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

Renewed visits to the U.S.

Of the many trips the Schoenberg Quartet made to the United States, those of 1988 and 1989 deserve special mention. In early April 1988, the quartet stopped in Boston, as was now customary, for rehearsals with Lehner. This time the former viola player of the Kolisch Quartet coached the ensemble in Beethoven’s Opp. 132 and 135 as well as quartets of Schoenberg (fourth), Zemlinsky (second and third) and Janácek (second). The sessions with Lehner were followed by a concert in Boston, after which the quartet travelled on to Los Angeles for a performance in the Arnold Schoenberg Institute. Prior to that, on April 8, the quartet supplied the musical examples to a lecture given by Leonard Stein to students of the University of Southern California. A few days later, in the presence of Schoenberg’s children and other intimates, a rather special house concert took place in North Rockingham Avenue 116, Schoenberg’s final dwelling. On the programme was Schoenberg’s Fourth String Quartet, written in that very house.

Less than a year later the Schoenberg Quartet returned once again to Los Angeles, where they worked intensively for a week with Lehner. Under scrutiny were Schoenberg’s five string quartets, the String Trio and Verklärte Nacht. All seven works were performed in a series of three concerts in the Hancock Auditorium of the University of Southern California. At this time the quartet received a remarkable tribute from the Arnold Schoenberg Institute. Together with Lehner, the quartet members were awarded by the Schoenberg children themselves Honorary Life Membership of the Friends of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, an honour that had previously fallen to pioneers such as Galimir and Boulez. During this eventful visit to Los Angeles a television crew led by Hans Hulscher trailed the quartet, making a two-part documentary for the Dutch broadcasting service NOS. This fine piece of television illustrated the various channels employed by the Schoenberg Quartet to establish an historic performance practice of Schoenberg’s oeuvre. Quite striking, for example, are the images of Lehner in the splendid archives of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute. The archivist shows him the manuscript of the first quartet in which Schoenberg had notated an autobiographical programme. “I am very glad that has never been published,” murmurs Lehner. “It would be an intrusion, as it would degrade the music to the level of background music to a film.” Then, with the printed score beside it, he shows how the composer altered the ending.