On four days from Thursday evening till noon Sunday in a mid-sized city, you can hear nothing but string quartets. That city is Heideldberg, and we'll take you there this hour.
The term "string quartet" can refer to the genre, but also to the ensemble, and there are hundreds of them, with dozens more founded every year. The festival in Heidelberg puts the spotlight on young and very young quartets. At the 2019 edition, two came from Spain, the Cosmos and the Dalia Quartets. There were also two young ensembles from Germany, the Esme and the Aris Quartets, and one from the Netherlands, the Dudok. In this and the next Concert Hours, you'll hear all five.
Professor Oliver Wille from Hanover explained the recipe of this string quartet festival: "A string quartet community of loyal followers that is unique in the world, four days of non-stop music and concerts where you can take a closer look at this genre, the miracle of the string quartet. It's a chance to train your antennae onto certain musical processes."
Before the concert, Professor Wille asked how many in the audience make music themselves, and a forest of arms were raised – hardly anyone among the nearly 500 in the audience was not a musician. And how many have played in a quartet? At least two-thirds of those present. Even the organizers were astonished.
How to explain it? Of all the cities in Germany, Heidelberg has the highest concentration of professors and people with doctorates, and many come from families with a tradition of making music in the home.
The performances are in an old art nouveau hall in Heidelberg made completely of wood, from the floor to the paneled walls and ceiling. This old wood has its characteristic squeaks and groans, which add to the character of the recording.
String quartet No. 37 in B Minor, op. 33, No. 1
String quartet No. 39 in C Major, op. 33, No. 3 (excerpt)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
String quartet No. 21 in D Major, K. 575
Recorded by Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Berlin (DLF) in the Old Pedagogical Academy in Heidelberg on January 25, 2019