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

Crowning achievement of a quarter century: the Chandos Project

In 1985 the Schoenberg Quartet embarked on the project of recording all the compositions for string quartet by Schoenberg, Webern, Berg en Zemlinsky. As mentioned earlier, only the First Quartet of Schoenberg, both Berg quartets and two quartets by Zemlinsky played by the quartet in its original cast were issued. The recordings of Schoenberg’s Second and Third String Quartets, made respectively in 1985 and 1986, remained ‘in the can’ for years. It seemed the same fate was to befall the recordings of the Fourth Quartet and Quartet number Zero, recorded in 1991 and 1992. Added to this impressive corpus of unissued recordings was the Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, which had been made in March 1994 with Michael Grandage and Sepp Grotenhuis, with whom a television recording was made of the same work during the same week. With the dramatic decline in compact disc sales in the second half of the nineties, it became clear that Koch was no longer in a position to carry out the project. In the meantime the four string players had decided they wanted to record all the string chamber music of the Second Viennese School in the current formation. This meant starting all over again with Schoenberg’s First Quartet, both the Berg quartets and Zemlinsky’s Second and Third Quartets.

The quartet ultimately found an excellent partner in Chandos, a recording label for connoisseurs. In the two years beginning in February 1999, the Schoenberg Quartet recorded the chamber music of Schoenberg they had not so far tackled. They also made recordings of all the relevant works of Webern, Berg and Zemlinsky. In March 1998 they had already recorded Schoenberg’s Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra, a free arrangement of Handel’s Concerto Grosso op.6 no 7, with the Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Roberto Benzi. The entire project ultimately filled nine compact discs, embracing 35 works, including four compact disc premières, namely Schoenberg’s Wind Quintet as well as his Opus 19 and Berg’s Vier Stücke opus 5, in arrangements by Henk Guittart for string quintet, string quartet, and viola and piano respectively, and Berg’s own arrangement of Hier ist Friede. The contract with Chandos was signed on July 7 2000. The final sessions took place in January and February 2001. The last works to be recorded included Webern’s Rondo and Langsamer Satz, ironically the two pieces the quartet had played at its very first performance. Thus the circle of the Schoenberg Quaret’s first twenty-five years, embarked upon that November’s day in Groningen, was complete.

Muse Translations: Ian Gaukroger