Hagen Quartett

Hagen Quartett

String Quartet

• Founded 1981

Editor's Choice

The Hagen Quartett was founded by four siblings in Salzburg in 1981. Recorded in two different venues in Munich and Rapperswill, the album was released in 1994 and provides an interesting snapshot of differing compositional styles of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Although considered early impressionists, Debussy and Ravel both rejected the label. Debussy's Quartet (1893) was the only string quartet he composed. His patron at the time of writing was Nadezhda von Meck, who had also been a patron of Tchaikovsky, and the conductor Guy Ropartz believed that a Russian influence is audible in the quartet. Ravel's String Quartet (1903), also the only one he wrote, was modelled on Debussy's although their musical ideas have little in common. Debussy was a fan of Ravel's quartet, rather more so than its dedicatee, his teacher, Gabriel Fauré. In contrast to the Romantic or Impressionist nature of these works, Webern's String Quartet (1936) is a serial composition based on a note row. It premiered in the USA in 1938, and was the last piece of chamber music Webern published before his death in 1945.


The Hagen String Quartet is one of the leading string quartets of its native Austria, known for its wide-ranging repertoire and its long association with Gidon Kremer and the Lockenhaus Festival.

The four original members of the Quartet were all members of the same family: Lukas, Angelika, Veronika, and Clemens Hagen of Salzburg, Austria. As members of a family of musicians, they played together in ensemble regularly. They stepped forward as aspiring professional quartet players around 1980.

Previously, they had studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Music Academies (Muskhoschschule) of both Basle, Switzerland and Hanover, Germany, and the University of Cincinnati. Their main teachers were Hatto Beyerle, Heinrich Schiff, and Walter Levin, and at Cincinnati they studied with the LaSalle Quartet.

They had an opportunity to meet the important early music specialist Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who interested then in earlier repertory, and with Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer, one of the world's leading exponents of newer music and unusual repertory. This resulted in the Hagen String Quartet's breadth of repertory, which extends from before Bach to the latest works of Witold Lutoslawski and György Ligeti.

Kremer invited the Hagens to participate in the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival where, in 1981, they won both the Jury Prize and the Audience Prize. In 1982 they won first prize at the Portsmouth String Quartet Competition. A part of this prize was a debut at London's prime chamber music and recital venue Wigmore Hall, which was a great success.

The quartet continued winning prizes, taking firsts at Evian, Bordeaux, and Banff. Soon their hometown invited them to perform at the Salzburg Festival and they became part of the busy musical scene in the city, participating regularly in the Festival, the Mozart-Week celebrations, and in regular concert series held in Salzburg. They also continue as regular participants in the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festivals.

The Hagen String Quartet became an exclusive act with Deutsche Grammophon, which has issued a series of recordings of their performances at Lockenhaus as well as a many others.

The Quartet often performs with leading artists of the day, including pianists Paul Gulda and Oleg Maisenberg, violist Gerard Causée, and their teacher cellist Heinrich Schiff.

Angelika Hagen has retired from the quartet and been replaced as second violinist by Rainer Schmidt.