Quartet: The supreme discipline of chamber music

The ensembles of the concert series

JACK Quartet
(Photo: Shervin Lainez)

A string quartet evening is always something special and has its own particular appeal: four string instruments – two violins, viola and cello – are enough to create a unique, sonorous cosmos for the listener. This season, our Quartet concert series starts with a promising newcomer: the Quatuor Arod. In 2013, four students of the Conservatoire de Paris came together to form this ensemble and immediately won numerous prizes at competitions, the most prestigious being 1st prize at the ARD International Music Competition in 2016. Their secret recipe: to merge the sound so that the impression is created that only one person is playing. For its debut in the Philharmoniker’s concert series, the French ensemble will perform works by Joseph Haydn and Anton Webern plus Alexander Zemlinsky’s Second String Quartet, one of the most challenging compositions of the genre.

Classical, Romantic, Contemporary

The JACK Quartet is also appearing for the first time in concerts of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. The formation owes its origins to a “service concept”: in 2005, four young students from the Eastman School of Music wanted to make a quartet available to contemporary composers to make it easier for them to have their new works performed. A highly successful concept – because today, the JACK Quartet is regarded as one of the most important contemporary music ensembles. Its concert in the chamber music hall features pieces by Zosha Di Castri, Morton Feldman, Elliott Carter, Liza Lim and Iannis Xenakis.

In contrast, the Hagen Quartet, consisting of three siblings and the second violinist Rainer Schmidt, which has been performing regularly in this concert series since 2007, turns to the Classical-Romantic core repertoire on this occasion: in its programme, it presents the Third String Quartet from Schumann’s Opus 41 and the String Quartet no 8 by the 17-year-old Franz Schubert which are juxtaposed by a work by Joseph Haydn, showing clearly how strongly the First Viennese School influenced the two younger composers.

Philharmoniker home fixture

The last two chamber music formations of this series give a kind of “home fixture”, so to speak: the musicians of the Philharmonia Quartet and the Varian Fry Quartet are all members of the Philharmoniker and as such are well used to performing with each other. A homogeneous and simultaneously transparent sound is regarded by these string players as their ideal. In the past, the Philharmonia Quartet has often caused a sensation with its Beethoven interpretations. Now with Op. 18 No. 6, it has programmed one of the composer’s early works for his concert, alongside Karol Szymanowski’s Second String Quartet and Leoš Janáček’s Intimate Letters, a musical declaration of love to the 38 years younger Kamilla Stösslova.

While the Philharmonia Quartet can look back on more than 35 years of performing together, the Varian Fry Quartet, which was founded in the 2012/2013 season, is still relatively new. The four musicians discovered their mutual love for string quartet playing during their time as students of the Karajan Academy. At that time, their musical mentor was Jan Diesselhorst, cellist of the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Philharmonia Quartet, whose premature 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 cello, Bruno Delepelaire, with whom it performs Franz Schubert’s famous String Quintet C major D 965.

Quatuor Arod
(Photo: Marco Borggreve)
Hagen Quartett
(Photo: Harald Hoffmann)
Philharmonia Quartett
(Photo: Stefan Röhl)
Varian Fry Quartett
(Photo: Privat)

Guest artist

1st Principal Cello Bruno Delepelaire
(Photo: Sebastian Hänel)