Quartet: The fine art of musical dialogue

The ensembles of the concert series

Emerson String Quartet
(Photo: Lisa Mazzucco)

The quartet concert series begins this season with the “Emersons”, one of the most famous and most unusual string quartets of our time. They differ from similar ensembles even in their physical appearance on the concert platform: with the exception of the cellist, the musicians play standing, plus the two violinists alternate in the first chair position. Founded in New York in 1976, the quartet is celebrating his 40th birthday this year, and only once has there been a change of line-up: the cellist David Finckel left the ensemble in 2013, and in his stead came Paul Watkins from Britain. This changeover took place with apparent ease, without any sacrifice in artistic quality. “Paul has a fresh perspective on things. And that means that we gain a new perspective on things too,” said the musicians in an interview. For its appearance in the Chamber Music Hall, the Emerson String Quartet will play the composition Shroud, written by the British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage and commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation and the Wigmore Hall, alongside works by Tchaikovsky and Barber.

Philharmoniker ensembles

To celebrate its 30th birthday in 2015, the Philharmonia Quartet – which consists of four of the Philharmoniker's string players – began an anniversary cycle over two seasons of the late string quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven and Shostakovich, two composers who set new standards not only in quartets, but also in the symphonic genre which the four members are very familiar with from their orchestral work. “Both composers are brothers in spirit, in terms of the existential seriousness of their music,” is the unanimous opinion of the players. With the programme of its chamber music evening, the ensemble completes this cycle with Beethoven’s Opus 132 and Shostakovitch’s Quartet No. 15. The musicians of the next quartet also come from the ranks of the Berliner Philharmoniker: The Varian Fry quartet, founded in the 2012/2013 season. The four musicians discovered their common love of playing string quartets while they were students at the Orchestra Academy. At that time, their musical mentor was Jan Diesselhorst, cellist of the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Philharmonia Quartet whose early death was a great loss to all. For its appearance in the Chamber Music Hall, the Varian Fry Quartet has invited a guest: the Philharmoniker’s principal clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer. Alongside other works, he will join the quartet for a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s famous Clarinet Quintet.

International guests

The violinist Christian Tetzlaff is a popular guest as a soloist in Berliner Philharmoniker orchestral concerts, and he was also Artist-in-Residence in the 2014/2015 season. He now appears for this first time with his quartet which, in addition to his sister Tanja, principal cellist of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, includes the violinist Elisabeth Kufferath and violist Hanna Weinmeister. As all four of them enjoy highly successful careers as soloists, orchestral musicians and one even as a professor, performances by the quartet are a rare event. However, all four have been dedicated members of the ensemble for more than 20 years. “Working together gets easier and easier,” they revealed in a recent interview. In addition to Mozart’s E-flat major String Quartet and Berg’s Opus 3, they will also perform Schubert’s String Quartet in G major, which – according to Christian Tetzlaff – is the “most fantastic piece” and the “greatest challenge there is”. The finale of the concert series is given by the Jerusalem Quartet, whose members came together as 16-year-old teenagers as part of a youth development programme by the Jerusalem Music Centre and the America-Israel Cultural Foundation in the mid-1990s. “We did not think a lot about the future. We were only concentrating on building a repertoire and enjoying every moment of being part of such an amazing ensemble,” recalls violinist Alexander Pavlovsky. Today, the multi-award winning ensemble is one of the world's leading string quartets. In 2011, there was a change of viola player: Ori Kam took the place of Amihai Grosz, who became first principal violist with the Berliner Philharmoniker. This season, the Jerusalem Quartet is to appear in the Chamber Music Hall with Sir András Schiff. After the Quartet Movement in C minor D 703 by Franz Schubert, the Hungarian pianist will join them for piano quintets by Johannes Brahms and Mieczysław Weinberg, a Jewish composer and friend of Dmitri Shostakovich. As different as the two works are, one thing unites them: the symphonic air that comes from the interplay of piano and strings.

Philharmonia Quartett
(Photo: Stephan Röhl)
Varian Fry Quartett
(Photo: Stephan Röhl)
Tetzlaff Quartett
(Photo: Georgia Bertazzi)
Jerusalem Quartett
(Photo: Felix Broede)

Musical Guests

Clarinetist Andreas Ottensamer
(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)
Pianist András Schiff
(Photo: Priska Ketterer)