“I couldn‘t live without playing string quartets,” says Ilya Gringolts, and that is how the Gringolts Quartet came into existence. At 15 to 20 concerts per year, it has become a substantial part of the violinist’s musical agenda. In August 2014, for instance, the four string players can be heard at the Salzburg Festival and the Menuhin Festival Gstaad.
“For me, it wasn’t enough to just perform as a soloist or in the occasional chamber music setting,” explains Ilya Gringolts. He shares his love for the vast string quartet repertory with his wife, the violinist Anahit Kurtikyan, with whom he founded the ensemble in 2008. “The repertoire is incredibly diverse and you could spend a lifetime on the Haydn quartets alone. Our approach, on the other hand, is to try and play as many different works as possible, including contemporary ones.”
In Salzburg the couple, together with violist Silvia Simionescu and cellist Claudius Herrmann, will perform Marc-André Dalbavie’s 2012 string quartet. It will feature alongside the world premiere of his new opera Charlotte Salomon. The Dalbavie quartet will be complemented by Ravel’s only string quartet as well as the original string septet version of Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen which is now more widely known in the version for 23 solo strings.
In 2013, their recording of the septet was awarded the ECHO Klassik for the best chamber music recording of the year. On the same CD, the Gringolts Quartet and cellist David Geringas juxtaposed the Metamorphosen with the roughly contemporaneous string quintet by the Nazi-persecuted composer Walter Braunfels. The music magazine Rondo described it as “a CD that not only invites but almost compels the listeners to let themselves become immersed in the music.”
The ensemble’s first CD with chamber music works by Robert Schumann was met with similar enthusiasm. In a review, the magazine KulturSpiegel noted that, “from the violin sonatas to the piano quintet, everything is thrilling and well-executed.” Peter Laul, the pianist who joined the quartet for the Schumann CD, was also involved in their most recent release on Orchid Classics, a complete recording of Brahms’ three string quartets and his piano quintet. Together with pianist Leon Fleisher the quartet will be performing the latter piece in concert in Gstaad.
“In a string quartet, a real friendship grows out of the music,” says Ilya Gringolts on the inner workings of the quartet. As the first three entries in their discography already demonstrate, these bonds of friendship extend to a number of high-profile chamber music partners as well. For the four members of the quartet themselves, it is their friendship that allows them to make plans for the long-term: to explore, work by work, the wonders of the quartet repertoire and at the same time break new musical ground with world premieres. “Under these premises, I’m sure we can look ahead to a long history together.”
Nina Rohlfs, 07/2014 | Translation: Christoph Dennerlein