The Spanish string quartet Cosmos Quartet – 3rd prize winner of the 8th International Joseph Joachim Chamber Music Competition 2019 – plays Joseph Haydn (String Quartet in E flat major, Op.64 No.6), Béla Bartók (String Quartet No.3, Sz.85) & Johannes Brahms (String Quartet No.3, Op.67). Recorded live at the Festsaal Fürstenhaus, University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar on April 6, 2019.
"Here is an ensemble with a personal sound and approach that merits every bit of attention and assistance." — Alfred Brendel
The Cosmos Quartet was established in 2014 from the friendship and mutual interests of four young Spanish musicians. Each of them has had an international trajectory as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician.
They have received coaching from professors such as Alfred Brendel, Rainer Schmidt, Johannes Meissl, Hatto Beyerle, Miguel da Silva, Oliver Wille, Jonathan Brown, Anita Mitterer, Krzysztof Chorzelski, Patrick Jüdt and Quartetto di Cremona among others.
Despite the fact that it is a recently formed ensemble, the Cosmos Quartet has already gained an international career winning recently the First Prize at the 2018 Competition Irene Steels-Wilsing Foundation in Heidelberg and the 13è Premi BBVA de Música de Cambra Montserrat Alavedra. In 2016 the quartet has been semifinalist in the string quartet speciality of the prestigious "Concurs de Genève" celebrated in the city of Geneva. They also achieve the Third Prize at the "Carl Nielsen International Chamber Music Competition", First Prize at the International Chamber Music Competition "Mirabent i Magrans" in Sitges and the "Kammermusik Preis" and "Artis Quartet Preis" both at the International Summer Academy ISA in August 2014.
Since the beginning, they have played at venues such as festival "Emergents" during the 2017-2018 season in l'Auditori of Barcelona, the Quincena Musical in San Sebastián, the Schubertiada de Vilabertran, the "MUHBA" in Barcelona, "Fundación Juan March" in Madrid, "Auditorio Miguel Delibes" in Valladolid, Santa Cristina d'Aro Summer Music Festival as well as concerts in Austria during the "ISA 2014" and a Live broadcasted concert at the "ORF Kulturhaus" of Vienna.
They have been invited to participate at the "East Neuk Festival" in Edinburgh, at the "Festival de Monteleón" in León, and the "Académie Musicale de Villecroze" in France, held by Johannes Meissl (Artis Quartett) in 2015.
During the 2016-2017 season, Cosmos Quartet has been one of the selected groups to form part of "Joventuts Musicals de Catalunya", having the opportunity to play in many places around Catalonia.
Currently they are former members at European Chamber Music Academy "ECMA" held by Hatto Beyerle and Johannes Meissl. Also, they are in a Master degree in the University of Hannover with professor Oliver Wille.
Among the upcoming projects, we stand out the concert in the Heidelberg Strichquartettfest 2019, the Wigmore Hall in London and Temporada 2019 Ibercamera in Girona.
The quartet is based in Barcelona and plays four instruments builded specially for them from the catalan wellknown violinmaker David Bagué.
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
♪ String Quartet in E flat major, Op.64 No.6 (1790) [00:34]*
iii. Menuet & Trio: Allegretto
iv. Finale: Presto
Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
♪ String Quartet No.3, Sz.85 (1927) [18:32]
i. Prima parte: Moderato
ii. Seconda parte: Allegro
iii. Recapitulazione della prima parte: Moderato
iv. Coda: Allegro molto
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
♪ String Quartet No.3, Op.67 (1875) [35:00]
iii. Agitato (Allegretto non troppo)
iv. Poco Allegretto con Variazinoi
Helena Satué, violin
Bernat Prat, violin
Lara Fernández, viola
Oriol Prat, cello
Festsaal Fürstenhaus, University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar on April 6, 2019
* Start time of each work
8th International Joseph Joachim Chamber Music Competition 2019, Prize winners:
1st Prize: Barbican Quartet
2nd Prize: Marmen Quartet
3rd Prize: Cosmos Quartet
Joseph Haydn: String Quartet in E flat major, Op.64 No.6
Growing with calm intent from its sole theme, the first movement of No.6 in E flat major – a mellow key for strings – is predominantly lyrical and inward-looking. The widely modulating development works the main theme in gliding imitative textures before becoming mesmerized by a little cadential figure that migrates from instrument to instrument against tick-tock quavers from the second violin. Haydn then slyly reintroduces the theme in the far-flung key of G flat major, fooling his less musically sophisticated listeners into thinking that the recapitulation has begun. When the "real" recapitulation does arrive a few bars later, Haydn continues to develop the ever-fertile theme in new textures and contrapuntal combinations. Everything in this endlessly inventive movement is re-thought rather than simply re-stated.
The lyricism deepens in the B flat major andante, the expressive heart of the quartet. Whereas the slow movements of Nos. 4 and 5 are essentially accompanied arias, this is another true democracy. In the outer sections the rising arpeggio figures sounded by each instrument in turn create an exquisitely interwoven texture, with gentle dissonances that grow more piercing as the music unfolds. In the central episode, in B flat minor, the first violin mines the same impassioned gypsy vein Haydn had explored in the slow movements of Op.54 Nos. 2 and 3.
