The boldly compelling Berlin-based Artemis Quartet return to Southbank Centre in March, 2019 with stirring masterworks by Barber, Britten and Schubert. Five years on from their last appearance at Southbank Centre, then, as now, as part of the International Chamber Music Series, we spoke to violist Gregor Sigl ahead of their return.
In this short interview Sigl tells us about their chosen Southbank Centre repertoire, who he feels is the most influential composer for strings, and the challenges of being in a string quartet.
Why did you choose the pieces on your Southbank Centre programme, and why do you think they work well together?
Schubert's Death and the Maiden is perhaps the most played and well-known piece in the whole string quartet repertoire and the reason for that is obvious - it is one of the most accomplished, genius and emotional pieces that any composer has ever written for our formation. It has an electrifying dramatic power, the most beautiful melodic lines combined with a strong rhythmical structure and a heart breaking harmonic feel, balancing between smile and tears, as it's often the case in Schubert's music.
The key of Barber's Adagio, in a fully different era and context, also lies in its harmonic tension which makes a very simple and pure melodic line sound extremely rich in colours and different human feelings.
In his fabulous second string quartet, Benjamin Britten experiments a lot with the relation between melody and harmony as well, especially in its epic last movement, where the main theme of the chacony appears in 22 different lights and characters.
All three of these compositions that we are going to present at Southbank Centre are incontestable masterpieces, celebrating life between its brightness and darkness, between love and hate, between despair and courage.
How has your quartet evolved since its formation?
The history of our quartet, just like the repertoire we will present at Southbank Centre, has been very complex, rich, beautiful, dramatic, heart breaking and life changing. There have been lots of personal changes and challenges; a very hard time accepting the death of our colleague Friedemann Weigle, and then finding courage and strength to go on and to continue this beautiful journey of playing string quartet.
You have toured a lot as a Quartet, what's the secret to a happy life on the road?
The secret to a happy life on the road is a mutual respect and a high intuition.
What is the best thing about playing in a quartet?
The best thing is the possibility to express yourself, to be able to create, to always enjoy the process and never reach the goal.
And the worst?
The security lines and delays in the airports.
Who do you feel is the single most influential string quartet composer?
Definitely Ludwig van Beethoven.