The Varian Fry Quartet is named after the American journalist and freedom fighter Varian Fry, who helped many people escape from the National Socialists in France in the Second World War. The ensemble was founded in the 2012/13 season by Philipp Bohnen and Marlene Ito (violin), Martin von der Nahmer (viola) and Rachel Helleur-Simcock (cello). The cornerstone for this young ensemble, however, was laid already in the 2007/08 season: three of the four came together to play quartets while still scholars at the Karajan Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker.
With Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E flat major, op. 44 no. 3, the Varian Fry Quartet is turning to an extremely melodious work that the composer himself liked “a few hundred times better […] than the other two” works in his Opus 44. A densely written first sonata movement is followed by an airy “elfin scherzo” that flits by, a highly poetic Adagio and a “fiery” Finale, which crowns the piece with numerous allusions to the quartet’s other movements.
The programme will wrap up with Franz Schubert’s String Quintet in C major, D 956 – his last and probably most significant chamber music work. Its instrumentation with a second cello is striking: released from its bass function, the instrument comes into its own melodically – in the loveliest tenor range. The Varian Fry Quartet will be supported here by Bruno Delepelaire; he was also a scholar at the Karajan Academy before becoming 1st principal cellist of the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2013.