As a passionate chamber musician, the violinist Christian Tetzlaff fulfilled a personal dream when he founded a string quartet of his own in 1994. His musical allies in this endeavour were and are his sister Tanja (cello), Hanna Weinmeister (viola), who is concertmaster of the Philharmonia Zürich (formerly the Zurich Opera Orchestra), and Elisabeth Kufferath (second violin). Praised by the press for “highly exciting, technically virtually perfect” interpretations and acclaimed as one of the “world’s most fascinating chamber ensembles” in our time, shortly after its 25-year anniversary the Tetzlaff Quartet will present a musical programme that is both demanding and exciting in the Chamber Music Hall of the Philharmonie.
Arnold Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 1, which occupied the composer in the years 1904 and 1905, turned out to be an unparalleled scandal at its premiere on 5 February 1907: “Many people found the work impossible, and they left the hall during the performance; one particularly witty gentleman by the emergency exit”, an eyewitness reported. “When loud hissing continued at the end, Gustav Mahler, who was in the audience, attacked one malcontent and said, with his singularly active emotion, as if it were flaring up in defence of a disenfranchised art: ‘I’d just like to get a good look at a fellow who hisses!’ – The unknown heckler [replied]: ‘I hiss at your symphonies too!’” The large-scale work, which lasts almost 45 minutes, is still harmonically based on the traditional major / minor tonality, but pushes it to its limits.
In his own words, Schoenberg was inspired by music by Ludwig van Beethoven when working on this composition, as from him one learns “how to avoid monotony and emptiness; how to create variety out of unity; how to create new forms out of basic material”. Thus, it’s no wonder that the Tetzlaff Quartet has also placed a trailblazing late string quartet by Beethoven on the programme. Contemporaries attested in 1826 that the final movement of this work was “murky and convoluted”. Beethoven then composed a Finale that was easier to understand, but insisted the original movement be printed under the title “Große Fuge” [Great Fugue]. No one recognised in later years more clearly than Arnold Schoenberg how pioneering particularly the kind of grappling with strict compositional techniques of the past that can be observed in this composition can be.