String Quartet No. 2 in A minor
String Quartet in E flat major »Harp«
Witold Lutosławski’s string quartet, which originated as a commission from Swedish Radio, has been regarded since its triumphal premiere on 12 March 1965 as one of the most significant works in the genre. At the same time, the piece – which is mentioned by critics in one breath with the works of Bartók and late Beethoven, is as far from the traditional string quartet sound as one can imagine: in a well-planned arrangement the four instruments melt into freely pulsating fields of sound, and with the help of restricted random procedures – Lutosławski did not use quartertones as intensively in any other work – the development of the piece as a whole provides countless highly expressive details. Since the bar lines, which have been added occasionally, only serve as orientation and not metric synchronisation, there arises a fascinating interplay in the interpreters’ “conversation” between fixed and yet random interferences in a minimum space.
With Beethoven’s Harp Quartet in E flat major op. 74, the Philharmonia Quartett will be presenting another exposed work of the string quartet genre. The piece, which is characterised by lyrical emphasis, owes its name to the effective pizzicato passages in the first movement, taking on an inflection seemingly almost romantic. After the animated Adagio and a spookily scurrying Scherzo with the tremendously rapid tempo marking Piu presto quasi prestissimo, the work concludes with a set of variations, whose exhilarating impact is intensified even more with the concluding Allegro-Stretta.
The Philharmonia Quartett’s concert will begin with Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s String Quartet op. 13. The 18-year old composer wrote it in 1827, the year Beethoven died. This was also the year he had become familiar with Beethoven’s late string quartets, which had appeared in print shortly beforehand and made a strong impression on him. Similar to Beethoven’s late quartets, Mendelssohn’s opus 13 left his contemporaries perplexed.