World-Class Chamber Music
Philharmonic String Quartet of the Berlin Philahrmonic
Helena Madoka Berg, violin
Dorian Xhoxhi, violin
Naoko Shimizu, viola
Christoph Heesch, cello
The Philharmonic String Quartet, comprising members of the world-famous Berliner Philharmoniker, will devote their concert to some of the most beautiful music of mourning.—
Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924):
I Crisantemi. Andante mesto
Fanny Hensel (1805–1847):
String quartet in E-flat major
Samuel Barber (1910–1981):
String quartet, op. 11, Adagio
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809–1847):
String quartet No. 6 in f minor, op. 80
If the concept of “one-hit-wonders” existed in the classical music world like it does in pop, then Samuel Barber would surely be a top contender for the dubious distinction of being loved and famous for just one work. His Adagio for Strings is a world hit – one performed at the funerals of the US Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, and which became a kind of soundtrack to the mourning for the victims of terror on 9/11, back in 2001. In 2004, the listeners of the BBC in England voted Barber’s Adagio for Strings the “saddest piece of classical music”.
The ability of music to instil emotions, not just to express them, is undisputed. Grief can be processed both by listening to music and by composing it too. This twofold means of dealing with trauma is the topic of our concert by the Philharmonic String Quartet – an ensemble comprising members of the world-famous Berliner Philharmoniker.
Besides the second movement of Barber’s String Quartet op. 11 – the original version of what later became known as his Adagio for Strings – the Philharmonic String Quartet will also play Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s String Quartet No. 6 in f minor, which he wrote largely in Interlaken. It was written just four months after the quite unexpected death of his beloved sister Fanny Hensel, and two months before his own – it was in fact the last work that he completed. This quartet is a kind of instrumental requiem and is written in f minor – a key often associated with death – and can undoubtedly be regarded as a personal reaction to Mendelssohn’s loss of the person who was closest to him. Mendelssohn’s work is here placed alongside the String Quartet in E-flat major by his sister Fanny. Felix criticised it for being in a style that was too free and Romantic, which he felt meant it did not cohere properly. But placing these two works side by side allows us to hear clearly how Felix draws close to Fanny’s music and endeavours to unite his own, formally taut style with the freer style of his sister.
Giacomo Puccini’s “I Crisantemi” was also composed out of a sense of bereavement. The chrysanthemums mentioned in the title were traditional flowers of mourning, and refer to the memory of Duke Amedeo of Savoy, a close friend of the composer.
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