Alban Berg Quartet

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Alban Berg Quartett
Origin Vienna, Austria
Genres Classical
Occupation(s) Chamber ensemble
Years active 1971–2008
Labels Teldec, EMI

The Alban Berg Quartett was a string quartet founded in Vienna, Austria in 1970, named after Alban Berg. It was widely considered the most famous string quartet in the world.[1]

Members[edit]

Period 1st violin 2nd violin Viola Violoncello
1971–1978 Günter Pichler Klaus Maetzl Hatto Beyerle Valentin Erben
1978–1981 Gerhard Schulz
1981–2005 Thomas Kakuska
2005–2008 Isabel Charisius

Beginnings[edit]

The Berg Quartet was founded in 1970 by four young professors of the Vienna Academy of Music, and made its debut in the Vienna Konzerthaus in autumn 1971. The widow of the composer Alban Berg, Helene, attended an early private concert after which she gave her consent for the quartet to use her husband's name.

Career[edit]

The Quartet's repertoire was centered around the Viennese classics, but with a serious emphasis on the 20th century. It was the stated goal of the quartet to include at least one modern work in each performance. Their repertoire spanned from Early Classicism, Romanticism, to the Second Viennese School (Berg, Schoenberg, Webern), Bartók and embraced many contemporary composers.[2] This took expression not the least in personal statements by composers like Witold Lutosławski and Luciano Berio, of whom the former said: "Personally I am indebted to the Alban Berg Quartet for an unforgettable event. Last year in Vienna, they played my quartet in a way such as will never be likely equaled." [3][4]

Following an invitation of Walter Levin (LaSalle Quartet) the ABQ studied intensively for the better part of a year in the USA. The foci of their activities in Europe became annual concert cycles at the Wiener Konzerthaus, at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Frankfurt (Alte Oper), the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris, the Philharmonic Hall in Cologne, the Zurich Opera, as well as regular concerts at most major halls and venues around the world (among them La Scala, Concertgebow Amsterdam, Berliner Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall, Teatro Colón, Suntory Hall, etc.) and all the major music festivals such as the Berliner Festwochen, the Edinburgh Festival, IRCAM in the Pompidou Centre, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and the Salzburg Festival.

Recording[edit]

Recordings were an important part of the work of the Alban Berg Quartet. Among the most famous recordings projects are the complete string quartets by Beethoven (EMI, which has sold more than a million copies), Brahms (Teldec and EMI), the late Mozart Quartets (Teldec and EMI) and late Schubert, but their repertoire on disc stretched further to Schumann, Janácek, Stravinsky, Berg, Webern, Bartók, von Einem, Lutosławski, Rihm, Berio, Haubenstock-Ramati to Schnittke and beyond. Many of the latter, contemporary, composers wrote works specially dedicated to the ABQ. Following their original Beethoven cycle recorded in the studio in the late 70s, early 80s, the group went on to release live recordings of their Beethoven cycle at the Konzerthaus during the Vienna Festival in 1989 on CD, video, and DVD.[5] The Alban Berg Quartet recorded chamber music with some of the finest soloists of their time, including the piano quintets of Robert Schumann (with Philippe Entremont), Schubert and Brahms (with Elisabeth Leonskaja) and Dvoràk (with Rudolf Buchbinder), the Schubert string quintet (with Heinrich Schiff), the Brahms clarinet quintet (with Sabine Meyer), and the Mozart piano quartets and the piano quintet KV 414 (with Alfred Brendel). For their recordings, the ABQ received more than 30 international awards, among them the (Grand Prix du Disque, the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis, the Japanese Grand Prix), the Edison Award, and the Gramophone Award. Beyond recording, the ABQ collaborated regularly with the likes of Maurizio Pollini, Tabea Zimmermann, and András Schiff.

World Premieres[edit]

The composers that wrote string quartets for the Alban Berg Quartet include, in chronological order, Fritz Leitermeyer, Erich Urbanner (Quartets No. 1 and 4), Roman Haubenstock-Ramati, Gottfried von Einem (Quartet No.1), Wolfgang Rihm (Quartet No.4 and "Requiem for Thomas"), Alfred Schnittke (Quartet No.4), Zbigniew Bargielski ("Les temps ardente"), Luciano Berio ("Notturno"), and Kurt Schwertsik ("Adieu Satie").

Teaching[edit]

From 1993 until 2012 the members of the Alban Berg Quartet were lecturing at the Cologne Conservatory in succession of the Amadeus Quartet. Quartets who studied with the Alban Berg Quartet include the Cuarteto Casals, the Schumann Quartett, the Fauré Quartet, the aron quartet,[6] the Amaryllis Quartet, and in particular the Belcea Quartet, and the Artemis Quartet.[7]

Retirement[edit]

In 2005, Thomas Kakuska died of cancer. In accordance with his wish, the ABQ continued concertizing with Isabel Charisius, a student of his. But as cellist Valentin Erben said, "There was a big rupture in our hearts"[8] and the quartet retired in 2008. The concert in memoriam Thomas Kakuska featured a who's-who of classical music, including an orchestra of friends and students of the quartet. Among them were Angelika Kirchschlager, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Erwin Arditti, Magdalena Kozena, Thomas Quasthoff, Helmut Deutsch, Alois Posch, Heinrich Schiff, and Sir Simon Rattle; the orchestra was conducted by Claudio Abbado. After a worldwide farewell tour in July 2008, the ABQ ended its career .[9][10][11]

Literature[edit]

  • DIE ZEIT Klassik-Edition v.16 | Alban Berg Quartett. Die Zeit, Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-47602216-1.
  • Dieter Rexroth, Rainer Wilker (Editors): Ludwig van Beethoven. The String Quartets. Alban Berg Quartet Alter Oper, Frankfurt, Cologne Philharmonic, and Berliner Festspiele, 1987.

References[edit]

  1. ^ As reflected by reviews garnered during its career: "The most famous quartet in the world takes leave after 40 years of concertizing" (Die Zeit). "One of the greatest ensembles of our time" (San Francisco Chronicle). "Certainly one of the greatest ensembles in chamber music" (France Soir, Paris). "Few if any quartets can match their strength and assurance in the Viennese classics and romantics" (The Times, London), "The Alban Berg Quartet have achieved legendary standards in chamber music" (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung).
  2. ^ This and the following two paragraphs are derived from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die 10 grossen Streichquartette - Alban Berg Quartett, Wien, Telefunken LP records 6.35485, 1-5 (5 LPs) GX. Insert, p. 12 (Teldec Telefunken-Decca Schallplatten GmbH, 2000 Hamburg 19: 1979).
  3. ^ Personal letter from Lutoslawski to the Alban Berg Quartet. "Letter to the ABQ". 19??-??-??. Retrieved 2015-01-15.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Letter from Berio to the Alban Berg Quartet
  5. ^ Opinions quoted are from Die Zeit (Hamburg), France Soir (Paris), Presse (Vienna), The Observer (London) and San Francisco Chronicle. (Mozart Quartets, Telefunken LP insert, 1979: item ref 6.35485-00-501.)
  6. ^ Aron quartett (on the Danish Wikipedia)
  7. ^ artemis quartett
  8. ^ Asthana, Anushka. "Arts and Entertainment". The Sunday Times (login required) (London). 
  9. ^ Williams, Rory. "Calling it Quits. For the Alban Berg Quartet". www.stringsmagazine.com. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  10. ^ "Beijing Today. Weekend". 2008-06-05. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  11. ^ [1]

External links[edit]