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RSB 100

Micro Concert #2 is part of a series of concerts in which RSB musicians engage into a dialogue with the exhibitions. The Humboldt Forum and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin are jointly organising the Micro Concerts on Museum Sundays until June 2024 - as part of the RSB's 100th anniversary.

Paul Ben-Haim (1897 – 1984): String Quartet op. 21

  • Con moto sereno
  • Molto vivace
  • Large e molto sostenuto
  • Rondo-Finale. Allegretto commodo
A dreamy coexistence of four voices of equal rank and yet for long stretches a searching dialogue in brittle fourth and fifth melodies: Paul Ben-Haim's String Quartet op. 21 is both intriguing and puzzling. In his use of the two intervals fourth and fifth, the composer avoids the third, which generally defines the tonal gender and gives direction to tonal music - to which this work, composed in 1937, belongs.

Paul Ben-Haim was born Paul Frankenburger in Munich in 1897. After graduating from high school in Munich, he studied composition with Friedrich Klose and Walter Courvoisier and piano with Berthold Kellermann at the Akademie der Tonkunst in his home city from 1915 to 1920. He began his musical career as assistant conductor to Hans Knappertsbusch and Bruno Walter at the Bavarian State Theatre. From 1924, he was Kapellmeister in Augsburg, a position he lost in 1931 due to increasing anti-Semitic hostility. Paul Frankenburger emigrated from Germany as early as 1933 and lived in Tel Aviv as a composer and conductor. In Palestine, he learnt Hebrew and chose the surname Ben-Haim: "son of life".

The turning point

Even before his emigration to Palestine, Paul Frankenburger had composed more than 80 piano songs in the style of Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf and Gustav Mahler. His early chamber music and choral works also ranged stylistically between Mahler, Reger and Strauss. Immediately after arriving in the Middle East, Paul Ben-Haim realised that he would not find any interest in his music, which was based on German Romanticism. He reacted astonishingly quickly and flexibly to the new challenges, so that Paul Ben-Haim's music differed fundamentally from that of Paul Frankenburger. While texts by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Eduard Mörike, Heinrich Heine, Friedrich Nietzsche, Christian Morgenstern, Joseph von Eichendorff and Hugo von Hofmannsthal were his daily companions in Germany, Sephardic melodies, biblical texts and poems by contemporary Jewish writers found their way into his compositions in Palestine. The Yemenite singer Bracha Zephira taught him to understand Jewish and Arabic songs, so that the study of their melodies and rhythms influenced his works from then on.

A string quartet speaks volumes

The first work written in Palestine after four years of pianistic and conducting activity was the String Quartet op. 21. The new tone reflected the unmistakable distance from German traditions. "Instead of polyphony, there are parallel shifted sounds, instead of chromaticism, diatonicism, instead of development, order. Paul Ben-Haim was looking for a new synthesis of Western and Eastern musical styles" (Albrecht Dümling). The new string quartet immediately became one of the most popular chamber music works written in Palestine. At the same time, the composer ordered that all the music he had written before 1933 was to be destroyed - which fortunately did not happen and was later relativised by the composer himself.

In his only string quartet meaning derives from a compositional style, which will later manifest itself in the two symphonies (1940 and 1945), the Piano Sonatina op. 38 (1946) and the symphonically conceived Piano Concerto op. 41 (1949): Oriental melodies merge with influences of French Impressionism, dance rhythms meet dreamy pauses. Prayer-like sequences are replaced by passages of percussive drama. This is particularly true of the quartet's finale, where Jewish themes and dance rhythms form the substance. Delicately sad interludes abruptly interrupt the exuberance, only to shake off the gloom again and again - right up to the desperately defiant conclusion, which seems as if something precious has been broken.

This is preceded by two movements: a Scherzo in an agitated gallop, which has several interruptions with an elegiac undertone, finally taking on ghostly dimensions before the music fades away with Mendelssohnian elegance, as if in a Midsummer Night's Dream. And a Largo molto e sostenuto, whose basic pulse consists of extremely slow quarter notes (40 beats per minute, i.e. much slower than the resting pulse of a human being). Even this great song does not manage without a violent climax in the centre. The predominant melodic direction in all four movements is a permanent downward movement - known for 500 years in musical rhetoric for not necessarily confident messages.

The string quartet echoes the bitter caesura of forced emigration. Paul Ben-Haim's first symphony, composed in 1940, already recognises the catastrophe of the systematic persecution of the Jews and the horrors of the Second World War. Hurried marching rhythms and the brutal percussion depict the horror. But the symphony also contains resounding symbols of consolation and hope. European idioms merge with Israeli and Arabic ones, sacred with secular music, folk music with art music.

Far beyond the artistic idea, Paul Ben-Haim pursues a social ideal - an equal coexistence in Palestine, where people of different origins and cultures can benefit from and interact with each other. This ethos qualifies Paul Ben-Haim as one of the founding fathers of Israeli musical life. Numerous students, including Tzvi Avni, Ben-Zion Orgad, Ami Maayani and Noam Sheriff, followed in his footsteps. Ben-Haim received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1972 and died in Tel Aviv in 1984. Steffen Georgi, concert dramaturge of the RSB


String quartet with the 1st concertmaster and section leaders of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin

Erez Ofer, violin

Born in Israel, violinist Erez Ofer has been the first concertmaster of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin since 2002.

