Cuarteto Casals © Molina Visuals (Ausschnitt)
«A quartet for the new millennium», was how The Strad enthusiastically described the Cuarteto Casals. To mark its 20th anniversary, the quartet will perform all of Beethoven's string quartets in the Wiener Konzerthaus over a period of 10 days, alongside new works by six Mediterranean composers.
Violinist Vera Martinez and the brothers Abel und Arnaud Tomas (violin and cello) founded the Cuarteto Casals in Madrid’s Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofia in 1997. The American viola player Jonathan Brown was the fourth member until 2002. Among the many different prizes with which the quartet was showered early on were the First Prize in the London String Quartet Competition, the international Brahms Prize in Hamburg and all of the major Spanish prizes. The Barcelona-based quartet quickly joined the premiere league of string quartets and is regarded as one of the most exciting worldwide with its very special sound, its differentiated articulation and phrasing and its dramatic and gripping tempi.
Its core repertoire includes all of the classics from the 18th until the 20th centuries. But the four members of the quartet are always on the lookout for new impulses, be it by performing lesser-known Spanish compositions or by collaborating with contemporary composers. They invested the prize money from the London Borletti-Buitoni Trust in the purchase of a complete set of classical bows. And while Vera Martínez plays first violin in repertoire from the Romantic period onwards, it is Abel Tomàs who takes over as first violin in the Classical repertoire. Their fresh interpretations of well-known works are intoxicating. While remaining true to the letter of the score, they also take great delight in their quest for just the right balance in every repertoire, combining the two to achieve a genuinely contemporary approach to music-making.
When the Cuarteto Casals takes on all of Beethoven’s string quartets in a series of six concerts for its 20th anniversary, audiences can not only look forward to a «Beethoven-Marathon» of the highest calibre. But each concert will also include six brand new works that the musicians have commissioned in collaboration with six concert organizers in Amsterdam, Turin, Madrid, London, Barcelona and Vienna. Three of the composers are Italian – Aureliano Cattaneo, Lucio Amanti and Giovanni Sollima; two are Spanish – Francisco Coll and Mauricio Sotelo; and there is one Israeli – Matan Porat.
The contemporary works will not only cast Beethoven's string quartets in a new and different light, but, combined with the outstanding musicianship of the Cuarteto Casals, they will also sharpen the audiences' ears for a fresh and intensive encounter with those classical masterpieces: from the six op. 18 quartets (written between 1797 and 1800 to rival Mozart’s and Haydn's masterpieces in the genre) to Beethoven's late works which explore and extend musical boundaries and are feared even today for their difficulty and their ruthless technical demands, eclipsing any works that preceded them. The 80-year-old Igor Stravinsky described the Great Fugue in B-Major op. 133 as «the most perfect miracle, the most contemporary piece of music I know and one that will always remain contemporary.»