DIE KLASSIK-REIHE, Neustadt an der Weinstraße, December 1, 2019
From the review of the second concert of the quartet’s concert series in its hometown:
This sombre, bittersweet music gifted us one of those magical moments that can be experienced time after time with the Mandelring Quartet.
Again they created a sound which was both intense and often powerful, and a fervour that became, in the pianissimo passages, almost unbearable….
The four players exploited the entire dynamic range available to a string quartet, playing with great musical wit, at times verging on jauntiness, and revelling in the great cello aria that so clearly shows how close this music comes to opera. The final movement displayed again to maximum effect the Mandelring Quartet’s truly great strengths – their crystal clarity and the density of their sound quality.
Their interpretation of this quartet can, without question, be called exemplary. The accelerando towards the end of the finale was quite simply masterly!
(Die Rheinpfalz, Matthias Ibelshäuser)
BERLIN CYCLE, Philharmonie Berlin, January 19, 2019
The opening work in the Mandelring Quartet’s concert on 18 January 2019, given in the chamber music hall of the Philharmonie, was Ernst von Dohnányi’s second piano quintet. Under the title “Der Moment zählt” (The moment counts), Der Tagesspiegel’s critic, Udo Badelt, described the performance as follows:
“It sounded balanced, almost noble, as if it were being played on a higher plane of understanding.” The Mandelring Quartet, he goes on, is legendary for its “perfect consonance”, “distinguished by its homogeneity in tempo, dynamics and tone colour”, such that the listener wonders again and again whether the sound really is coming from four instruments or from a single one. The pianist Lauma Skride “accents her contributions with crystal clarity”. He remarks that her playing “perfectly suits the quartet’s tonal ideal and exploits every moment with the greatest intensity”.
In the rendering of Haydn’s “Sunrise” quartet the critic notes a blend of “decisiveness and dreaminess”. The concert’s final work was Dvorák’s piano quintet in A, and here Bernhard Schmidt’s cello “sets the tone with the touching main theme”. In the second movement the reviewer comments on how vividly the players bring out the contrast between melancholy and fiery phases, and take the same approach for the high-spirited “Furiant” theme in the third. The finale, he says, is powerful and energetic yet also “full of subtle layers of sound”.
His summing-up: “In the serenity lies the power”.
Schubertiade Schwarzenberg, Austria, June 25, 2018
The Vorarlberger Nachrichten write in a review titled Scintillating with vitality:
The Bregenz Forest community is once again the pivot and focus of attention for devotion to Schubert at the highest level. In twenty very well attended concerts and a course of master-classes this 43rd Schubertiade has again assembled the elite of renowned performers of song, chamber works and piano music. First up was the Mandelring Quartet. Siblings Sebastian, Nanette and Bernhard Schmidt from Neustadt, Germany, together with their friend Andreas Willwohl (viola), opened the proceedings with Schubert’s A minor quartet, “Rosamunde”. Their playing style, initially restrained and controlled in every phase, soon opened up to electrifying effect with an extensive dynamic range, a rich palette of colours and a focus on those emotions that go to make this work into one of Schubert’s most ambiguous. The Andante second movement is permeated by the famous theme, simple and songlike, but its optimistic mood is then obliterated by the desolate melody of the Minuetto. This ambivalence is exactly what people so love in Schubert’s music. His unique Octet in F major, which followed, involves not only an enhanced group of players but also an intensification of the compositional material. It becomes a small orchestra as it celebrates the six movements, often sweepingly conceived as if the composer were aspiring towards a symphony. As so often at Schubertiades, this was a one-off combination of musicians who have worked on this piece together here: joining the Mandelring Quartet were the nimble Nabil Shehata on the double-bass, Laura Ruiz Ferreres unfolding wonderful flowing lines on the clarinet, Sibylle Mahni on the horn (often regrettably too prominent) and Bence Bogányi as the reliable bassoonist. Their spontaneous collaboration scintillated with vitality much more than if they had been an ensemble that was thoroughly used to playing together.
