Classical and more

The Vision String Quartet at the House Festival

Photo that shows Vision C Tim Kloecker Rock Orig. © Tim Kloecker
© Tim Kloecker

We’re all familiar with “Waterloo” and “Let It Be” and have heard of “The Week'nd” – but a pop single by a string quartet? There's no such thing! On the contrary – the Vision String Quartet has released no fewer than two singles in the last few months, “The Shoemaker” and “Samba.” They are very much worth listening to, which is quite easy to do on the popular music portals: the four young musicians are strikingly creative in the way they imitate guitars, ukuleles, bass, and percussion on their classical string instruments – or rather, replace them. Improvisations inspired by rock, pop, and jazz will likewise be part of their House Festival appearance, which will also be easy to experience online: live on February 19, 2021 at 8:15 pm at www.festspielhaus.de, on Vimeo and Youtube under the search term “Festspielhaus Baden-Baden,” and on our Facebook page.

But pop is not all the Vision String Quartet have to offer. Their debut album featuring Schubert and Mendelssohn earned them an Opus Klassik Award. The young musicians’ ability to improvise is actually the cultivation of a long musical tradition: for centuries it was common for "serious" musicians to extemporize on melodies and harmonies on the spur of the moment. Maurice Ravel, whose String Quartet the four have included on the program, was one of the most exquisite and rational composers of the twentieth century. He did not think much of the idea of simply letting oneself go musically. And yet he loved and admired George Gershwin and jazz.

Ravel is known for his Boléro and other breathtakingly orchestrated symphonic works, as well as for his colorful, often hair-raisingly virtuoso piano music. In his catalog of works, the String Quartet is one of a kind. This is not the only thing that makes it unique. It is varied and unpredictable; when listening to it we practically leap from one adventure to the next. Perhaps this is precisely why the work, whose first and last movements the Vision String Quartet will be performing, is not "difficult" fare. As if in a tapestry of musical reference points, alternating between surprise and familiarity, we simply soar right through it.

Is this the future? Do classical musicians have to be able to improvise, and is every string quartet at the same time a "band"? Ask the musicians: in advance or live during the streaming, by e-mail at hausfestspiel@festspielhaus.de, via direct message or as a comment on the Facebook live stream, or in the comment fields on Vimeo and Youtube.

Updated: 4/3/2021