This autumn, the globally acclaimed Bennewitz Quartet will mark a quarter of a century on the music scene. They will celebrate the anniversary in advance – in late May with the release of a new album, featuring Joseph Haydn’s string quartets, and in July with a performance at Wigmore Hall, their seventh at the prestigious London venue. Haydn’s String Quartets Opp. 17/5, 33/2 and 54/2 feature on the ensemble’s new album, to be released on Supraphon on Friday 26 May 2023 on CD and in digital formats.
The Bennewitz Quartet have given concerts at major venues worldwide (Wigmore Hall, Musikverein Wien, Konzerthaus Berlin, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, concert halls in New York and Seoul) and at significant international festivals (Salzburger Festspiele, Lucerne Festival, Rheingau Musik Festival, etc.). At many of them, they have performed quartets by Joseph Haydn, one of their favourite composers, whose music they endow with a transparent sound, revealing their levity and sense for detail.
The Bennewitz Quartet violinist Štěpán Ježek said: “Our new album aims to show a certain part of Haydn’s development as a composer. The quartets comprising Op. 17 are generally considered early works. The pieces making up Op. 33 are written in an entirely different style, as Haydn himself pointed out. Op. 54 ranks among the composer’s top-notch mature creations. Truly fascinating is Haydn’s unceasing zest for experimentation, seeking novel ways and paths. The String Quartet in C major, Op. 54/2, is as innovative and teeming with non-classical compositional techniques as the String Quartet in G major, Op. 17/5. Sometimes I have the feeling that Haydn might have been so eagerly working on establishing the rules of composing Classical music as to be able to profit from their constant breaching. Our ensemble has played all the three string quartets contained on our new album for a long time, hence we have thoroughly familiarised ourselves with them as performers. Such an intimate knowledge has always been one of the most important aspects when selecting pieces for recordings.”
During the 18th century, the string quartet gained the position of the most valued and most challenging chamber music genre, and gradually became a vehicle for conveying the composer’s personal feelings. Joseph Haydn played a key role in forging the quartet’s classical form. He created almost 70 string quartets, which, along with the symphonies, constitute the largest, as well as the most significant, part of his oeuvre. The three quartets included on the present album chart the development of Haydn’s musical idiom, from Op. 17 (1771), which he wrote at the age of 40, through Op. 33, dubbed “Gli Scherzi” (1781), to the formally experimental pieces making up Op. 54 (1788).
In the next season, the Bennewitz Quartet will return to stages in Germany and the USA. Domestic audiences can look forward to their appearance at the Dvořák Prague festival and a special evening organised by the Czech Chamber Music Society within the Czech Philharmonic.
Bennewitz Quartet: Jakub Fišer – first violin, Štěpán Ježek – second violin, Jiří Pinkas – viola, Štěpán Doležal – cello