BERLIN CYCLE, Philharmonie Berlin, February 22, 2017
The second concert in the Berlin cycle was reviewed by Albrecht Selge in Hundert11-Konzertgänger in Berlin, who wrote:
“The Mandelring Quartet’s tone is distinguished by such a degree of tension yet also fragility that one fears everything must burst in the very first bars: the music, the listener’s heart, the whole world. But instead they sing and cry out, in terror and mysteriously wan beauty: music, heart, world.”
Clemens Goldberg of Kulturradio vom RBB, writing of Berg’s Lyric Suite, said:
“What unfolds in Berg’s Lyric Suite is not a drama of loneliness but a drama of love between Alban Berg and Hanna Fuchs. Once again the quartet gives a wonderfully illuminating insight into the highly virtuosic score; the whispering third movement seems full of trepidation, the love night positively glows.”
The Berliner Zeitung writes:
“A work by Berg can be played in two ways: coolly and analytically or with full tone and great pathos. The Mandelring Quartet combines the two approaches and masters the score with breathtaking precision.”
The final work in the concert, Schubert’s last quartet, the G major, is described thus by Albrecht Selge:
“The Mandelring Quartet’s Schubert is so eloquent that one is rendered speechless. It’s so full of pain, yet so beautiful.”
Munich, January 31, 2017
Munich, Residenz, Max-Joseph-Saal, 31 January 2017
At the start of his review, titled “The art of chamber music”, the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s critic, Harald Eggebrecht, goes in detail into the F major string quartet by Brahms’s contemporary Felix Otto Dessoff. He describes it as “charming, compositionally ambitious, free from any deliberate display of erudition, and never derivative”, and he observes the Mandelring Quartet‘s “manifest delight in surprising us with this elegant work”.
Eggebrecht goes on to describe the next work , Dvořák’s American Quartet: “The musicians exploit this quartet to the full with supreme skill: the vitality of the opening movement, the spacious Lento, so touching and full of yearning, the rhythmically witty Scherzo and the irresistibly fiery finale.”
In the Mandelring Quartet’s rendition the Brahms quartet “became a sombre yet rugged C minor sound-world”. In the Romanze the reviewer was moved by “the melancholy fading to pianissimo that is often found in Brahms’s musical landscapes, particularly in his slow movements”. This contrasts with “charm and a touch of dance-like swing” in the third movement, and a “tenderly beatific cantilena” in the encore, the Andante cantabile from Tchaikovsky’s opus 11. (Süddeutsche Zeitung, Harald Eggebrecht)
BERLIN CYCLE, Philharmonie Berlin, February 25, 2016
The Berliner Zeitung starts its review of the opening concert of this year’s Berlin Cycle in the Berlin Philharmonie “The Mandelring Quartet, from Neustadt on Germany’s Wine Road, has been one of the world’s leading ensembles of its kind for almost twenty years.” and remarks on the new violist “After all this time the fourth player in the group is now Andreas Willwohl. He is not an unknown figure in Berlin, having been, until 2012, leader of the violas in the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and thus one of its key players. He is a lucky find for the quartet. In the ensemble of four equally important instruments, each with an individually articulated voice, his viola tone makes its presence felt yet blends in so naturally that the listener is quite startled by a paradoxical experience: a new voice that makes the quartet’s great potential into a whole new experience.”
Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 8 – the second work on the concert – is called “simply one of the 20th century’s masterpieces, restless and compelling when performed in such a concentrated manner as the Mandelring Quartet’s” … “In the outer movements of Brahms’s first quartet the players unleashed a wild frenzy of sound that, however, never seemed brutal…. They also displayed their supremely impressive insight into overall structure in the third of Beethoven’s Opus 18 quartets, the most lyrical of this group of works. The tempi of the individual movements were unusually well harmonized, not only in their inter-relationship but also in the way the players grasped the true essence of the character of each: the first movement not too fast, the Andante not too slow – masterly yet full of excitement.”
