Schoenberg Quartet

Schönberg Kwartet




25 years book

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Air of another planet

Anniversary Programme IV

Rainer Kussmaul

Born in Schriessheim near Mannheim, Rainer Kussmaul received his first violin lessons at the age of six from his father. He studied with Riccardo Odnoposoff at Stuttgart from 1965 until 1970. He won prizes in Munich (ARD Competition), Berlin (Mendelssohn Prize), Montreal, Bucharest (Enescu Competition) and Leipzig (Bach Competition). With the Stuttgarter Klaviertrio, of which he was a member from 1968 until 1997, he made numerous recordings as well as performing throughout the world. Rainer Kussmaul appears as a soloist with all the major orchestras and conductors and frequently performs at international festivals such as the Berliner Festwochen, in Edinburgh, Luzern, Salzburg and during the Kölner Triennale. Since 1977 he has been teaching at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg, in addition to giving frequent master classes in Baden-Baden (Carl-Flesch Akademie), the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Japan. As a teacher of the violin he is very successful, with many of his students occupying prominent positions in major European orchestras. From 1993 until 1998 Kussmaul was leader of the Berliner Philharmoniker. With the latter orchestra he also appeared as a soloist. He is currently artistic leader of the Berliner Barocksolisten, an ensemble that was founded in 1995. Since 1984 Kussmaul has appeared on many occasions with the Schoenberg Quartet in Ernest Chausson’s Concerto for Piano, Violin and String Quartet, including a performance during the Holland Festival. He has also participated in a CD recording of this composition with the Schoenberg Quartet.

Ivo Janssen

Pianist Ivo Janssen (Venlo, 1963) studied with Jan Wijn at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam. He won several prizes between 1986 and 1990 and continued his studies abroad, with, among others, Robert Levin. Since his debut in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in 1988 Ivo Janssen has performed both at home and abroad. He has worked with, among others, Heinrich Schiff, Nobuko Imai, Han de Vries and Charlotte Margiono. He has made several CD recordings (for the Globe label) of works by Brahms, Prokofiev, Chopin and Hindemith (Ludus Tonalis). The latter recording is regarded by the Hindemith Institut as the best recording of this work. In 1994 Ivo Janssen and the Netherlands Bach Collegium embarked upon an ambitious project: the recording on CD of J.S. Bach’s complete keyboard works. Seven discs have now been issued by the label VOID. Moreover, 2001 saw the release of works by Simeon ten Holt, Debussy and Nocturnes and Preludes by Chopin. His Toccata! project – Bach’s Toccatas in conjunction with newly written toccatas by contemporary composers including Louis Andriessen, Michiel Borstlap, Leo Samama and Christina Viola Oorebeek – was much acclaimed internationally. Ivo Janssen’s first performance with the Schoenberg Quartet took place in 1995, in Ernest Chausson’s Concerto for Piano, Violin and String Quartet, a collaboration that is continued in the 2001-2002 season.

Programme notes

Melancholy and yearning for the eternal
A listener not knowing any better might think that the French composer Ernest Chausson had set out to breathe new life into the time-honoured concerto grosso of the Baroque era with his ambitiously conceived Concerto, which he had written for Eugène Ysaÿe. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth; moreover, one must not be misled by the title “Sicilienne,” given to the second movement. Never in his life did Chausson entrust a single neoclassical note to the page. All of his music seems to strike a balance between tragedy and a yearning for the eternal (a latent Wagnerian influence). Characteristic even of the seemingly upbeat movements is an undercurrent of melancholy, which when contrasted with all of the Latin clarté of his music, is often further emphasised by Tristanesque harmonies and-as is heard in the opening movement of the Concerto-by sequence-like motifs, which are reminiscent of Der Ring des Nibelungen. The better acquainted one becomes with Chausson’s music, the more one is convinced that, in actuality, Chausson wrote only one indivisible and “unattainable” work, of which the separate compositions constitute movements, functioning as paths which lead back to the whole. Take, for instance, the first movement of the Concerto, in which elements from the Symphony in B-flat mysteriously emerge-sometimes literally. This is unsurprising, as both works were written between 1889 and 1891 (and the finale in 1893). In other words, one can certainly speak of a “synergetic” relationship between the two, to state it in modern terms.

