Introducing the Kuss Quartet, touring for Musica Viva in September
Subtly but distinctively charismatic, the Kuss Quartet is firmly established in the elite of the world’s string quartets, having initially come to prominence in 2002 with first prizes from the German Music Council and from the Borciani String Quartet Competition in Reggio Emilia. A Borlotti–Buitoni award followed in 2003; in the same year, the group was selected for the European Concert Hall Organisation’s Rising Stars program. The Kuss Quartet’s schedule now features such venues as Carnegie Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, London’s Wigmore Hall and, in its home city of Berlin, the Philharmonie. Its many festival engagements have includedand the Schubertiade Schwarzenberg.
‘Each sound, each phrase, each newly conceived repeat seemed to have been cleared of dust, re-examined and lovingly repolished,’ was the judgment of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The ensemble’s readiness to experiment is manifest not only in its engagement with early and new music, but also in its interpretations of the standard quartet repertoire, informed by an awareness that in their time, many of these works were groundbreaking in their impact.
The members of the Kuss Quartet draw in new listeners by complementing innovative and creative programming with verbal commentaries. In cooperation with Kulturradio, run by Berlin’s regional broadcaster RBB, the Kuss Quartet regularly appears in the Watergate nightclub in the city’s hip Kreuzberg area, performing composers like Ligeti and Lachenmann for an enthusiastic young audience before handing over to the evening’s DJ. Other initiatives combine musical and literary art-forms, notably in regular collaborations with the distinguished German actor Udo Samel. With their refreshing approach to the genre of the string quartet, and to its masterpieces, the players take the members of their audience on a fascinating voyage of discovery and rediscovery.
The breadth of the Kuss Quartet’s repertoire is exemplified in the Sony BMG release Bridges, which, creating connections across the centuries, juxtaposes transcriptions of Renaissance composers (Lassus, Bennet, Dowland) with works by Adès, Kurtág and Stravinsky. Another ‘composed program’, Theme Russe, combining, among others, original works and transcriptions by Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Schnittke, has recently been released on the English label Onyx Classics. The Quartet’s relationship with Onyx began in March 2011, with a CD released of Schubert and Berg.
Artistic partnerships have developed with such artists as Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Miklós Perényi, Kirill Gerstein, and Mojca Erdmann, and in January 2012 the Quartet was a guest of Camerata Bern as both soloist and artistic directors during a week-long series of concerts.