With its lively interpretations, the Aris Quartet has long since made an international name for itself, and now it opens the »Rising Stars« digital festival at the Elbphilharmonie. The four musicians already know their way around the Elbphilharmonie: in the summer of 2020 they explored every corner of the building in the course of a three-day residency. Now they are back for more, and their streamed concert shows that it is not just the familiar classical and Romantic repertoire they have a passion for, but also the string quartets of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Rising Stars Festival 2021
Hear tomorrow's stars perform today. Five concert-streams available on demand.
The Aris Quartet introduces itself
- 2009: Founded at the Frankfurt University of Music
- 2016: Second prize at the ARD International Music Competition, also audience prize, Osnabrück Music Prize, Special Prize ProQuartet and Special Prize Genuin Classics
- 2018: BBC New Generation Artists
- 2020: Release of its fourth album (Shostakovich / Schubert)
- 2020/21: »Rising Stars« of the European Concert Hall Organisation
- August 2020: Residency at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg
The Aris Quartett is unquestionably one of the young shooting stars of the concert scene.
Founded in 2009 in Frankfurt am Main, the musicians perform on the world’s great stages: the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, London’s Wigmore Hall, the Philharmonie de Paris, Konzerthaus Wien, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, BBC Proms, and San Francisco Chamber Music Society will be presenting the Aris Quartett in the upcoming seasons.
The four musicians were brought together at a young age on the initiative of chamber music professor Hubert Buchberger – what began as an experiment at the Frankfurt University of Music soon turned out to be a stroke of good fortune. The succinct name was born spontaneously: »ARIS« are the four last letters of the four musicians' first names.
After studying with Günter Pichler of the Alban Berg Quartet in Madrid, their international breakthrough came early on thanks to numerous first prizes at renowned competitions. The Aris Quartet attracted much attention after winning the highly endowed Chamber Music Prize of the Jürgen Ponto Foundation in addition to five prizes at the ARD International Music Competition in Munich. Having been named New Generation Artists by the BBC, ECHO Rising Stars by the European Concert Hall Organisation, and winning the Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award, the Aris Quartet has also received some of the most prestigious international awards for young musicians.
The quartet has released five highly acclaimed CD productions to date, the most recent in autumn 2020 in cooperation with Deutschlandfunk and BBC Radio 3 featuring works by Johannes Brahms.
The Aris Quartet is sponsored by the Anna Ruths Foundation, the Wilfried and Martha Ensinger Foundation and the Irene Steels-Wilsing Foundation.
Anna Katharina Wildermuth violin
Noémi Zipperling violin
Caspar Vinzens viola
Lukas Sieber violoncello
Nominated by Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and Konzerthaus Dortmund
György Kurtág (*1926)
String Quartet, Op. 28 »Officium breve in memoriam Andreae Szervánszky«
Dmitri Schostakowitsch (1906–1975)
String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110
Misato Mochizuki (*1969)
in-side for String Quartet / commissioned by Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Konzerthaus Dortmund and European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO)
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809–1847)
String Quartet in D Major, Op. 44/1
Listening to music with the Aris Quartett :From the series »Concert for beginners«
How can you prepare for a concert? The Aris Quartet supplies some practical tips, and reveals whether you can practise listening, and whether you should.
About the music
György Kurtág :String Quartet Op. 28 »Officium breve in memoriam Andreae Szervánszky«
György Kurtág wrote his »Officium breve« in 1988/89 as a homage to his countryman and fellow composer Endre Szervánszky, who had died in 1977. Szervánszky was the first Hungarian composer to write twelve-tone music in postwar Hungary – music, in other words, that does away with the system of major and minor, attaching instead the same value to all twelve semitones in the octave, and relating these to one another. And Szervánszky displayed courage at a political level, too: during the Nazi era he rescued Hungarian Jews from deportation, and refused to desist from making critical statements under Soviet rule after the Second World War, despite reprisals.
Kurtág composed his string quartet as a kind of instrumental mini-requiem for Szervánszky. In the extremely condensed and highly expressive style so typical of him, he processed quotations from Szervánszky himself and from Anton Webern in the ten-minute score; both composers modelled their music on Webern. Webern's Cantata No. 2 of 1943 plays a particularly prominent role here, serving as the inspiration behind several of the movements. In addition to quoting from the music of the cantata, Kurtág also makes express reference to the text rich in associations written by Hildegard Jone, which he actually wrote into the parts of his own quartet at one point.