(Berliner Zeitung, Martin Wilkening)
Stuttgart, January 13, 2015
The headline of the Stuttgarter Zeitung’s review of a recital of three string sextets read: “Frenetic, delectable, and daredevil”.
Referring to Brahms’s G major sextet, the critic writes: “Here, together with the homogeneous and disciplined ensemble playing, was a second reason to enjoy this warmly applauded performance: the players take so many risks”… and his verdict on their forceful and assured playing style is: gripping.
The review ends with a discussion of their account of Tchaikovsky’s string sextet Souvenir de Florence: “Quite otherworldly, by contrast, was the effect of the dolefully shimmering second movement with a rich, sumptuous tone that emanated from the closely blending lower voices and even bedded in perfectly with the violins’ upper register. A daredevil last flourish came with the whirlwind energy of the finale, whose powerful magnetism drew well-deserved and thunderous applause.”
(Stuttgarter Zeitung, Markus Dippold)
Bonn, December 10, 2014
The Bonner Rundschau, in a review titled “Musical Fireworks”, wrote: “A great musical event happened at the concert on Wednesday in the Kammermusiksaal in which the Mandelring Quartet brought in Mirjam Tschopp, viola, and Maximilian Hornung, cello, to become a sextet. The result was explosive, a positive firework display: not only because of the music itself (Strauss. Brahms, Tchaikovsky) – rarely heard because of the unusual combination of instruments – but because of the very zestful, high-quality performance by Sebastian Schmidt and Nanette Schmidt (violins), Roland Glassl (viola) and Bernhard Schmidt (cello) with their two guest players.” The reviewer describes the Sextet from Capriccio by Richard Strauss as a “splendid overture”. Brahms’s G major Sextet had a “sparkling and vivacious opening movement and a scherzo more like folk music, leading into a turbulent waltz, followed by a stringent, rhythmically marked account of the last two movements”.
(Bonner Rundschau, Felicitas Zink, December 13, 2014)
The Generalanzeiger commended a “closely-woven ‘conversation’ in the chamber music idiom such as one rarely experiences”, described the performance of Brahms’s Sextet as “energetically rich and textually scrupulous”, and wrote of Tchaikovsky’s sextet Souvenir de Florence that “positive tempests of emotion were unleashed by their luxuriant sound… thrilling!”
(General-Anzeiger Bonn, Fritz Herzog, December 12, 2014)
Berlin, July 11-13, 2014, Anniversary Concerts “3 from amongst 30”
The event was reviewed in the leading Berlin newspapers and on the radio.
The Berliner Zeitung begins its review thus: “Since the appearance of their complete recording of all fifteen string quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich, the Mandelring Quartet has ranked amongst the world’s most exciting quartets. Their recording of all the Mendelssohn quartets, completed this year, has enhanced their reputation even further. Untroubled by the clichés of formal equilibrium and harmonic blandness, the Mandelring Quartet goes back to the drawing-board and reveals how expressive and radical this composer, apparently so untroubled, could really be.” The reviewer of the Ligeti in the first concert wrote: “It is hard to believe the degree of mastery with which they play around with tonal inflections, how figurations spill into sonorities and sonorities into figurations, how, even in savage chords and sudden silences, they draw in scenic elements, and introduce a pervasive, droll humour that anticipates the later Ligeti, however close he seems to be to the baroque.”
The Tagesspiegel, reviewing the final work in the opening concert, wrote: “Schubert’s D minor quartet, “Death and the Maiden”, is definitely the most popular choice and in the Mandelring’s interpretation precisely conveys that duality between the fear of death and the longing for it which also characterizes the poem by Claudius which Schubert chose to set.” Writing of the way the concert is set up, the reviewer observes: “The audience, closely grouped all around the little podium, shares in the passion of the players at first hand, with no frictional loss.”
