October 18, 2014: Minguet Quartett with Andreas Klein, piano


Minguet Quartett Photo: Frank Rossbach

Ulrich Isfort, Annette Reisinger*, violins;
Aroa Sorin**, viola;
Matthias Diener, cello



Quartet in D minor, No. 15, K. 421

Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23

Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80

Concerto No. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052

Andreas Klein Photo: Marco Borggieve

Dear Music Lover,

The next Virtuosi Concert features the Minguet String Quartett from Germany. They are on tour with their New York friend, pianist Andreas Klein who was also born in Germany. You can read about them and listen to them perform on their websites.  I wanted instead to tell you a little bit about the music in their wonderful programme.

The Minguet Quartett opens the concert with Mozart’s beautiful String Quartet in D minor, K.421.  It is believed that he completed it on June 17, 1783, in the same room and at the same time, that his wife was giving birth to their first son. As M. Berger summarized in his Guide to Chamber Music…although many have searched in vain for a correlation between the immediate situation and the profound melancholy of this intensely expressive quartet, most have concluded with Eric Blom that Mozart shows here his “amazing power of emotional detachment” and the “callousness of genius”. If you watch the YouTube video of the performance by the Hagen Quartet, it is the purity of the art that will seize your imagination rather than some earthly travail. Click here for the Hagen Quartet’s performance.

Andreas Klein then takes the stage with Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G minor (op 23; published in 1836). This work is so powerful that musicologist James Huneker called it “the Odyssey of Chopin’s soul”.  I’ve read the backstory about the hero, the Polish-Jewish musician Wladyslaw Spillman and how he was saved by a Nazi officer at the end of the war.  Watch the extraordinary, unforgettable dramatic clip of the entire piece from the movie The Pianist. Click here to watch the clip from The Pianist. Spillman can also be heard on YouTube (Let’s talk about it all in the lobby at the concert.)

The Minguet Quartet returns to begin the second half of the concert with Felix Mendelssohn’s late quartet (No. 6 in F minor, op 80) – so late that it was also his last completed piece of chamber music (1847). If Mozart was largely oblivious, artistically, to Costanze’s painful birth-pangs in the next room, Mendelssohn appears to have been quite incapable of such a complete dissociation. His F minor quartet was composed only a few months after the tragic death of older sister Fanny at the age of forty-one. Fanny’s death so devastated Felix that he collapsed upon learning of the news and was unable to attend the funeral. At the time, he was already utterly drained by his hectic career as a performer, composer, conductor, commentator and celebrity, and by his exhausting travels to England and all over Germany.  The quartet itself is sad, angry, stormy and profound. The Adagio movement especially reflects his anguish and despair. After the piece was completed, he visited Fanny’s grave. He became so disturbed and emotionally crushed that within weeks, he was incapacitated by a series of strokes and died a month later. You can hear the Adagio on YouTube performed by the Cherubini Quartet. Click here for the Cherubini Quartet’s performance.

For the finale, the musicians come together – “FIVE INTO ONE” — to perform one of my all-time best-loved works – Bach’s D minor Piano Concerto. It is such an emotionally expressive work that it’s hard to believe that it’s almost three hundred years old! YouTube has clips of many performances, including one with Glenn Gould. But my favourite interpreter of this work remains (the late) Sviatoslav Richter in an early Russian recording issued at the time of his first North American tour (when I attended his recital in Toronto). So even though his you tube clip is not of the best quality, I still recommend him to you. Click here for Richter’s performance. (And while you are there on YouTube, you can also find Glenn Gould’s interview discussing whom he regards as “the greatest musical communicator of our age” – Sviatoslav Richter, or simply click here)

Would that my Psychology students could have as much fun on the homework I assign to them!

With all best wishes,

*Annette Reisinger (violin) was replaced by Rebecca Hennemann

**Aroa Sorin (viola) was replaced by Caitlin Boyle from the Cecilia String Quartet.