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4 + 1 X 3 - Arcanto Quartet and friends

Dutilleux, Mendelssohn & Schubert

Dutilleux Ainsi la nuit
String Quartet No. 6 in F minor Op. 80
Schubert String Quintet in C D956

Arcanto Quartet Antje Weithaas, Daniel Sepec, Tabea Zimmermann, Jean-Guihen Queyras; with Olivier Marron cello

Wigmore Hall, 27 November 2009

A quick report, having belatedly heard this great quartet for the first time.

Their Schubert Quintet was the most compelling of this repertoire favourite we'd ever heard, eclipsing those with Casals and du Pré etc... The five played as one, with no individualism, a new-minted and deeply satisfying account of one of the miracles of classical music, which received a well-earned standing ovation at the end of a long and punishingly demanding programme.

The elusive Dutilleux was given with persuasive subtlety of timbre which captivated an audience unfamiliar with it, and next a storming account of Mendelssohn's last quartet, the one which encapsulates his anger with the deities after the unexpected death of his sister Fanny, soon to be followed by his own.

A concert to treasure and remember for a lifetime.

The Arcantos have a short residency weekend at Wigmore Hall; their coffee concert on Sunday is already sold out, but there is a chance to hear them on Monday's BBC Lunchtime Concert.

Be there!

Peter Grahame Woolf

Webern & Brahms

Webern Langsamer Satz
Brahms Clarinet Quintet in B minor Op. 115

Arcanto Quartet
Jörg Widmann

Sunday Coffee Concert - 11:30 AM 29 November 2009

Today the Arcanto Quartet provided an ideal which chamber musicians strive for, but which is very seldom achieved. Each individual member of the quartet harnessed their creativity and virtuosity to play as one entity, subservient to the music. All too often in quartet playing the first violin dominates and the inner parts are weaker. Here Antje Weithaas played with a rare sensitivity, knowing when to lead and when to accompany. Her power and sweetness of tone was matched perfectly by the second violinist, Daniel Sepec, and the superb viola player, Tabea Zimmermann and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras.

The programme opened with Webern’s Langsamer Satz, a single movement of tonal romanticism from a composer best known for his twelve-tone music. Inspired by a hiking holiday in the mountains with his wife to be, it is an early work of lush harmonies and singing melodies. The Arcanto Quartet played with a tender lyricism, at times compelling the audience to listen to the most hushed pianissimo.

Jörg Widmann joined the quartet for the Brahms Clarinet Quintet. One of Brahms’ finest chamber works, the clarinet becomes fully integrated into the ensemble; at times enmeshed by the quartet, at times soaring above them,but without imposing himself soloistically, even in the flamboyant middle section of the slow movement. In this performance the Arcanto Quartet not only remained faithful to the score, but were able to go beyond the printed notes to reach the true essence of the music. Sublime.

Anna Michel

Kurtag & Dvorak

Kurtág Six Moments Musicaux
Dvorák Piano Quintet in A Op. 81

Arcanto Quartet with Silke Avenhaus piano [pictured]
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert 30 November 2009



Once again the Arcanto Quartet entranced. The 6 Moments Musicaux  by the Hungarian composer György Kurtág was originally a set of characterful miniatures written for the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition. They contain many musical and extra-musical references. The Arcanto Quartet excelled at portraying the suspense required in Footfalls... as though someone is coming, in which Kurtág refers to both a play by Beckett and a poem by Endre Ady. The movement  ...rappel des oiseaux... is in fact dedicated to the quartet’s very own Tabea Zimmerman, who, along with the other members, made light of the movement’s fiendish harmonics. In his Moments Musicaux Kurtág draws on previously composed music, most notably his Játécok piano pieces. Játécok (games) is a collection of music for children on a par with Bartok’s Mikrokosmos; the same sense of playfulness can be found in his Moments.

The Arcanto Quartet certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, using a paintbox of timbres to colour Kurtág’s snapshots; from the sweetest sonorities to the ugliest crunches, the purest harmonics to the smokiest whispers. Having attended their beautiful performance on Sunday, it was a revelation to hear the quartet today creating a grotesque sound where the music required it.


Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A Op. 81 combines romantic lyricism with Czech folk influences. The Arcanto Quartet gave an elegant performance not lacking in rhythmic drive. Silke Arvenhause, with whom they have recently recorded the Brahms Piano Quintet, joined them on piano. Her poised playing complemented the quartet perfectly.


Today the Arcanto Quartet have proved themselves not just masters of the Romantic repertoire but also of contemporary music. The repeat broadcast of this concert (2pm, Saturday, Radio 3) is not to be missed.

Anna Michel

The Arcanto Quartet's min-residency at Wigmore Hall was completed with the BBC Lunchtime Concert, broadcast live and now available also on BBC Radio3 Listen Again for the next seven days. [Editor]

[Arcanto Quartet pictured with Silke Avenhaus, centre, and radio presenter Sarah Walker, L]

CD REVIEW of the new Brahms CD with Silke Avenhaus: Piano Quintet op. 34; String Quartet op. 51 No.1
--- The interpretation of the piano quintet is inspired by a very collective sound idea, which is shown just as clearly in the first string quartet by Brahms...

An Amazon review of their first Bartok CD: The Arcanto Quartet is an extraordinary group. Unlike most quartets, it was formed not by young, still developing musicians, but by four mature artists, well-known as soloists, ensemble players, and conservatory professors who, after trying one another out in different combinations, decided to form a string quartet. Founded in 2002, it first appeared in Stuttgart two years later, and since then has performed widely in Germany and Japan. This is its debut recording, and it is terrific. The players are all superb; the two violinists are completely equal. In only a few years, these four musicians have found a single style for their separate personalities. Their tone blends homogeneously, yet remains individually distinct. They can alternate between taking the lead and receding into the background seamlessly and unnoticeably. Their intonation is impeccable, their articulation unanimous; they weave a clear contrapuntal texture from multi-colored strands and build climaxes upon each others' phrases within a huge dynamic range. They make Bartók's constantly changing rhythms and idiomatic syncopations rock-steady but not stiff and fit meticulously observed details into a cohesive whole. They express the sometimes wildly contrasting moods and feelings of the music with all the power of personal identification and achieve an enormous emotional impact. --Edith Eisler