A musical collaboration with a difference: Two fledgling, acclaimed ensembles of up-and-coming musicians, the Armida Quartet and the Quatuor Modigliani, jointly present an evening of chamber music. In terms of their biographical career, there are some parallels between the German and French string quartets. In both cases, the musicians found each other while they were studying, the Armida in Berlin, the Modigliani in Paris. They were both apprenticed to the Artemis Quartet and attracted attention with spectacular success in competitions. In quick succession, the Quatuor Modigliani won first prizes at the Frits Philips String Quartet competition in Eindhoven, the Vittorio Rimbotti competition in Florence and the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York, while the Armida Quartet won the ARD International Music Competition in 2012.
This evening, as a “double act”, they play the Octet in E flat major, op. 20, composed by the 16-year-old Felix Mendelssohn and dedicated to his friend and violin teacher Eduard Rietz. Mendelssohn was aware that with this piece, which impresses with its lively, cheerful character, he had created something new, something that went beyond a standard chamber work: “This octet must be played by all instruments in the style of a symphonic orchestra. Pianos and fortes must be strictly observed and more strongly emphasised than is usual in works of this character.”
The Quatuor Modigliani opens the concert with the String Quintet K. 516 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The part of the additional viola is taken by Teresa Schwamm from the Armida Quartet. The work was written in 1787, almost simultaneously with Don Giovanni, and has a darker, melancholy, thoughtful character as a result of its key of G minor. During the subsequent String Sextet No. 1 by Johannes Brahms, the Armida Quartet enlist the support of two Modiglianis, violist Laurent Marfaing and cellist François Kieffer. Although the composer described it as a “long and sentimental piece”, he was satisfied enough to publish it as the first of his works.