The earthy minuet leaves its courtly model far in the background, though rusticity, typically, goes hand in hand with Haydnesque unpredictability: in the irregular phrasing (4+2 bars in the opening section), the disruptive sforzando accents that ram home the dissonances, and the nonchalant touches of canonic imitation in the second half. The lolloping ländler trio features peasant-style glissandos that were duly excised by squeamish nineteenth-century editors. At the end the bucolic tune is transferred to the second violin beneath a stratospheric staccato descant for the first – a delightful touch of exotic colour.
Even by Haydn's standards, the finale of Op.64 No.6 is a tour de force: a dazzling sonata-rondo that matches the finales of the London symphonies in wit, theatrical surprise and lightly worn contrapuntal virtuosity. On its last appearance the contredanse theme becomes derailed, then, after two pregnant pauses (shades here of Haydn's games with silence in the Op.33 finales), transforms itself into a toy march-on-tiptoe, before the quartet ends with a whooping surge of energy. A few months later Mozart would pay overt homage to this coruscating movement in the finale of his E flat major string quintet, K.614.
Source: Richard Wigmore (hyperion-records.co.uk)
Béla Bartók: String Quartet No.3, Sz.85
After the fiendish winds of the First World War had finally blown themselves out in 1918, there came into music a new invigoration and an eagerness by composers to stretch the forms and language of the ancient art. Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Webern, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Copland and other of the most important modern masters challenged listeners and colleagues throughout the 1920s with their daring visions and their brilliant iconoclasms. It was the most exciting decade in the entire history of music. Béla Bartók, whose folksong researches were severely limited geographically by the loss of Hungarian territories through the treaties following the war, was not immune to the spirit of experimentation, and he shifted his professional concentration at that time from ethnomusicology to composition and his career as a pianist. He was particularly interested in the music of Stravinsky, notably the mosaic structures and advanced harmonies of the Diaghilev ballets, and in the recent Viennese developments in atonality and motivic generation posited by Arnold Schoenberg and his friend/disciple Alban Berg. A decided modernism entered Bartók's music with his searing 1919 ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin, and his works of the years immediately following – the two Violin Sonatas, the piano suite Out of Doors, the First Piano Concerto and the String Quartets Nos. 3 and 4 – are the most daring that he ever wrote. He was reluctant to program them for any but the most sophisticated audiences.
Bartók wrote the Third Quartet quickly in Budapest at the end of the summer of 1927, immediately following a concert tour of Germany during which he performed his new Piano Concerto No.1 with Furtwängler in Frankfurt and his Piano Sonata in Baden-Baden. In December 1927, Bartók began his first visit to the United States, concertizing from coast-to-coast for three months after making his American debut with the New York Philharmonic and Willem Mengelberg in Carnegie Hall on December 22nd in his own Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra. (It was one of the ironies of Bartók's life that both his last home and the hospital in which he died in 1945 were just across the street from the famed auditorium that hosted his introduction to this country.) Before returning to Hungary in February 1928, Bartók learned of a lucrative competition for new chamber works sponsored by the Musical Fund of Philadelphia, and submitted his Third Quartet for consideration after he arrived home. He heard nothing for some time, however, and so sent a copy of the Quartet to Universal Edition in Vienna, inquiring if that firm would be willing to publish the score and help promote its first performance. Then on October 2nd, news arrived that Bartók's piece and a string quartet by the Italian composer Alfredo Casella had been chosen by a panel (which included Mengelberg, Fritz Reiner and Frederick Stock) from more than 600 entries to share the considerable first prize of $6,000. In view of the international recognition accorded the work, Universal agreed to issue the score immediately; the piece was premiered at London's Wigmore Hall by the Waldbauer Quartet on February 19, 1929.
Bartók's Third Quartet is among the great masterworks of modern music-brilliant, challenging, cathartic, one of the most difficult yet rewarding pieces in the entire chamber literature. Though the music is Bartók's furthest adventure into modernity, it is founded solidly on the confluence of two traditional but seemingly opposed musical streams-the folk music of Eastern Europe, a subject on which Bartók was a scholar of the highest accomplishment, and the elaborate contrapuntal constructions of Sebastian Bach and other Baroque composers. By 1927, the time of the Third Quartet, Bartók had so thoroughly absorbed the quirky intervals, tightly circling motivic phrases, snapping rhythms and ornate decorations of indigenous Hungarian music into his original work that his themes constitute of virtual apotheosis of native folksong. "The melodic world of my string quartets does not essentially differ from that of folksong", he said, "only the framework is stricter". For the working-out of his folk-derived thematic materials (Bartók never quoted existing melodies unless specifically noting that they were arrangements), he turned to the highly organized models of canon and fugue postulated by Bach and his contemporaries.
The Third Quartet therefore represents a marvelous synthesis of West and East-the structural integrity and emotional range of Bach wedded to the melodic and rhythmic exoticisms of Slavic folksong.
