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SCHUBERT // Rosamunde Der Tod und das Mädchen

Quatuor Hermès,

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Description

At the end of 1822, Schubert learnt that he had contracted a venereal disease. His hopes were ‘dashed’, friendship and love became ‘torture’. He threw all his energy into his work and embarked on the most profound portion of his oeuvre. This was the period of the song cycle Die schöne Müllerin, followed in 1824 by the ‘Rosamunde’ Quartet, the Arpeggione Sonata and the ‘Death and the Maiden’ Quartet. He left more and more works unfinished, but everything he did complete now took on a new dimension. His quartets are no longer for ‘accompanied first violin’: they gain in expressiveness, power and symphonic richness.

The String Quartet No. 13 in A minor D804, ‘Rosamunde’, was the only one printed and performed in public during Schubert’s lifetime. It is a work uttered in a murmur, with its tremolos, its unison melodies, its modulations. This string quartet is deeply touching in its confidences devoid of vehemence or drama. A nocturnal hymn to yearning, it is fragile and should be performed neither too desolately nor too lightly, always playing on the ambiguity between dewdrops and tears.
Schubert’s music is neither happy nor sad, but simply fraternal.

The String Quartet No. 14 in D minor D810, ‘Death and the Maiden’, is a work dictated by despair. Schubert concurs with Mozart’s remark that death is humanity’s best friend. He composed his quartet in D minor, the key of the Mozart Requiem.
The highly dramatic first movement is a struggle for life. In the second movement, Death is accepted. The drama returns in the third movement, now tinged with irony. And the work ends with a Dance of Death, a Presto in the form of a tarantella (the Italian dance invented to cure the bite of the tarantula).
The final chord affirms D minor. There is no doubt about the tragic outcome . . .

String Quartet no.13 in A minor D804, ‘Rosamunde’

  • Allegro ma non troppo 13’31
  • Andante 6’53
  • Menuetto. Allegretto 7’13
  • Allegro moderato 7’06

 

String Quartet no.14 in D minor D810, ‘Death and the Maiden’

  • Allegro 11’23
  • Andante con moto 13’14
  • Scherzo, allegro molto 3’52
  • Presto 9’19

The Quatuor Hermès, named after the famous messenger of the gods in Greek mythology, draws its musical force from its role as a go-between linking the composer’s text with the audience’s sensibility. The musicians have also established this identity through their travels around the world. Carnegie Hall in New York, the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing and Wigmore Hall in London are among the venues that have made the greatest impression on them. The quartet also performs at major international festivals.

The group’s original line-up came together in 2008 at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Lyon, where the four musicians studied with the members of the Quatuor Ravel. They went on to enrich their experience with such outstanding personalities as the Quatuor Ysaÿe, the Artemis Quartett, Eberhard Feltz, and later Alfred Brendel, an immense inspiration with whom they still work regularly today. Open to a wide range of repertory, they regularly share the concert platform with illustrious musicians, among them Yo-Yo Ma, Nicholas Angelich, Gregor Sigl, Pavel Kolesnikov, Kim Kashkashian, Anne Gastinel, and the Ébène and Auryn quartets.

The Quatuor Hermès has won numerous first prizes, notably at the Geneva Competition and the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York. It receives the support of the Fondation Banque Populaire. After being quartet in residence at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Brussels from 2012 to 2016, it has been associate quartet with the Fondation Singer-Polignac in Paris since 2019.

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