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
Members Günter Pichler (violin)
Gerhard Schulz (violin)
Isabel Charisius (viola)
Valentin Erben (violoncello)
Past members Klaus Maetzl (2nd violin, 1971-1978)
Hatto Beyerle (viola, 1971-1981)
Thomas Kakuska (viola, 1981-2005)

The Alban Berg Quartett was a string quartet founded in Vienna, Austria in 1970, named after Alban Berg. It was widely considered one of the finest ensembles of its time.[1]


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


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 one of their earliest concerts. Moved by their performance, she greeted them after the concerts and suggested the quartet name themselves after her husband.


The Quartet's repertoire was centered around the Viennese classics, but spanned works from Early Classicism, Romanticism, to the Second Viennese School (Berg, Schoenberg, Webern), Bartók and embraced many contemporary composers.[2]

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 Londons Royal Festival Hall, and Frankfurt (Alte Oper), as well as regular concerts at most major halls and venues around the world (among them La Scala, Concertgebow Amsterdam, Berliner Philharmonie, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, the Royal Festival Hall, 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.


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 late Schubert, but their repertoire on disc stretched further to Schumann, Janácek, Stravinsky, Berg, Webern, Bartók, von Einem, Lutosławski, Rihm, Berio to Schnittke and beyond. Many of the latter, contemporary, composers wrote works specially dedicated to the ABQ. The group has enjoyed the highest accolades from the international press and was considered one of the great ensembles of its time by critics around the world. 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.[3] 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 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.


Quartets who studied with the Alban Berg quartet include the Nevsky String Quartet, the aron quartet,[4] the Amaryllis Quartet, the Belcea Quartet, and the Artemis Quartet.[5]


In 2005, Thomas Kakuska died of cancer. Before his death he express the wish that one of his students, Isabel Charisius, succeed him. The Quartet felt that Charisius did an excellent job, but as cellist Valentin Erben said, "There was a big rupture in our hearts."[6] The concert in memoriam Thomas Kakuska included a who's-who of classical music, including an orchestra of friends and students of the quartet, and was conducted by Claudio Abbado. After a worldwide farewell tour in July 2008, the ABQ ended its career .[7][8]


  1. ^ As reflected by reviews garnered during its career: "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. ^ Opinions quoted are from France Soir (Paris), Presse (Vienna), The Observer (London) and San Francisco Chronicle. (Mozart Quartets, Telefunken LP insert, 1979: item ref 6.35485-00-501.)
  4. ^ Aron quartett (on the Danish Wikipedia)
  5. ^ artemis quartett
  6. ^ Asthana, Anushka. "Arts and Entertainment". The Sunday Times (login required) (London). 
  7. ^ Williams, Rory. "Calling it Quits. For the Alban Berg Quartet". Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  8. ^ "Beijing Today. Weekend". 2008-06-05. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 

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