The Third Quartet, one of Bartók's most tightly constructed works, is disposed as a large single span divided into four sections. Part I opens with a mysterious harmonic curtain which serves as an introduction to the work's germinal theme-a tiny fragment comprising a rising fourth and a falling minor third initiated by the violin in measure six, at the point where the lower strings remove their mutes. The first section is largely based on the extensive permutations of this pregnant thematic kernel through imitation, inversion, augmentation, diminution and other processes that Bartók learned from Bach. Part II, which follows without pause, is a free, continuously unfolding variation of an arch-shaped folk-dance melody presented in pizzicato multiple stops by the cello. A passage of dizzying slides and almost brutal dissonance bridges to Part III, which is a thoroughly reworked version of Part I (Bartók marked this section "Ricapitulazione della prima parte", but also noted, "I do not like to repeat a musical idea without change"), a distillation of the essence of the Quartet's earlier material. The concluding Coda starts as a vague, bow-tip buzzing, but soon develops into a furious altered restatement of the folk dance of Part II. The Quartet culminates in a powerful, viscerally compelling cadence.
Source: Dr. Richard E. Rodda (kennedy-center.org)
Johannes Brahms: String Quartet No.3, Op.67
Having hesitated so long over his first two string quartets, Brahms managed to produce their successor without any protracted birth-pangs, and the fact that the new work was again dedicated to a well known physician prompted him to elaborate on the medical analogy. "I am", he told Theodor Wilhelm Engelmann (the husband of the pianist Emma Brandes, and himself a keen amateur cellist) "publishing a string quartet, and may need a doctor for it (as with the first ones). This quartet rather resembles your wife – very dainty, but brilliant! It's no longer a question of a forceps delivery; but of simply standing by. There's no cello solo in it, but such a tender viola solo that you may want to change your instrument for its sake!"
The new quartet was tried out by the Joachim Quartet at Clara Schumann's house in Berlin before it was performed in public on 30 October 1876. Joachim wrote enthusiastically to Brahms: "Even you have scarcely written any more beautiful chamber music than in the D minor [third] movement and the finale – the former full of magical romanticism, the latter full of warmth and charm in an artistic form. But the original first movement and the concise, sweet-sounding Andante should not be overlooked, either!"
Brahms's own simile of the Op.67 quartet as being as dainty as Frau Engelmann was apt: in marked contrast to its dramatic predecessors it is a work of considerable charm, and almost divertimento – like playfulness. In composing it Brahms may have had Mozart's "Hunt" Quartet K.458 (also in B flat major) at the back of his mind – at any rate, it, too, begins with a "hunting" theme in 6/8 time. On the other hand, the cross-rhythm that soon appears, dividing the bar into three slightly quicker beats in place of the prevailing two longer beats, is one of Brahms's favourite gestures. The new rhythm anticipates the ingratiating second subject, with its "rocking" figure, where there is an actual change of time signature, to 2/4. In the exposition's closing bars, Brahms ingeniously manages to combine the two rhythms.
The slow movement has a theme of Mendelssohnian elegance and gracefulness, but there is also a more dramatic middle section that lends the proceedings symphonic tension. Brahms's autograph score shows us that he initially conceived the piece in a straightforward form, with a conventional reprise in the home key. However, a last-minute change of heart led him not only to cast the concluding section as a variation of the opening melody, but also to launch it in the comparatively distant key of D major, allowing the music to regain the home key of F only shortly before the coda. Perhaps the unexpected switch in tonal direction was prompted by the second half of the initial melody itself, which touches momentarily on the chord of D major.
The third movement is the viola solo with which Brahms hoped to tempt Engelmann to change instruments; and in order to make its part stand out, the remaining three players use mutes throughout. As for the finale, it is a piece Brahms clearly remembered when he came to write his Clarinet Quintet in B minor. Like the last movement of that late work, it is cast in the form of a set of variations that gradually works its way around to reintroducing the theme of the opening movement. This, then, like the Clarinet Quintet, and like Brahms's Third Symphony, is a work whose ending returns us, in circular fashion, to its starting-point.
The tiny variation theme itself has a harmonic twist in its tail: its first half cadences unexpectedly into D major, and the sound of B flat is reached again only in its final two bars. The first three variations stick closely to the theme's harmonic outline, but the fourth turns to the tonic minor, and the fifth is in the closely related key of D flat major. Variation 6 moves into G flat major which means that the harmonic "twist" now occurs on the home key of B flat. This, however, does not lessen the shock of the unceremonious plunge back into B flat for the following variation, where the tempo is doubled and the first movement's theme reappears. (The implied tempo relationship between the outer movements would seem to dictate a decidedly quick speed for the first movement, if the variations are not to sound too sedate.) Nor is its initial theme the only material from the first movement to make a return at this point: the passage also recalls a mysterious moment in the minor that in the opening movement had heralded the arrival of the second subject. In the closing bars, the variation theme and the first movement's "hunting" subject are combined with deceptive ease, as though to highlight the hitherto hidden kinship between them.
Source: Misha Donat (hyperion-records.co.uk)