String Quartet in G minor
Choralquartett (String Quartet No. 2)
String Quintet No. 2 in B flat major
An “exception that deserves our particular attention” is what Jörg Widmann calls the Signum Quartett, founded in 1994. Of course the group, which has been making music with its current members for five years, has included a work by the composer on their concert programme in the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonie: Widmann’s Choral Quartet from 2003, which the composer himself characterises as “almost autistic, enigmatic music which only sketches questions on the wall. It consists of one sole slow movement. The piece does not refer directly to Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words, but would be inconceivable without knowledge of that work.”
The Paris premiere in 1893 of Claude Debussy’s only string quartet had just as enigmatic an effect. With forms that unfold spontaneously, apparently aimlessly, novel melodic structures and harmonies, as well as previously unheard tonal nuances, Debussy embarked upon a path not yet travelled in the tradition-steeped genre of the string quartet. This composition no longer raises questions for modern listeners, but its impressionistic magic has not dissipated in a single bar in the meantime.
Felix Mendelssohn’s irresistible Second String Quintet op. 87 from 1845, for which the Signum Quartett will be supported by Philharmonic violinist Krzysztof Polonek, constitutes an antithesis to these two works of the present and past avant-garde.