Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Introducing the Mosaïques, part II

When I got a call last year from New York asking whether the San Diego Early Music Society would be interested in presenting the Quatuor Mosaïques, I did not hesitate very long. Such a rare opportunity was too hard to pass up, even if it meant that the concert had to be on a weekday evening. It turns out that San Diego will be the last leg of an impressive US tour: Carnegie Hall New York, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Library of Congress, University of Chicago, Cal Performances in Berkeley, and in Vancouver, a co-presentation by the Friends of Chamber Music and Early Music Vancouver. I must say it feels rather good to be in such a distinguished company of presenters. Not to mention the quartet's usually -sold out- venues in Europe such as the Musikverein and Konzerthaus in Vienna, Wigmore Hall in London and Theatre de la Ville in Paris.

Sell-outs in Vienna and Paris are no surprise, since three members of the quartet are Austrian (Erich Höbarth, violin Andrea Bischof, violin and Anita Mitterer, alto) and one, the cellist Christophe Coin, is French. But why a French name? It appears that the idea originated with Christophe Coin, who in 1984 founded the Ensemble Mosaïques, a chamber orchestra which he dissolved one year later, keeping the name for the string quartet he then founded with the section leaders of the defunct orchestra. Christophe Coin has had quite an impressive career. He studied cello first with Andre Navarra in Paris, then moved to Vienna where he worked with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and performed in the Concentus Musicus Vienna. He also studied viola da gamba with Jordi Savall in Basle and performed in Hesperion XX.

Coin was also a member and soloist in the Academy of Ancient Music, and he also -more recently- recorded Vivaldi's cello concertos with Il Giardino Armonico. Since 1991 he has been the director of the Limoges Baroque Ensemble, which he brought to international recognition with a series of recordings of Bach cantatas. He also heads the baroque cello and viola da gamba classes at the Paris Conservatory. Needless to say, he is widely regarded as one of the leading cellists and musicians of the baroque movement.

I already introduced Erich Höbarth in the previous post, and the two other members of this extraordinary quartet are also well known in the baroque movement. Andrea Bischof and Anita Mitterer are both permanent members of the Concentus Musicus but have also very impressive achievements elsewhere. Andrea Mitterer has held the position of Konzertmeisterin and soloist of the Austrian Bach Soloists, and is Professor of Chamber Music at the Musikhochschule in Vienna. Anita Mitterer -who plays the violin in the CMV- is also Director of the Baroque Ensemble of Salzburg and teaches violin and viola at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.

This concert will be the last of their US tour, and it will also be the last of our 2008-2009 International Series. This was an early music journey that started in the 14th century with Machaut and Diabolus in Musica, took us through the Renaissance with ALSQ, and let us wander in the baroque era with Bach and Vivaldi. I could not think of a better ending than looking forward to Haydn and Mozart with such extraordinary musicians.
Laurent Planchon

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Introducing the Mosaïques, part I

The last concert of our 2008-2009 season is the Quatuor Mosaïques, and this is one I am especially looking forward to for lots of different reasons. Firstly, I am very fond of Nikolaus Harnoncourt's Concentus Musicus Wien, and being able to present this extraordinary string quartet composed of members (or ex-members in the case of cellist Christophe Coin) of this marvelous ensemble is quite a privilege. But reducing this string quartet to their relationship to the Concentus Musicus is not very fair either, as they have succeeded on their own in becoming the first (maybe with the exception of the Festestics) string quartet playing on period instruments to play at the level of the legendary string quartets (on modern instruments) of the past and of today.

Over the next few entries to this blog, I shall try to present the other members of the Mosaiques, but let me start with first violin Erich Höbarth. Mr Höbarth is probably most famous for having succeeded Alice Harnoncourt as concertmaster and soloist of the Concentus Musicus Wien in the 80s (and as such can be heard in numerous recordings of the ensemble), but -also very impressively- he became a member of the famous Végh-Quartet at only 21, and first concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony at only 24. He was also a member of the Vienna String Sextet, appears as a soloist with countless ensembles such as the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and Chapelle Royale of Paris and is Artsitic Director of the Camerata Bern. Needless to say he is a master of both the modern and baroque violin and plays on a violin by Guarnerius filius Andreae, Cremona 1705.

With the exception of French cellist Christophe Coin (who I guess came up with the French name for this string quartet and whom I shall present next), all the members of Quatuor Mosaïques are Viennese and are also part of the very special Viennese baroque movement (there have been a lot of arguments about how different the Concentus Musicus sounds compared to other ensembles from Amsterdam and elsewhere and how different their baroque technique can be) and being able to hear this fine ensemble in a purely Viennese program (Haydn, Mozart and Schubert) is quite a rare opportunity that I invite you not to miss.

Laurent Planchon