Violentango – a name which suggests an explosive mixture: Violent, violas, and tango, and this quartet presents something of all of these. The musicians of the ensemble, Martin Stegner, Julia Gartemann, Martin von der Nahmer and Joaquin Riquelme are violists with the Berliner Philharmoniker, brought together by their common love of tango. On the spur of the moment, they decided to perform self-arranged tangos together at the 2014 Easter Festival in Baden-Baden, and they were encouraged to continue by the great success they enjoyed there.

Dark, warm and deep-toned, the sound of the viola is made for bringing out the swinging, jazz rhythms of George Gershwin in a novel and effective way, or exploring the subversive, off-beat and mysterious sides of Tango Nuevo, the modern form of Argentine tango with which Astor Piazzolla revolutionised the Argentinian national dance after it had fallen into sentimentality and conventionality. But Violentango offers even more: a mix of tango, classical and improvisation, performed by four individuals on the viola.

Julia Gartemann

In the family quartet, the viola was actually their mother’s instrument. Julia Gartemann and her sister Cornelia played violin, their father, cello. And yet, at some point Julia Gartemann took up the viola and knew at once that it was »her« instrument. Since then she has never played the violin again. In 1990 she began studying the viola with Nobuko Imai at the Detmold Hochschule für Musik.

After graduating she went in 1998 to Michael Tree at the renowned Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, then completed her training with Wilfried Strehle in the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Karajan Academy as well as in master classes with Thomas Riebl, Kim Kashkashian, Wolfram Christ and the Tokyo and Vermeer String Quartets.

Julia Gartemann, who has participated successfully in various competitions since 1986, appears as a soloist and in chamber music in Germany and abroad. In recent years she has also devoted herself to teaching, since 2014 she is a teacher at Berlin’s “Hanns Eisler” Hochschule für Musik. Julia Gartemann plays a 1767 viola by C.F. Landolfi.

Martin von der Nahmer

Martin von der Nahmer began playing the violin at the age of five, and switched to the viola when he was eleven because there was already a gifted violinist in the family, his brother Christoph. He first became a pupil of Konrad Grahe at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen. While still a student he appeared as a soloist with the Philharmonia Hungarica and the North-Rhine Westphalian Youth Orchestra. In 1999 he commenced studies with Hartmut Rohde at Berlin’s Universität der Künste. It was with passionate enthusiasm that Martin von der Nahmer attended concerts of the Berliner Philharmoniker, which his brother Christoph joined in 1997, and while still a student he auditioned for the orchestra himself and is a member of the Viola Group since May 2004. In his free time he enjoys going to the cinema.

Martin Stegner

His first teacher was his father, who gave him his first violin lessons when Martin Stegner was eight. After studying with Roman Nodel at the Mannheim Musikhochschule, he switched to the viola and then went for training to Neithard Resa and Wilfried Strehle in the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Orchestra Academy. His first engagement was in 1993, as principal viola of Berlin’s Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester. Three years later he moved to the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Martin Stegner performs as a soloist and chamber musician in Europe, America and Japan. He also works with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and the Orquesta Juvenil Centroamericana and has given courses at Yale University and the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler in Berlin. He is actively involved in expanding the viola’s repertoire. Together with the pianist Tomoko Takahashi, he has released several highly acclaimed CDs of transcriptions of lieder by Robert Schumann. He has been a keen jazz musician since his youth, and has appeared at numerous festivals, performing with artists such as Herbie Mann, Diane Reeves, Thomas Quasthoff and Nils Landgren.

A co-founder of the Berlin Philharmonic Jazz Group, he founded the ensemble Bolero Berlin in 2008 in which he and soloists of the Berliner Philharmoniker dedicate themselves to South American music. In 2015, an album was released together with the German/Persian singer Cymin Samawatie on the ECM label. Martin Stegner is involved in other projects with, among others, Simon Stockhausen and the Chinese sheng virtuoso WuWei. His work has been documented on 15 CDs.

Joaquín Riquelme García

At the age of eight, Joaquín Riquelme García was actually hoping to take up the violin, but because all the openings for that instrument at the music school had already been filled, he decided for the viola – and immediately fell in love with its dark, warm sound. When he was twelve he determined to become an orchestral musician. After completing his training with distinction at Madrid’s Royal Conservatory of Music under Emilio Mateu and Alan Kovacs, he undertook postgraduate studies with Hartmut Rohde at Berlin’s Universität der Künste, finishing with his graduate recital. He also participated in master courses given by, among others, Jesse Levine and Jean Sulem.

Joaquín Riquelme García began his orchestral career as assistant principal viola in the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and moved from that position directly to the Berliner Philharmoniker. The violist also frequently appears as a soloist, with orchestras including the Philharmonie Baden-Baden and the Asturias Symphony Orchestra in Spain. As a chamber player he collaborates with various ensembles and musicians, for example Christian Zacharias, