York Höller’s String Quartet No.3 was commissioned by the Cologne Philharmonie for Beethoven Year. Within the framework of a series, composers were to set to music selected text passages from Beethoven’s conversation books. Concerning this, Höller said: “I have to admit: there were only a very few things that could be gotten out of this text associatively. And in the end these few things focused on the sentence ‘Das Rad läuft’ (the wheel turns).” Concealed within this are the pitches D–A–ES–AS (in English: D–A–E-flat–A-flat) and a turning motif around the note D, which is later expanded to a twenty-note tonal structure. Working with such minimal building blocks was, as is well known, very typical for Beethoven.
The quartet “has to be played with verve and beautifully,” so Höller. It is in one movement, articulates itself in free-tonal harmony, and is constructed of small parts. The changes of meter are correspondingly frequent. Different, succinctly formulated characters are strung together, countless little “bon mots” (Thomas Schmitz, cellist of the Signum Quartet, which premiered it). Time and again a mechanical gesture of motion prevails: the turning wheel. The whole leads into a fast, virtuoso fugato. Cohesion is lent by a short, continually recurring motif as the germ cell. Additionally, Höller mostly works with alienated quotes from Beethoven’s Second Symphony (main theme of the first movement) and his Quartet in C-sharp Minor, op. 131.
© Verena Großkreutz (please request permission for any further use)