His musical career is flanked by several important successes in competitions: 1. Award at the ARD Competition in Munich, gold medal at the Zino Francescatti Competition in France, 1st prize at the Israeli Radio Competition, silver medal at the world-famous Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium and Paganini laureate at the University of Indiana and winner of the Tibor Varga Competition.

Despite his involvement with the RSB, Erez Ofer continues to be an active soloist and chamber musician. As a soloist, he was enlisted by the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Belgian National Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo and the Jerusalem Symphony.

Between 1993 and 1998, Erez Ofer was concertmaster of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Lorin Maazel and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Wolfgang Sawallisch.

Erez Ofer plays a violin made by Domenico Montagnana in 1729.

Nadine Contini - violin

Nadine Contini, principal second violin, has been a member of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin since March 2005.

She was born in 1979 in Saarbrücken and received her first violin lessons at the age of 5 years with Ms Christa Schmitt-Rink. Later she studied under Ulrieke Dierick. In 1996 she was admitted to the Pflüger-Stiftung Freiburg and the Spohr-Akademie for the promotion of highly gifted young violinists, where she was trained by Wolfgang Marschner and Ariane Mathäus. In 2000, she began her studies at the Musikhochschule “Hanns Eisler” in Berlin with Antje Weithaas, where she graduated with the concert exam of 2008. She attended master classes with Antje Weithaas, Wolfgang Marschner, Christian Tetzlaff, Guy Braunstein, and Boris Pergamenchikov.

Nadine Contini has won awards in numerous competitions: In 1998, she was awarded with the first “Young Musicians” federal prize. In addition, she received a second prize at the International Max Reger Competition and a special prize for the best interpretation of a solo work by Max Reger. In 2004, she won the competition of Ibolyka-Gyarfas-Stiftung. She was awarded with prizes for cultural promotion by the Casino Gesellschaft Saarbrücken and the Saarländischen Rundfunk. In addition, she was the prize winner and scholarship holder of the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben.

As a soloist, she has performed with the Landesjugendorchester of Saarland, the Cairo Chamber Orchestra, the Cairo Opera Orchestra, the Deutsche Spohr Philharmonie, the Symphonieorchester des Saarländischen Rundfunks as part of the concerts of young artists, the Max Bruch Philharmonie and the Brandenburger Symphoniker.

Nadine Contini plays a violin made by master violinmaker Stefan-Peter Greiner from Bonn and is involved as a mentor in the orchestra academy of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin.

Alejandro Regueira Caumel, viola

Alejandro Regueira Caumel, born in 1991 in Málaga/Spain, began playing the violin and piano at the age of six. In Madrid, he studied with Anna Baget and moved to Dionisio Rodríguez as a violist in 2008. In 2009 he came to Germany and studied at the Hochschule für Musik “Hanns Eisler” with Pauline Sachse and Tabea Zimmermann. Master classes with Wilfried Strehle, Andreas Willwohl, Roberto Díaz, Felix Schwartz and Jean Sulem complemented his education.

Chamber music has been a particular focus of his career to date. He participated in the chamber music festival of the “Kronberg Academy” and in the “Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland”, performed repeatedly with the Frielinghaus Ensemble and can be heard regularly at chamber music festivals such as the “Festival Ribeira Sacra” or in the Nikolaisaal Potsdam. He also won first prizes at various competitions, including the “Concurso Ibérico de Música de Cámara con Arpa” (in duo with harpist Maud Edenwald), the XII. International Competition for Viola and Cello “Villa de Llanes”, at the “Concurso María Cristina” for young soloists and at the competition of “Jeunesses Musicales” in Spain.

Alejandro Regueira Caumel gained orchestral experience as a member of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and the Spanish National Youth Orchestra, as well as through substitute work with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and as principal violist with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra London, the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana and the Orquesta Nacional de España.

From 2010 to 2012 he was an academist with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and has been its principal violist since 2015.

Hans-Jakob Eschenburg, violoncello

Hans-Jakob Eschenburg received his first cello lessons at the Rostock Conservatory. After studying with Josef Schwab at the Hochschule für Musik “Hanns Eisler” Berlin, he was principal cellist of the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1984 to 1988.

With the renowned Petersen Quartet, of which he was a founding member until 2000, he won several international competitions (Prague, Evian, Florence, Munich) and appeared on the major concert stages and at numerous festivals in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia. Several of the Petersen Quartet’s numerous CD recordings have won international awards.

Since 1999 Hans-Jakob Eschenburg has been principal cellist of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. He held the same position in the chamber orchestra “Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach”. He frequently appears as a soloist and chamber musician, including as a member of various chamber ensembles such as the Gideon Klein Trio. Hans-Jakob Eschenburg teaches as an honorary professor at the Hochschule für Musik “Hanns Eisler” Berlin. He is also involved as a mentor of the Orchestra Academy of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin.


- free of charge
- There will be a room change. Information will follow.
- The number of seats is limited, plus additional standing room. In case of overcrowding we have to stop admission temporarily.


Sun, March 3, 2 - 4 p. m. 
Sun, April 7, 2 - 4 p. m.
Sun, June 2, 2 - 4 p. m. 
Additional information