Three pieces of music that we love, the chance to record them all – and then it dawns on us that all three works are in some way related to the theme of “night”! 

Label: GENUIN classics | Format: Audio CD | Release date: 2014

We fell for “The King of the Sun” by Stephen Hartke from the moment we heard it. Studying the piece and finding out more about it was great fun. The titles of the movements are taken from paintings by Joan Miró and the musical material derives from a late medieval canon “Le ray au soleyl”. Looking at Miró´s pictures and listening to the canon really helped us to capture the many characters and atmospheres. As Hartke puts it: ‘Just as Miró’s painting is both whimsical and serious, I have sought to accomplish the same thing in my music”. We enjoy the surrealistic variety of colours and styles in this music from plainchant to jazz. The title of our CD comes from the last title of this piece, “Personages and birds rejoicing at the arrival of night”. The entire work fits the theme perfectly, because in the words of Stephen Hartke ‘ (…) most curiously for a piece entitled “The King of the Sun”, most of the movements take place indoors or at night”.

Astor Piazzolla’s devil’s pieces date from the end of the ´50s. Piazzolla started playing bandoneon and was introduced to the tango at a very young age. When he was only 28, he decided to drop tango music and the bandoneon all together, determined to focus on classical music, jazz and composing. He got the opportunity to study in France with Nadia Boulanger in 1954, where he played down his musical past. When he finally performed one of his tangos, Boulanger told him: “Astor, your classical pieces are well written, but the true Piazzolla is here, never leave it behind”. After this experience he developed a unique musical style combining classical music with the tango; these three devilish pieces are a great example. Even though our imagination would want us to believe this music was played in dark tango clubs, it was actually performed in concert halls (like Philharmonic Hall in New York in 1965).

These three devilish pieces (another subtle reference to our theme) are a valuable addition to our repertoire. We had a great time with Elsbeth Moser looking for the right groove and awakening the devils in ourselves. 

Stephen Hartke (1952)
The King of the Sun (1988)
Tableaux for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano

Astor Piazzolla (1921 – 1992)
Tango Diablo
Vayamos al Diablo
Romance del Diablo
Arrangement: Konstantinos Raptis
Bajan: Elsbeth Moser

Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)
Piano Quartet No. 3 in C-minor, Op. 60

photo by: Daniel Kunzfeld

There are many dramatic stories about the life of Brahms and his emotional state when he composed the piano quartet in C minor. What we know is that he started the quartet when he was only 23 years old. Over a period of twenty years, he transposed it from C-sharp minor to C minor, added a movement (scherzo), composed an entire new finale and kept revising the other movements. He described it as “half old, half new – the whole thing isn´t worth much!” Emotionally it was a hard period in his life. He was trapped between his friendship with Robert Schumann and his hopeless love for Clara Schumann. He made a direct reference to Werther, Goethe’s Romantic hero whose love was unrequited and who eventually committed suicide. He wrote to his publisher: “On the cover you can print a picture, a head with a pistol pointed towards it. Now you can get an idea of the music”. Our theme “night” refers to this dark period in Brahms’ life. Every time we play this piece we are amazed by the depth, the beautiful melodies and the incredible structure. It is hard not to be emotionally affected by this work and we often play this piece last in our program. So far we haven´t found any encore that is appropriate to play afterwards.

This CD is a selection of what the Flex Ensemble is looking for in music. Besides the great works for piano quartet, we want to find those pieces that make us and the audience curious. Collaborating with other musicians is also one of our aims. We hope to continue on this road to discover and present many more treasures.

We would like to thank the International Schumann Chamber Music Award Frankfurt and the Commerzbank for making this CD possible. We couldn´t have done it without Elsbeth Moser, Konstantinos Raptis and our mentors Markus Becker and Oliver Wille.