(photo: Matthew Hunter)

Chamber Music

Through the history of music

When the 12 Violists of the Berliner Philharmoniker perform as an ensemble, lovers of the instrument’s dark sound are sure to be delighted. The tonal character of the viola – according to Hector Berlioz in his Treatise on Instrumentation – is “altogether of a profound melancholy and differs from that of other string instruments”. However, the programme of this concert, which among other things includes arrangements of sacred works by Giuseppe Verdi, tangos by Astor Piazzolla and Gioacchino Rossini’s rousing overture to The Barber of Seville plus Johann Strauß’s lively Kaiserwalzer demonstrates that the viola has more than just that one string to its bow.

12 Bratschen der Berliner Philharmoniker

Michael Praetorius

Suite of Dances (arr. for Viola Ensemble)

Benjamin James Dale

Introduction and Andante for six Violas, op. 5

York Bowen

Fantasia for four Violas in E minor op. 41 No. 1

Giuseppe Verdi

Ave Maria (Scala enigmatica) from the Quattro pezzi sacri (arr. for Viola Ensemble)

Simonide Braconi

Back to the viola for 12 Violas

Gioacchino Rossini

Overture to The Barber of Seville (arr. for eight Violas)

Giuseppe Verdi

Laudi alla vergine Maria from the Quattro pezzi sacri (arr. for Viola Ensemble)

Kenneth Harding

Rondo Capriccio for six Violas

Max von Weinzierl

Nachtstück for four Violas, op. 34

Astor Piazzolla

Primavera porteña from Las cuatro estaciones porteñas (arr. for Viola Ensemble)

Astor Piazzolla

Fuga y misterio from María de Buenos Aires (arr. for Viola Ensemble)

Johann Strauß (Sohn)

Kaiserwalzer, op. 437 (arr. for Viola Ensemble)

Dates and Tickets

Sun, 25 Feb 2018, 20:00

Chamber Music Hall | Introduction: 19:00

Serie Q


“Of all the instruments in the orchestra,” wrote Hector Berlioz in his Grand Trait d'Instrumentation et d'Orchestration Moderne, “the one whose excellent qualities have been misappreciated is the viola. It is no less agile than the violin, the sound of its strings is particularly telling, its upper notes are distinguished by their mournfully passionate accent, and its quality of tone altogether, of a profound melancholy, differs from that of other instruments played by a bow”. It is no surprise that even in Berlioz’ time, more and more demanding, original compositions and arrangements for viola(s) were written – a charming repertoire that the 12 violists of the Berliner Philharmoniker have devoted themselves to.

Their evening begins with the Ave Maria from Giuseppe Verdi’s Pezzi sacri , based on the “enigmatic scale” of Adolfo Crescentini. The Italian music professor had published the chromatic line in the Gazzetta musicale di Milano, requesting composers to harmonize it. After the Ave Maria, there follows the Fantasia Quartet by York Bowen, written for the unusual formation of four violas, and whose composer was described by no less than Camille Saint-Saëns as “the most unusual young British composer”. The arrangement for eight violas of Rossini’s Barber overture, a musical treat, is followed by other viola works, including: Kenneth Harding’s Rondo Capriccio for six violas and Benjamin James Dale’s Introduction and Andante op. 5, which Dale’s teacher, Frederick Corder, described in 1917 as having “remarkable beauty, power and originality”.

What was probably first composition for viola quartet follows, with the Nachtstück op. 34 by the adopted Viennese Max von Weinzierl from 1883. It was suggested by the president of the Salzburg Mozarteum, Wenzel Sedlitzky, who the work is also dedicated to. The evening is closes with evocative adaptations of Piazzolla tangos and a viola version of Johann Strauss’ Kaiserwalzer.

(photo: Matthew Hunter)