vision string quartet to make its recording debut this March
It is quite a surprise for a dynamic young string quartet to make its recording debut with an album, memento, which takes mortality and death as its theme … But the members of the vision quartet (as that lower-case ‘v’ indicates) like to do things a little differently. The Berlin-based players certainly have impeccable credentials for Schubert (the Quartet in D minor, ‘Der Tod und das Mädchen’) and Mendelssohn (Quartet No 6 in F minor). Founded in 2012, the ensemble studied with members of the Artemis Quartet and Alban Berg Quartet and made its first significant impact in 2016. That year, the players won first prize in two major competitions – the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Competition in Berlin and the International Concours de Génève. They also received the prestigious Würth Prize (awarded by Jeunesses Musicales Deutschland) and the Audience Prize at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival. Two years later, in 2018, they received the Jürgen Ponto Foundation’s chamber music prize. The vision quartet comprises Jakob Encke, Daniel Stoll, Sander Stuart, and Leonard Disselhorst. The intensity of their performances led Berlin’s Tagesspiegel to describe their playing as “improvisational in spirit … unusually vital, physical and electrifying …” while Die Welt, also based in Berlin, observed that “Performing without a safety net … the highly committed players ventured into the extreme regions of emotional expression.”
The vision quartet has appeared at such venues as the Konzerthaus Berlin, Gewandhaus Leipzig, Tonhalle Düsseldorf, and Philharmonie Luxembourg, and at festivals like Lucerne, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Rheingau and Heidelberg Frühling. The quartet’s members make each concert special by performing all scores from memory and playing standing up rather than seated. Venturing beyond the mainstream and sometimes pushing limits, they have given concerts in complete darkness, collaborated on projects with the ballet dancer and choreographer John Neumeier, and brought in lighting designers to add a further dimension to the audience’s experience. The quartet also performs its own compositions. Introducing Memento, the members of the vision quartet say: “Since we first decided to spend a remarkably large part of our waking hours together as a group of four, we’ve cleverly managed to keep postponing the notion of a debut album. So it’s all the more exciting for us on this, our first album, to be recording two works that have been with us from the very start and which have become enormously close to our hearts over the years. Together with amazing sound engineer Christoph Franke, we shut ourselves away in the former Sendesaal Bremen studio with bow hairs strewn about us and blood and tears shed by the litre. And this is how our entirely personal take on both these phenomenal pieces came about.
Franz Schubert’s D minor quartet was written in 1824, four years before the composer’s death at the age of just 31. It takes its name from a song he wrote in 1817, and which he quotes in the second movement: a young woman is visited by Death, who invites her to sleep in his arms. The mood of the song – sombre yet by no means grim, and in some respects beguiling – informs the entire work. Felix Mendelssohn also died young – at the age of 38. He wrote his Quartet No. 6, his last work in the genre, just months before his death in November 1847. It stands as a memorial to his beloved sister, Fanny – also a gifted musician and composer – who died in May that year.
She suffered a fatal stroke while rehearsing one of her brother’s works. Mendelssohn is often seen as a sunny composer, but the quartet is full of anxiety and agitation, with only the third movement, Adagio, exemplifying his characteristic transparency and clarity.
In the 2019/20 season the vision quartet is making its first tours of the USA, Canada and Japan. Engagements in Europe include the Berlin Philharmonie, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Liederhalle Stuttgart, Società del Quartetto in Milan, Wigmore Hall in London, appearances in Norway (Oslo, Bergen and Bodø) and a residency at the Bodensee Festival, an event which embraces Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Repertoire for the season includes works by Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Ravel, the Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-69) – and the members of the vision quartet.