Quartet Week

Ten days dedicated to an endlessly diverse musical genre

© Felix Broede

10 Days, 11 Ensembles

The elliptical shapes of the Pierre Boulez Saal, creating an immediate sense of closeness between musicians and audience, are the ideal setting for the intimate and attentive atmosphere of the string quartet. Towards the end of the season, this endlessly diverse musical genre takes center stage for a unique series of concerts: During a special Quartet Week from June 7 to June 16, eleven ensembles will explore the string quartet’s vast stylistic and emotional range––from the works of Haydn and Beethoven to those of Britten and Shostakovich, from Yiddish cabaret songs of the 1920s to groundbreaking pieces by contemporary composers.

The Quartet Week Podcast with Anthea Kreston

Day #10 More than Just Technique: The Hagen Quartett

“In the end what we do comes down to moving our fingers and bow arms. That’s all we do when we play string quartet,” Rainer Schmidt says laconically in conversation with Anthea Kreston in episode # 10 of our Quartet Week Podcast. Why music is still more than mechanical movements: Read more…

Day #9 A Cutting-edge Quartet: Quatuor Diotima

The French Quatuor Diotima is among the world’s leading ensembles for contemporary music. In episode #9 of our Quartet Week Podcast with Anthea Kreston, the four musicians talk about their collaborations with Pierre Boulez and Rebecca Saunders, whose Second String Quartet they performed in their concert on June 15 at the Pierre Boulez Saal. Read more...

Day #8 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 in a program of string octets by Enescu and Mendelssohn. In episode #8 of our Quartet Week Podcast, cellist Danielle Akta and violist Sadra Fayyaz told Anthea Kreston what it’s like to study at the Barenboim-Said Akademie. Read more...

Day #6 Musical Journeys of Discovery with the Arditti Quartet

“You can’t ask Mozart how he wanted his quartets to go,” says Irvine Arditti. “But you can ask a lot of the people we play and say, What do you mean by this?” One of the world’s foremost ensembles for contemporary music, the Arditti Quartet has collaborated with dozens of composers over the course of four and a half decades. In the latest installment of our Quartet Week Podcast, the group’s members tell Anthea Kreston about the challenges and rewards of their work. Read more...

Day #5 With Heart and Soul: The David Oistrakh String Quartet

The shared admiration for their ensemble’s namesake—the musician and the person—unites the members of the Russian David Oistrakh String Quartet, who spoke to Anthea Kreston in episode # 5 of our Quartet Week Podcast. Is there still something one might call a “Russian” sound today? Read more...

Day #4 Quatuor Modigliani on the Maturity of a String Quartet

In many ways, a string quartet ensemble is like a good cheese: it needs time to mature, and just as much work, as Amaury Coeytaux and Loïc Rio, the Quatuor Modigliani’s two violinists tell Anthea Kreston on our Quartet Week Podcast. Read more to find out why it’s still worth the effort.

Day #3 The Heath Quartet on Britain and Britten

Of all pieces for string quartet, Britten’s first contribution to the genre holds a special place in the heart of Gary Pomeroy, violist of the Heath Quartet. In episode #3 of our Quartet Week podcast series, he and his colleagues talked to Anthea Kreston about Britten the European, the compatibility of family and career, and what Brexit might bring for artists on the road. Read more...

Day #2 The Jerusalem Quartet on the Legacy of Yiddish Music

In the second episode of our Quartet Week podcast, host Anthea Kreston talks to members of the Jerusalem Quartet. For the last couple of years, the Israeli ensemble has been exploring the rich world of Yiddish cabaret music from the interwar period. Its concerts allow us to hear the important influence this tradition has had on the music of the 20th century. Read more...

Day #1 Quatuor Ébène and the Cello‘s Many Faces

At the roots of the string quartet: Raphaël Merlin, cellist of the Quatuor Ébène, tells Anthea Kreston about the manifold challenges of playing in a quartet and his many musical roles in the ensemble in the first episode of our Quartet Week Podcast Series. Read more...

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Two Legends of the String Quartet – Günter Pichler and Arnold Steinhardt in Conversation with Anthea Kreston

For the finale of this year’s Quartet Week at the Pierre Boulez Saal, Anthea Kreston spoke with two living legends of the string quartet: in the stellar careers of Günter Pichler, first violinist of the Alban Berg Quartett for 38 years, and his American “counterpart” Arnold Steinhardt, leader of the Guarneri Quartet for 45 years, there are some surprising parallels. For our podcast, the two violinists share stories from their artistic lives and that of their ensembles—providing highly personal insights into 20th-century music history.

Initially, Günter Pichler wanted to play accordion, but in post-war Austria, there wasn’t enough money to buy an instrument. Instead, his mother traded her wrist watch for a small violin. At 15, Pichler moved to Vienna to study: he was talented, his teacher said, but had a lot to learn. So he did—and only three years later became concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony. Three years after that, at 21, Herbert von Karajan appointed him concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic. “It was crazy,” he says today. In conversation with Anthea Kreston, Pichler talks about his time with Karajan, the early years and international breakthrough of the Alban Berg Quartett, and the contemporary string quartet scene.

“I loved the violin and I loved the music, but I hated practicing,” says Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist of the Guarneri Quartet from its foundation in 1964 until its last concert in 2009, about his childhood, in a Skype conversation from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Only when his parents took him to a concert with Mischa Elman, one of the leading violinists at the time, where he heard Bach’s Chaconne, he changed his mind—and went on to become one of the foremost American violinists of the 20th century himself. In conversation with Anthea Kreston, Steinhardt talks about his formative years with mentors such as Joseph Szigeti and Ivan Galamian, playing as concertmaster under conductor George Szell at the Cleveland Orchestra, and his life as a teacher and author in the years since the Guarneri Quartet disbanded.