The Quartet Week Podcast with Anthea Kreston: Teaching and Learning: the Michelangelo String Quartet and students of the Barenboim-Said Akademie

Twice in a row the Michelangelo String Quartet took the stage during the Pierre Boulez Saal’s Quartet Week: On Friday night, the ensemble opened the festival’s final weekend; the following day, the quartet was joined by students of the Barenboim-Said Akademie, where its first violinist Mihaela Martin and cellist Frans Helmerson both teach as professors, in a program featuring string octets by George Enescu and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Among the students were cellist Danielle Akta and violist Sadra Fayyaz. “It’s great to be here and have lessons with these amazing teachers,” they told Anthea Kreston in episode #8 of our Quartet Week Podcast. Both regularly perform at the Pierre Boulez Saal in different chamber music ensembles, often with personal input from and sometimes together with Daniel Barenboim. “It’s an incredible opportunity to work with him. He has so much to share—and he is comfortably honest with us,” says Fayyaz. But studying at the Barenboim-Said Akademie involves much more than just the actual musical training: “We have lessons in the Humanities, philosophy, literature, and European history.” With the Academy located right in the historical center of Berlin, the students also learn about the city’s sometimes turbulent past. “This semester we explore Berlin like flaneurs in the style of Walter Benjamin or Kurt Tucholsky, and then we write about places and memories.” To train excellent musicians who are also educated humanists and capable of developing their own ideas—this is the goal of the Barenboim-Said Akademie’s work. For their part, Danielle Akta and Sadra Fayyaz have a pretty good idea of where they’d like to be 20 years from now. “I want to become a soloist,” says Akta, whereas Fayyaz sees himself more likely as a violist in an orchestra: “And I want to write books, novels—that’s my dream.”


Michelangelo String Quartet

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Students of the Barenboim-Said Akademie

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Vashka Delnavazi


Shai Nakash


Yamen Saadi


Sadra Fayyaz


Katrin Spiegel


Assif Binness


Danielle Akta



George Enescu

Octet for Strings in C Major op.7

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

Octet for Strings in E-flat major Op. 20

Approximate running time: 2h with one intermission

In their second concert during the Quartet Week, the Michelangelo String Quartet—whose members also teach at the Barenboim-Said Akademie—are joined by Akademie students. The program features two defining compositions for the rare octet format: in Mendelssohn’s work, the different string voices flow together in an almost symphonic expansiveness, while in Enescu’s octet individual voices repeatedly break out from a dense contrapuntal web.

At the end of the season, the Quartet Week casts a spotlight on what many consider to be the quintessential chamber music format. Between June 7 and 16, eleven extraordinary international ensembles will explore both the historical development and the vast emotional scope of the string quartet genre in the intimate space of the Pierre Boulez Saal.