Amadeus Quartet

~ Group


The Amadeus Quartet was a world famous string quartet founded in 1947 and disbanded in 1987, remarkable for having retained its founding members throughout its long history.

Because of their Jewish origin, the violinists Norbert Brainin (12 March 1923 – 10 April 2005), Siegmund Nissel (3 January 1922 – 21 May 2008) and Peter Schidlof (9 July 1922 – 16 August 1987) (later violist) were driven out of Vienna after Hitler's Anschluss of 1938. Brainin and Schidlof met in a British internment camp on the Isle of Man; many Jewish refugees had the misfortune of being confined by the British as "enemy aliens" upon seeking refuge in the UK. Brainin was released after a few months, but Schidlof remained in the camp, where he met Nissel. Finally Schidlof and Nissel were released, and the three of them were able to study with violin teacher Max Rostal, who taught them free of charge. It was through Rostal that they met cellist Martin Lovett, and in 1947 they formed the Brainin Quartet, which was renamed the Amadeus Quartet in 1948.

The group gave its first performance as the Amadeus Quartet at the Wigmore Hall in London on 10 January 1948, underwritten by British composer and conductor Imogen Holst. On 25 January 1983 the Quartet gave a 35th anniversary concert in the same concert hall with a programme which included Beethoven’s String Quartet in C major, op.59 no. 3 (3rd Rasumovsky Quartet). Touring extensively, the Amadeus performed throughout Europe, Canada, the United States, Japan, and South America. Noted for its smooth, sophisticated style, its seamless ensemble playing, and its sensitive interpretation, the quartet made some 200 recordings, among them the complete quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. For concerts as well as recordings of string quintets (Mozart, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner) and string sextets (Brahms) they regularly invited Cecil Aronowitz as second viola and William Pleeth as second cello. Though they emphasized a standard Classical and Romantic repertory, they also performed works by such 20th-century composers as Béla Bartók and Benjamin Britten who wrote his third quartet expressly for them.

The Amadeus was one of the most celebrated quartets of the 20th century, and its members were awarded numerous honors, including:

  • The Order of the British Empire, presented by the Queen.
  • Doctorates from the Universities of London, York, and Caracas.
  • The highest of all German awards, the Great Cross of Merit.
  • The Austrian Cross of Honour for Arts and Sciences.

The quartet disbanded in 1987 upon the death of the violist Peter Schidlof, who was regarded as irreplaceable by the surviving members. Brainin died on 10 April 2005 and Nissel on 21 May 2008. Only Lovett survives presently.

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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1961 String Quintets K 516 & K 593 Mozart; Amadeus Quartet, Cecil Aronowitz 1
1976 "Forellenquintett" ("Trout" quintet, "La truite") Franz Schubert; Amadeus Quartet, Emil Gilels, Rainer Zepperitz 2
1983 Eine Kleine Nachtmusik Mozart; Amadeus Quartet, Rainer Zepperitz, Gerd Seifert, Manfred Klier 1
1984 Divertimento K. 563 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Amadeus Quartet 1
1990 Piano Quartet, op. 25 Johannes Brahms; Murray Perahia, Amadeus Quartet 1
1990 String Quintet Franz Schubert; Amadeus Quartet, Robert Cohen 1
1994 Clarinet Quintet in A major / String Quintet in G minor Mozart; Amadeus Quartet, Gervase de Peyer, Cecil Aronowitz 1
1995 Piano Quartet, op. 25 / Balladen, op. 10 Johannes Brahms; Emil Gilels, Amadeus Quartet 1
1995 Haydn: Kaiser-Quartett / Sonnenaufgang-Quartett / Mozart: Jagd-Quartett Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Amadeus Quartet 2
1997 "Forellenquintett" / Quartett "Der Tod und das Mädchen" ("Trout" Quintet / "Death and the Maiden" Quartet) Franz Schubert; Emil Gilels, Amadeus Quartet, Rainer Zepperitz 1
1998 Brahms: The String Quartets / Dvorak: String Quartet "American" Johannes Brahms, Antonín Dvořák; Amadeus Quartet 1
2002 Intermezzo Johannes Brahms; Murray Perahia, Amadeus Quartet 1
2003 Amadeus Quartet: 1951-1957 Haydn, Schubert, Brahms; Amadeus Quartet 1
2009 String Quartets Op. 59 No. 1, Op. 131 Beethoven; Amadeus Quartet 1
6 Streichquartette Op. 76 Haydn; Amadeus Quartet 1
Death and the Maiden Schubert; Britten Quartet, Hephzibah Menuhin, Amadeus Quartet 1
Piano Quintet in A major "Trout", D. 667 Franz Schubert; Amadeus Quartet, Clifford Curzon 1
Quintet for Clarinet / Quartet for Flute no. 1 / Quartet for Oboe Mozart; Amadeus Quartet 1
Schubert: String Quintet in C / Mozart: Adagio and Fugue, K. 546 Franz Schubert, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Amadeus Quartet, William Pleeth 1

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1981 An Evening with the Amadeus Quartet Amadeus Quartet 1
1987 Quintets and Sextets Johannes Brahms; Amadeus Quartet 1
1988 The String Quartets Mozart; Amadeus Quartet 2
1989 Quintette "La Truite" / Trios / Sonatensatz / Notturno Schubert; Amadeus Quartet, Hephzibah Menuhin, Yehudi Menuhin, Maurice Gendron 1
1999 The String Quartets Beethoven; Amadeus Quartet 2
2003 Complete String Quartets / Quintets / Sextets Brahms; Amadeus Quartet 1
2005 Bruckner / Smetana / Verdi / Tchaikovsky / Dvořák Amadeus Quartet 2
2008 The Legendary Amadeus Quartet: Recordings 1951–1957 Amadeus Quartet 1
2009 27 String Quartets / Seven Last Words on the Cross Haydn; Amadeus Quartet 1
2013 The RIAS Amadeus Quartet recordings, volume I: Beethoven Beethoven; Amadeus Quartet, Cecil Aronowitz 1

Album + Compilation + Live

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1999 Brahms: Piano Quintet / Schubert: 'Trout' Quintet Brahms, Schubert; Amadeus Quartet, Clifford Curzon 1

Album + Live

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
2001 Mozart: Clarinet Quintet / Franck: Piano Quintet / R. Strauss: Prelude to "Capriccio" Mozart, Franck, R. Strauss; Amadeus Quartet, Gervase de Peyer, Sir Clifford Curzon, Cecil Aronowitz, William Pleeth 1

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