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Aleix Palau | 12 September 2022

The second Barcelona Quartet Biennale celebrates the 25th anniversary of Cuarteto Casals

Cuarteto Casals will be joined by the legendary Ébène, Jerusalem, Belcea, Jack and Quiroga quartets and the younger Cosmos, Atenea, Aris and Maurice ensembles.
During the five-day event there will be eight concerts with three world premieres and three national premieres.

The second Barcelona Quartet Biennale celebrates the 25th anniversary of Cuarteto Casals

L’Auditori starts the season in impressive style with the second Barcelona Quartet Biennale. The event is jointly curated by L’Auditori and Cuarteto Casals and will take place in Halls 2 and 4 at L’Auditori from 14 to 18 September.

This year’s Biennale will bring together some of today’s best known ensembles, including the Casals, Ébène, Jerusalem, Jack, Belcea and Quiroga quartets, and a number of younger groups who are beginning to make their presence felt, such as the Cosmos, Atenea, Aris and Maurice quartets.

The Biennale will be the culmination of the events marking the 25th anniversary of Cuarteto Casals, whose members are Vera Martínez Mehner and Abel Tomàs Realp, violins, Jonathan Brown, viola, and Arnau Tomàs Realp, cello. Resident at L’Auditori, it has become a leading international chamber music group over the last twenty-five years.

The aim of the Quartet Biennale is to bring together the best domestic and international string quartets to put Barcelona at the forefront in this genre. L’Auditori also hopes to highlight the splendid repertoire written for quartets, encourage the composition of new works and establish cross-generation links between musicians.

The Art of Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach will provide a common theme in the Biennale. Considered the supreme expression of counterpoint, the work, which influenced musicians such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, will be played at the end of the cycle by Cuarteto Casals, joined by the distinguished harpsichord player Benjamin Alard.

The Biennale will consist of morning and evening sessions. The inaugural concert on 14 September will feature the Casals and Ébène quartets, playing music by Mozart, Johannes Brahms and Sofia Gubaidulina, guest composer for the 2022-23 season, in Hall 2 Oriol Martorell. The evening concerts will continue with the Jerusalem Quartet and the Atenea Quartet on 15 September. They will be playing music by Benet Casablancas, Antonín Dvořák and Mozart. The Belcea Quartet and the Aris Quartet will be performing on 16 September, in a programme that features the first performance in this country of Misato Mochizuki’s in-side from Brains and pieces by Franz Schubert, Beethoven, Dmitri Shostakovich and György Kurtág.

On Saturday evening audiences will be able to enjoy a double programme. In the first session, at 5 pm, the Jack Quartet and the Quartetto Maurice will be playing new compositions, featuring the world premieres of works by Daniel Apodaka and Joan Arnau Pàmies, and music by Giacinto Scelsi, Núria Giménez-Comas, Fausto Romitelli, Erin Gee, John Luther Adams and Eric Wubbels.

At 7.30 pm Cuarteto Quiroga will be performing string quintets by Mozart, with a guest appearance by violist Isabel Charisius, who played with the legendary Alban Berg Quartet in its later years.

The closing concert will be on Sunday 18 September with Cuarteto Casals and the Cosmos Quartet, who will perform the world premiere of String Quartet No. 1 by Octavi Rumbau, a work commissioned by the Biennale, and The Art of Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach. This performance is a considerable challenge for Cuarteto Casals in a season that marks its 25th anniversary. Recently the group made a recording of this work for the Harmonia Mundi label at the Col·legiata de Sant Vicenç in Cardona, which will be released soon.

The morning sessions will take place in Hall 4 Alicia de Larrocha on 15 and 16 September. The Cosmos Quartet and the Aris Quartett will continue the Papa Haydn cycle, launched as part of the first Biennale, performing quartets by Joseph Haydn, the great Austrian composer considered the father of the genre.

The Quartet Biennale will also include three complementary activities, with the support of other institutions in Barcelona. On Saturday 17 September, in Hall 4 Alicia de Larrocha at 12 noon, there will be an open concert (booking required) by the Lazarus String Quartet and Erica Wise, organised by Musethica and ESMuC. Musethica sessions, which combine musical excellence and social commitment in the form of social concerts, open rehearsals and academic work, will be held in various civic centres and foundations in Barcelona throughout the week of the Biennale.

On Sunday 18 September at 12 noon, the Ateneu Barcelonès will host a poetry and music event based on T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, which will be combined with musical items. The poems will be read by poet and translator Manuel Forcano and Jonathan Brown, the Cuarteto Casals’ violist, and interspersed with live performances of musical fragments linked to the main theme of the Biennale (The Art of Fugue) by cellist Erica Wise.

Finally, the Filmoteca de Catalunya has prepared two sessions linked to the Biennale and will be showing the films Copying Beethoven by Agnieszka Holland on 18 October and The Late Quartet by Yaron Zilberman, on 15 November. The two films, which form part of the Per amor a les Arts cycle, organised by the Filmoteca in conjunction with various other institutions in Barcelona, will include a short live appearance by the Atenea Quartet (18 October) and a presentation and talk by Cuarteto Casals (15 November).

The Barcelona Quartet Biennale is an initiative from Cuarteto Casals and L’Auditori de Barcelona, who jointly curate the event, with the support of the Government of Catalonia’s Ministry of Culture and the Institut Ramon Llull. The Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (ESMuC), Musethica, the Filmoteca de Catalunya and the Ateneu Barcelonès are also participating in this year’s event.

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