The Berliner Morgenpost wrote: “In the course of thirty years the four members of the famous Mandelring Quartet have grown so closely together that even their breathing almost seems synchronized. They speak with a single voice and feel with a single great heart.” The review continues: “Again and again a playful lightness of touch penetrates into the Mandelring Quartet’s intensely concentrated urge for expression.”
The RBB Kulturradio, Berlin’s cultural radio station, commented on Beethoven’s F minor quartet op. 95, which opened the celebratory cycle of concerts: “Here what particularly distinguishes the Mandelring Quartet was immediately to the fore: despite all their experience and their meticulous work in rehearsal, this music is never heavy going; all four players allow their expertise about structure to be veiled by a high degree of sensuality. It’s not a question of, as it were, carefully balancing on a tightrope: they jump fearlessly on to it and dance.” Turning to Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden”, the reviewer goes on: “The four players took an insightful approach… The effect was very austere, but at the decisive moments the music suddenly exploded. It was impressive to see how the musicians acted almost like on a stage and tossed the motifs from one to another as if playing a complex game with a ball. No other present-day quartet gives this impression in the way the Mandelring Quartet does, and as one listened one was positively forced to breathe in the same rhythm as the musicians – the effect was like being drawn into their slipstream.”
BERLIN CYCLE, Philharmonie Berlin, May 6, 2014
Under a headline meaning “a cold start at full tilt”, Christiane Peitz reviews the third concert in the Berlin cycle, in which the quartet was joined by Miryam Tschopp (viola) and Gustav Rivinius (cello), and comments: “The Mandelring Quartet takes on two guest players in the Kammermusiksaal and delivers a full-bodied, thrilling evening” which she further describes thus: “There follow reckless accelerandi, intricately virtuoso contrapuntal passages, and a final frenzy which, however, proceeds to its conclusion with pinpoint accuracy.”
(Der Tagesspiegel, Christiane Peitz, May 7, 2014)
BERLIN CYCLE, Philharmonie Berlin, March 27, 2014
A review of the second concert in the Berlin cycle said: “From within, and completely unforcedly, they disclose a true greatness that indicates something above and beyond the actual act of making music: something primeval, unsullied and deeply affecting…. A moment of bliss, rewarded by shouts of Bravo!”
(Der Tagesspiegel, Christian Schmidt, May 29, 2014)
Vancouver, February 25, 2014
The Vancouver Sun wrote:
“The Mandelring is a quartet’s quartet, matching technical finesse with insightful interpretation. Its rendition of Beethoven’s Quartet Op. 18, No 2 was a winning balance of charm and meticulousness. All was presented with exacting care and attention; the trajectories of the individual movements and the overall whole were fastidiously defined and elegantly delivered.
Regarding the performance for György Ligeti’s second string quartet the reviewer remarks: “Familiarity with Ligeti’s once-difficult idiom made the brilliance of the Mandelring’s flawless presentation all the more evident: the work received a strikingly committed performance.
Shostakovich’s Second String Quartet (1944) rounded out the program. Accuracy and precision are the Mandelring’s exemplary virtues. Here these were matched by deep feeling, and one was never at a loss to understand the rhetoric of the work. But the lasting impact came from a vision that stressed Shostakovich’s place in the historical string quartet tradition and his eloquent use of its shared language, not just his own Soviet-Expressionist dialect.
Vancouver has heard more emotionally exhibitionistic performances of Shostakovich’s chamber music, but rarely have we witnessed this remarkable music delivered with such nuance, logic, and clarity.”
