From Haydn to Rihm, from Beethoven to Shostakovich and from Mozart to Taneev: the string quartet can be considered the supreme genre of chamber music, maybe of music altogether.
The German man of letters Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once described the sound of a string quartet as being like "a dialogue of four clever people." Musicians and musicologists consider the genre a deeper and more concentrated musical statement than even the symphony.
Among other formations, our program features the Aris Quartet, four musicians who are considered one of the most interesting young quartets in Germany. All four are still under the age of 30.
Violinist Anne Katharina Wildemuth gave us an impression of the self-discipline and strategic planning involved in playing in a string quartet: "We decided four or five years ago to devote a hundred percent of our energy to the quartet," she said, "because the competition is clearly stiff. If you want to play at the top, I think you have do it this way and not to accept a position in an orchestra, or to teach. That could necessitate moving away. But we said: No, we all want to live in the same city and play in a quartet, and do nothing else. And it works."
A relationship of two people can be complicated. Add a third person and it gets even more interesting. But a quartet? With four persons who have to be different to play well? Can that last?
One hears of complications in the relationships of famous quartets. There's that very famous one from Liverpool, the Beatles. On one extreme, playing in a quartet can lead to musicians avoiding relationships outside the realm of music. On the other, it's known, for example, that the members of the legendary Borodin Quartet, when on tour, always book different flights and hotel rooms that are never on the same floor.
David Faber, cellist of the Dudok Quartet from The Netherlands, can't imagine going to such lengths: "I think we are actually quite good friends," he says. "The first violin and me are married, so we are really good friends. But with the other two, we can stand each other for I think 320 days a year, so we get along, and we travel in the same car if it's within a one thousand kilometer range. It's like a family. You need each other because you are bound by this love of music and the shared knowledge of music. But you can also have a fight because you know it will be all right in the end because you share something."
Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga
String quartet No. 1 in D Minor
String quartet No. 2 in C-Sharp Minor, op. 36
Recorded by Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Berlin (DLF) in the Old Pedagogical Academy in Heidelberg on January 25, 2019