Berlin Philharmonia Quartett performs at UMKC White Recital Hall

Joey Hill

On Friday, The Conservatory of Music and Dance hosted the Philharmonia Quartett Berlin, an ensemble of string players from Berlin’s Philharmonic Orchestra, at White Recital Hall. The Philharmonia Quartett Berlin has performed on some of the world’s most prestigious stages, and has even performed before Pope Benedict XVI.

The Quartett’s performance consisted of three major pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Bela Bartok and Johannes Brahms. These pieces offered a blend of harsh, powerful compositions and luscious, dream-like string sounds.

The first piece, Mozart’s String Quartet in C Major, “Dissonance,” was written after he met with Joseph Haydn in 1781, which prompted Mozart to write six compositions for string quartet between 1782 and 1785. The melodies written for violin were energetic and jubilant. The Quartett ensemble consists of two violins, a viola and a cello The violin melodies came out in the foreground of the piece, played by Daniel Stabrawa and Christian Stadelman.

The most pivotal part of the work was the beginning. Mozart wrote the violins to play sorrowfully while the cello and viola accompany them with a low rhythmic pulsing, which instills a feeling of sadness. The dynamic suddenly shifts into a quick and happy flow, which becomes the work’s mainstay.

The second piece, Bela Bartok’s String Quartet No. 1, features a sorrowful melody. Low, foreboding tones ooze with venerable melancholy.

The piece increased in dynamic 13 minutes in, at which point the sounds went from a dispassionate wander to a piece drunk on its own furiousness. The remainder was a sort of play. Each instrument was given a solo, only to fall back into a chaotic and enraged confusion.

During the time Bartok composed his string quartets, he was exposed to the dreamy, expressive and decadent work of Claude Debussy. Debussy composed the works that later inspired artists like Walt Disney, whose compositions encompassed a distinct narrative quality through music alone. This kind of inspiration can be seen in the later moments of the work, where Bartok wrote the four instruments to twist, writhe and surge in a solid and tightly packed sound.

After the intermission, the Quartett began its final piece, Johanne Brahms’ String Quartet No. 1 in C Minor. Unlike the first two works, the quartet began with an upbeat, lighthearted sound as the violins and viola played around the long and deep motions of the cello. A pattern emerged where the instruments joined in a pitch progression, seemingly racing each other to hit a particular high note, and then decreasing in dynamic. The piece layered melodies on top of one another, especially between the viola and violins. Even in moments when the composition relied on a lone violin with the cello, the other violin and viola played softly in the background.

The Philharmonia Quartett Berlin kept to its incredible reputation with an evening of mesmerizing music.