All four members of
the Philharmonia Quartet Berlin sit
in emulation of another Philharmonia
Quartet (of London), which in the 1940s
was drawn from the ranks of that orchestra.
The Berlin Quartet consists of eminent
members of the Berlin Philharmonic -
Daniel Srabrawa, principal concertmaster,
second violin Christian Stadelmann,
principal violist Neithard Resa and
cellist Jan Diesselhorst. They’ve a
track record of commitment to late Beethoven,
having recorded Op.130 and the Grosse
Fuge as well as an exemplary commitment
to Shostakovich, Britten, Hindemith,
Szymanowski, Reger and Schulhoff.
As one might expect
they are tonally a well-matched quartet.
They demonstrate instrumental finesse
allied to clear ideas about textual
clarity – try the opening movement of
Op.131 for an instance of that, where
the fugal subject is well delineated.
The fourth movement Andante has elegance
as well as gravity and the tempo is
a good one, well sustained. They bring
a sense of concentrated intensity to
the brief but cosmic Adagio. The companion
is Op.135 where a sense of balance,
both instrumental and expressive is
vital. They are fully in command of
the polyrhythmic complexities of the
Scherzo as indeed they are in the slow
movement where they stress the cantante
indication. Some might find the
playing occasionally aloof, battles
too easily won, but their clean-limbed
approach makes for some stylish playing.
The recorded sound,
in the Andreaskirche, Berlin-Wannsee,
is fine; natural in perspective and
not too resonant. The notes are in German,
English and French and quote from such
late nineteenth century figures as Hans
Mersmann and Hugo Riemann – writers
that English-speaking readers will be
glad to meet.