Where does György Kurtág's String Quartet Op. 28 sound best?
During its three-day residency at the Elbphilharmonie in summer 2020, the Aris Quartett set out in search of the best acoustics for the Kurtág piece. The four musicians tried out all manner of locations within the building, from the underground car park to the roof – and the outcome was surprising.
The Elbphilharmonie dedicates a spotlight to the Hungarian composer in the 2020/21 season.
Dmitri Shostakovich :String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, op. 110
Shostakovich composed his String Quartet Op. 110 »In remembrance of the victims of fascism and of the war« - thus the official heading of the first edition. And the five-movement work, which dates from 1960, can certainly be understood in this spirit, with its brutal use of every extreme from elegiac singing through breathless escape and mocking sarcasm to raw musical violence.
But letters and diary entries penned by the composer suggest a different interpretation: in the summer of 1960 he was supposed to be writing the soundtrack for the German-Soviet propaganda film »Fünf Tage – fünf Nächte« (Five days – five nights). At the same time increasing pressure was being put on him to finally join the Soviet Communist Party – an act of political submission that he had so far avoided. Instead of celebrating the superiority of the Communist system with orchestral pomp, Shostakovich put off work on the official commission and turned to one of the least pompous genres imaginable: the string quartet. The score he produced revolves nothing short of obsessively round a sequence of four notes: D-Es-C-H (in English notation: D-E flat-C-B) meant to represent his own initials D-S-C-H; at the same time, the music quotes from a number of his own works – particularly those that had previously got him in trouble with the Soviet regime, such as the Eighth Symphony or the opera»Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk«.
So it's quite possible that Shostakovich, worn down as he was by decades of fear and latent threat in the Soviet Union, was depicting less a sense of mourning for the victims of fascism here, but rather the emotional distress of all those whose decency, morale and personal ethos was gradually destroyed by living in constant fear. A good year after the quartet was composed, Shostakovich became a member of the Soviet Communist Party.
Misato Mochizuki :in-side for string quartet
While both the Shostakovich and the Kurtág invite us to cast a glance behind the scenes of the creative process involved in their composition, Misato Mochizuki's »in-side« reflects what goes on in the human brain when we listen to music. Inspired by neurological studies that suggest that melody and rhythm address different parts of the brain, the Tokyo-born composer structures her 5-minute-long quartet as a game involving these two musical elements: the piece begins in percussive style, with the cellist beating out a hypnotic rhythm on his instrument, and from this a note, and then a melody emerge almost imperceptibly. These elements gradually combine to form a musical microcosm of filigree beauty, with which in turn Mochizuki alludes to Japanese myths about the creation of the world.
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy :String Quartet in D major Op. 44/1
Mendelssohn wrote this string quartet in the spring and summer of 1838, and the light-hearted and sunny underlying tone of the music seems to reflect the composer's mood at the time: he was newly-married, and his first child Carl had just been born. Nor was his good fortune confined to the personal sphere: as director of the Gewandhaus concerts, he had been revolutionising the Leipzig music scene since 1835, while also enjoying the greatest success both at home and abroad as a composer, interpreter and conductor.
When writing the virtuoso first violin part in this quartet, Mendelssohn had his friend Ferdinand David in mind, the leader of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. »I have just finished my third quartet in D major, and really like it a lot; I only hope you share my opinion. But I almost believe you will: it seems to me more fiery and also more rewarding for the players«, Mendelssohn wrote to his friend in the summer of 1838. And as it turned out, he was right in his assessment: Ferdinand David and three other Gewandhaus musicians gave the quartet its first performance on 16 February 1839 »to the most resounding applause« (Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung).
Text: Juliane Weigel-Krämer, last updated: 25 January 2021
Translation: Clive Williams
The concert was recorded on 18 January 2021.
In cooperation with ECHO - European Concert Hall Organisation
With support by M.M.Warburg & CO
Supported by Classical Futures Europe and the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.