The string quartet is the supreme discipline of chamber music. No composer of distinction could or can escape the fascination of this genre, in which four stringed instruments - two violins, viola and cello - create an aural cosmos where all instruments play an equal role in a musical dialogue. The repertoire of the genre is correspondingly large and varied. and this is also reflected in the Philharmonic concert series Quartet, which showcases four leading ensembles.

Success with New Music

The series starts off with the Arditti Quartet, founded 40 years ago by the British violinist Irvine Arditti, and which has already appeared in this Philharmoniker concert series on several occasions. The hallmark of the ensemble is its focus on the music of the 20th and 21st centuries. According to the quartet’s musicians, the mainspring of their music-making is the happy experience of working together on the great composers of our time. Almost all contemporary composers have written works for the Arditti Quartet which has won numerous awards, including the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize. For its Berlin concert, the ensemble presents a previously unheard work: Julian Anderson’s Second String Quartet, which will receive its German premiere. Other works in the programme include pieces by James Clarke, Jonathan Harvey, György Kurtág and György Ligeti.

Younger generation quartet

Two string quartets will make their first appearances in concerts of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation: the Minguet Quartet and the Jerusalem Quartet, named after the city where its members spent important and formative years of study. Since its founding in 1993, the quartet, whose founding members happen to include the Philharmoniker’s principal violist Amihai Grosz, has become an ensemble that appears internationally. In January 2014, it released a CD of string quartets by Smetana and Leoš Janáček which received high praise from the press. The ensemble has – according to one reviewer – “captured the excitement of the strong rhythmic dynamics, the idiosyncratic elements and the singing qualities of the compositions in a superb manner.” For their guest appearance in the chamber music hall, the Jerusalem Quartet will perform Smetana’s Quartet From My Life, Janáček’s Intimate Letters and Joseph Haydn’s Rider quartet. Founded in 1988, the Minguet Quartet, which takes its name from the Spanish writer and philosopher Pablo Minguet e Yrol, stands out not only because of its intimate, expressive playing, but also due to its equally varied and unusual programme: In addition to “classics” of the string quartet repertoire, it also includes works by unknown masters and contemporary composers. For its Berlin concert, there is a mixture of pieces by Haydn, Brahms, Mahler, Suk and Ruzicka.

Home team

The final chamber music ensemble in this series is sort of a “home team”: The musicians of the Philharmonia Quartett Berlin are all members of the Philharmoniker and so are well used to playing together. A homogeneous and simultaneously transparent sound is regarded by these string players as their ideal. In the past, the Philharmonia Quartett caused a sensation with its Beethoven and Shostakovich cycle, so it is no surprise that the ensemble, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this season, has included both composers in its jubilee concert programme: From the Russian composer, the Philharmonia Quartet will perform the string quartets nos. 11 and 12. In the latter of these, Shostakovich uses Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique for the first time, while the former is an intimate elegy to the late violinist Vasili Schirinski, a friend of the composer. From Beethoven, there is his op. 127 which starts his series of great, late quartets. They are considered highlights of Beethoven’s quartet art, in which the composer ventures into new musical dimensions.