Arts concert review

A return to the classics

The Philharmonia Quartett Berlin performs Haydn, Beethoven, and Schumann

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Violinists Daniel Stabrawa and Christian Stadelmann, violist Neithard Resa, and cellist Dietmar Schwalke perform at Jordan Hall.
Photo credit: Robert Torres

Philharmonia Quartett Berlin
Presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston
NEC’s Jordan Hall
Mar. 3, 2017

Founded over 20 years ago and critically acclaimed, the Philharmonia Quartett Berlin has a large repertoire and history of international concerts. Performing for the second time in the Celebrity Series of Boston, the quartet members welcomed the audience to their lifelong exploration of classical music.

The violins did not merely recite: they sang. Stabrawa and Stadelmann drew out elegant passages that cloaked the audience in a stupor. The first movement of Haydn’s Quartet in G Major lingered around a repeated theme, as if revolving around a lost memory before moving on. This elegant motif set the tone for the rest of the night.

The other four movements of Haydn’s Quartet were equally beautiful. The passages with pizzicato were crisp, light, and dainty. Incorporating folk dance elements, the Menuetto was performed with a liveliness and delicate touch, and the finale felt like a seamless introduction to the following quartets, both inspired by Haydn.

The Quartett performed the five movements of Beethoven’s Quartet in B-flat Major with animated fervor. Beethoven’s composition shifts its tone mercurially; slow, somber phrases didn’t last long before soaring into uplifting, vivacious passages.

The introduction to the finale, titled La Malinconia was marked with tension, a seeming exception to the exuberance of the previous movements. Even the final movement, Alegretto quasi Allegro, was tinged with lingering regret while triumphantly ending the tragedy with a dramatic finish.

The less dramatic Quartet in A Minor is a product of Schumann’s expansion outside of his former piano compositions since 1840. Schumann’s Quartet in A minor draws from Bach — and like Beethoven, also draws from Haydn — but its Scherzo: Presto movement especially echoes passages from Mendelssohn’s works.

With elegant artistry that only comes from decades of experience, the Quartett's performance was effortless and stunning. It was no surprise for performers of their caliber, but their visible dedication to their craft is praiseworthy. I left rejuvenated that evening.