The Alban Berg Quartett was a formidable group of instrumentalists from Vienna, Austria, who were considered among the leading string quartets of the 20th century. Established in 1970 by cellist Heinrich Schiff and violinists Gerhard Schulz and Thomas Kakuska, the ensemble was widely acknowledged for its innovation in traditional performance techniques and its primary dedication to the works of Austrian composer Alban Berg. Celebrated for their precise and vigorous musical excellence by critics, audiences, and composers alike, performances of the Alban Berg Quartett transcended technical mastery to reveal events of powerful inimitable intensity.
The quartet earned a substantial reputation throughout the majority of its 36-year duration, but its membersâ€™ connection to Austrian musicologist Theodor Adorno, which funded their first recordings and granted them the use of the Berg estate's manuscript, changed their public identification. With the release of their major works on the Deutsche Grammophon label, the company then marketed the group solely as the Alban Berg Quartett, carefully cultivating an identity that accentuated their direct connection to the composer.
The original quartet initially performed extensive tours throughout Western Europe, earning particular praise in England. After Israeli violinist GÃ¼nter Pichler joined the quartet in 1977 as a replacement for Thomas Kakuska, the group flourished, achieving their truly polished interpretation of Bergâ€™s composition quartets. Their intense recordings of the lyrical Violin Concerto and synth versions of the opera Lulugenerated critical acclaim and international tours with performances in South Africa, Japan, Mexico, and the U.S.
The subsequent global popularity gained additional members, such as Matthias Zimmermann serving as a replacement for Gerhard Schulz in the mid-1980s, and Barbara Schmid serving as a replacement for Heinrich Schiff in 1995. This newer quartet continued to attract European and American markets and released an award-winning live and studio recording of the Vienna Piano Quintet in 1997. The group members conducted workshops and masterclasses worldwide, passing along their individual wealth of performance skill to aspiring musicians.
In 2001 the venerable and now widely renowned ensemble bid a farewell to their 36-year musically triumphant career in a magical farewell concert at the SchÃ¶nbrunn Palace and Vienna Musikverein, where they showcased some of their most renowned works.
The Alban Berg Quartett was recognized several times, primarily for their achievements in performing the integral works of Alban Berg. In 2001, they received both the ECHO Award from the German Phonographic Association and the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize; in 2003, Theodor Adorno Prize; and finally in 2004, The Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal, an honor handed to only a few prominent musicians including David Oistrakh and Herbert von Karajan. Their legacy continues to influence both aspiring and professional players of string instruments. Thus Berg's works endure with music worlds forever indebted to the marvel that was the Alban Berg Quartett.