerous groups in order to have a healthy and ongoing life.

With only...