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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Igor Stravinsky


Igor Stravinsky

Three Pieces for String Quartet

Dmitri Shostakovich

String Quartet No. 3 in F Major op. 73

Pjotr Tchaikovsky

String Quartet No. 2 in F Major op. 22

Approximate running time: 2h with one intermission

How do you engage with the historical traditions and formal conventions that define a musical genre such as the string quartet? The Michelangelo String Quartet examines the diverse ways in which several Russian composers have grappled with and answered that question. At one end of the spectrum, Stravinsky, in his compositions for four strings, completely dissolves the standard quartet structure, while at the other, Shostakovich takes up that tradition, only to push it in radically new directions.

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.