World Première | Hermann Nitsch: 2nd String Quartet

World Première as Part of the Albertina Museum Exhibition NITSCH. Spaces of Color on Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Entry with museum admission ticket |
No registration required

The world première of the String Quartet No. 1 in four movements by Hermann Nitsch on 17 December 2015 at the event SATURNALIA II, part of the Konzett-Konzept-Konzerte (a series of projects on the theme of “Art, Music, and the Practice In Between” by Galerie Konzett) was a triumphant success for the master of the Orgies Mysteries Theatre. Back then, this four-movement work was played in a compressed, 30-minute version, for the composer’s originally intended length (60 minutes) would have blown apart that event’s planned framework. This explosiveness also characterizes Nitsch’s String Quartet No. 2.

Nitsch creates his music without using musical notation, instead dividing the individual movements into 1-minute sections and using words and symbols to indicate durations, dynamics, and actions. His performance directions include Deep sound, Whole-tone cluster, D-minor, F-major, and Noise, and the score of the 3rd movement of his 1st String Quartet also calls for 4 Schuhplattlers simultaneously—a highly unusual but fascinating constellation. For Michael Mautner, the fascination also lay in transcribing this work. While Nitsch’s own scores are thoroughly playable, limits on rehearsal time necessitate putting them into standard musical notation.

Nitsch writes down musical events that would never occur to a formally trained composer, but their successful performance leaves one with the lasting impression that they do indeed make sense. His musical ideas are characterized by a stringent dramaturgy that places high demands on performers and listeners alike. Those who give themselves over to these demands with open ears will be richly rewarded. The archaic power, luminous timbres, and actionist frenzy alternating with the endless beauty of perfectly tuned chords combine to produce a superlatively sensual experience that could be described as Spaces of Sounds.

Hermann Nitsch’s String Quartet No. 2 in six movements for 2 violins, viola, and violoncello, transcribed by Michael Mautner

1st movement   18ʹ
2nd movement   18ʹ
3rd movement   6ʹ


4th Movement   18ʹ
5th movement (Retrograde Landler)   15ʹ
6th movement   15ʹ

Performed by the Koehne Quartet:

Joanna Lewis – 1st violin
Anne Harvey-Nagl – 2nd violin
Lena Fankhauser – viola
Mara Achleitner – violoncello

Photos © Skye Kiss & © Andrej Grilc
Photos © Skye Kiss & © Andrej Grilc

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