(Vancouver Sun, David Gordon-Duke, February 26, 2014)
Berlin, January 15, 2014
Extracts from Der Tagesspiegel’s review of the opening concert of the Mandelring Quartet’s Berlin Cycle in the Philharmonie on 15.1.2014:
“…The Mandelring Quartet is undoubtedly a world leader in its field. Their unsurpassable virtuosity and flawless intonation are sheer technical perfection. What impresses most of all about the exquisite playing style of the string quartet from Neustadt on the Weinstrasse is their perfect unity in the crafting of structure and interpretation of emotional content.”
The review ends with this comment on their performance of Dvorák’s “American” Quartet:
“With charm and great vivacity they develop such energy that one almost expects them to jump up from their chairs at any moment. This exceptional concert was a joyful experience which deserves to remain in the memory long afterwards as a touchstone of intensive music-making.”
(Der Tagesspiegel, Christian Schmidt, January 17, 2014)
Mendelssohn, Complete Chamber Music for Strings, Vol. II
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung reviews the second CD in the complete Mendelssohn recording, comprising quartets op. 44/1, 44/2 and 80:
Brilliance is not a strong enough word – it’s more like an electric shock. The music transfixes the listener from literally the very first note, electrifying heart and brain without any advance warning. Mendelssohn’s music as played by the Mandelring Quartet, under extreme tension, heated and feverish, is dangerously close to catching fire!
But this late F minor quartet, with its devastating expressiveness, was not the only one in which the ebullient mood contains an overtone of despair; the same fusion is found in the earlier op. 44 quartets, where the blazing joie de vivre is often scarcely distinguishable from panic-stricken terror. This is true, at least, when the music is played with such relentless passion, extreme virtuosity and all-out energy as in this phenomenal disc with which the Mandelring Quartet continues its complete recording of Mendelssohn’s chamber music.
(Neue Zürcher Zeitung, wst, 15.11.2013)
Berlin, Februar 19, 2013
The Berliner Zeitung describes the opening concert of the Mandelring Quartet’s 2013 Berlin Cycle thus:
…Their playing is so transparent, so accurate in every detail, and has a rhythmic impetus that so well understands the music’s inner coherence, that one has the impression of hearing the first movement properly for the very first time. In the Mandelring Quartet’s interpretation all the nuances of its dynamic range come across with breathtaking clarity…
(Berliner Zeitung, Martin Wilkening, February 21, 2013)
Ulrich Amling writes in the Tagesspiegel as follows:
… in the Kammermusiksaal the Mandelring Quartet achieves a noble sonority combined with very deep insight, prioritising detail over drama. What is fragmented never becomes terse; what cannot be made cohesive is never vexatious. Their playing has nothing in common with that of the Alban Berg Quartet, though they have been hailed as that quartet’s heirs. The presiding spirit here is not borrowed: it is entirely their own.”
(Der Tagesspiegel, Ulrich Amling, February 21, 2013)
The reviewer in Neues Deutschland writes:
“In its chosen stylistic approach the quartet adopts a golden middle way. Its effect is not pallidly academic, but neither does it confine itself to naive exuberance. Passion goes hand in hand with an acute sensitivity to the development of tension and form. The Mandelring Quartet performs Schubert’s quartet “Death and the Maiden”, written at the age of 26 when Schubert was already gravely ill, as a sombre dance of death. Never has the start of the variation movement sounded so bleak and weary. All the more heart-rending are the passages of furious defiance, but these then fade back into gloomy resignation.”
(Neues Deutschland, Antje Rößler, February 27, 2013)
There is a lot to like about this group, starting with a taut, throaty tone, a fluid approach to color and an impeccable sense of style (New York Times).
The Mandelring Quartet combines the LaSalle Quartet’s intellectual vigor with the Amadeus’ unbridled passion to provide the best of both worlds. (Strad Magazine).
Their performances are exemplary: technically perfect, wonderful in sound, secure in understanding of style and idiom and responsive to every nuance of color, mood and expression (Strings).
The quartet performed quartets by Beethoven, opus 95 and Ligeti’s ‘Metamorphoses Nocturnes’ – both were simply sensational! (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung).