Schoenberg Quartet

Schönberg Kwartet




25 years book

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Air of another planet

A quarter century of musical conviction

The Schoenberg Quartet celebrates a milestone

Niek Nelissen

Recognition for Henk Guittart as auctor intellectualis: the 3M Prize

In the mid-80s the Schoenberg Ensemble and Schoenberg Quartet had acquired a solid standing in the Dutch music scene. What had begun as an ad hoc ensemble, one whose intention was to bring new forms and a revitalised élan into the ossified world of classical music concerts, had become an institution in its own right. This development demanded professional organisation. Following a period during which Henk Guittart took on the tasks of both administration as well as a good deal of the artistic management, Rosita Wouda was appointed business manager in 1985. The four members of the Schoenberg Quartet, still the core of the Schoenberg Ensemble, which itself was continuing to expand, were taken on as permanent employees by the Schoenberg Ensemble on January 1 1986 That the significance of the ensemble was also recognised by the national government was demonstrated by the state subsidy it received, increasing in the course of the eighties to one million guilders per year. The number of performances given by the Schoenberg Quartet increased considerably during that time. The Schoenberg series of 1981 brought it to twenty annually. Sometime in the mid-80s that increased to an average of thirty, peaking in 1989, when the Schoenberg Quartet gave 25 concerts in their own right and, in addition, fourteen with the ensemble.

Aside from government recognition, the quartet won esteem from an entirely different quarter in 1987. The company 3M had set up the ‘3M music laureate foundation’ and appointed a jury to award an annual grant of 100,000 guilders to a ‘top talent with original, high standard ideas and great perseverance’. Henk Guittart was chosen to be very first recipient of the 3-M grant. A deciding factor for the jury was ‘the fact that throughout his career Henk Guittart had shown himself to be utterly altruistic. Although taking the lead time and again, Henk Guittart himself remains in the background. He is in the service of music and musical performance.’ In May 1987 the 3M grant was presented to Guittart during a festive gathering in the Grand Hall of the Vredenburg Music Centre in Utrecht. Music for the event was of course provided by the Schoenberg Ensemble, led by Reinbert de Leeuw, with Jard van Ness as soloist in Lied der Waldtaube from Gurrelieder. Together with his fellow quartet members, the prizewinner played Webern’s Fünf Sätze. In his word of thanks, Guittart announced his intention to spend the prize money on new productions and research for ensemble and quartet. A week before the prize giving ceremony, he was asked by Roland de Beer of De Volkskrant whether his approach was not just a little too altruistic. Guittart’s reply was characteristic. “I am not an isolated musical institution. If the prize awarded is clearly connected with my work for the ensemble, then it is logical that the prize money be spent for that purpose. It didn’t occur to me to use it to buy a summerhouse on the island of Texel. Nor do I have the time for such a summerhouse. We work extremely hard, thank God: we put in about 450 services a year.” Worth mentioning is that, at precisely that time, the Schoenberg Quartet had a few distinctly negative reviews. These almost seemed to be a reaction to the many accolades showered upon it during the same period.