Another matter altogether is the slow movement, which can be characterised as one of Chausson’s most disconsolate inspirations. The important role that chromaticism plays is expressed in the oscillating theme which is first heard in the piano part during the opening and which figures prominently throughout what one could rightly call a nerve-racking development; occasionally, a highly peculiar reference (I will not comment on whether this is coincidental or not, but it is certainly symbolic) to one of Carlo Gesualdo di Venosa’s madrigals is heard-namely, his sorrowful Moro, lasso, al mio duolo (“I die, alas, in my grief”) from the sixth book. Another characteristic of his Concerto is Chausson’s free use of César Franck’s so-called cyclic principle, which is witnessed in the free recapitulation of the second theme of the third movement in the richly varied finale. The combination heard on this programme with the version that was discovered in 1996, which is scored for the same group of instruments as the Poème (1896)-originally a concerto for violin and orchestra-is, of course, extremely significant. Incidentally, an arrangement of this work for violin and piano also exists, which means that a total of three editions of the Poème are in circulation, of which the symphonic version is one of Chausson’s most frequently performed works. Although the Poème is based on a short, dramatic love story by Turgenev, namely his Le chant de l’amour triomphant, the story is merely a pretext for a large-scale, well-balanced “Lied ohne Worte,” in which melancholy, euphoria and ecstasy vie for the spotlight.

Act of rebellion
When the jury of the once prestigious Prix de Rome was presented with the first movement of Ravel’s String Quartet, which dates from 1902/1903, they found it too inaccessible because of its complexity. This in itself was reason enough for a flat-out rejection. Thanks to Debussy, who clearly recognised the genius his younger colleague possessed, the work emerged from the battlefield intact, as Ravel was on the verge of rewriting the quartet. Another point of contention was the classical nature of the piece, which, in contrast to the ensuing period when neoclassicism reigned supreme, was viewed unfavourably and interpreted as an act of rebellion. Actually, the jury were not entirely wrong in their observation in the sense that, although one cannot qualify Ravel’s String Quartet stylistically as “classical,” the clear-cut delineation of various themes and motifs does lend itself to such a description. Add to this that during the atmospheric and enchanting third movement, an almost literal foreshadowing of one of Ravel’s least classical scores is heard, his Daphnis et Chloë, and it is clear that we must take the label “classical” with a few grains of salt. Incidentally, Ravel’s unmistakable connection to Franck and Chausson is his use of the cyclic design. This is expressed quite impressively in the effervescent last movement, in which the principal themes of the first and third movements are placed in an unexpected new light and are ingeniously interwoven.

Maarten Brandt

Ernest Chausson (1855-1899)

Concerto in D major, opus 21, for piano, violin and string quartet (1889-91)



Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

String Quartet in F major (1902-03)

Allegro moderato
Assez vif – très rhythmé
Très lent
Vif et agité

Ernest Chausson

Poème in E flat minor, opus 25 (1896), version by Chausson for violin, piano and string quartet

Schoenberg Quartet
Rainer Kussmaul – violin
Ivo Janssen – piano

3 April 2002, 8:15pm

 Amsterdam Concertgebouw

4 April 2002, 8:15pm

 Emmen, De Muzeval

5 April 2002, 8:30pm

 Leeuwarden, De Harmonie

7 April 2002, noon

 Heerlen, Parkstad Limburg Theater

8 April 2002, 8pm

 Wageningen, Aula Wageningen University and Research

11 April 2002, 8pm

 Leusden, Koopmanshuis

12 April 2002, 8:15pm

 Haarlem, Nieuwe Kerk

13 April 2002, 8:15pm

 The Hague, Nieuwe Kerk

14 April 2002, 11:30am

 Leiden, Stadsgehoorzaal

16 April 2002, 8pm

 Zwolle, Odeon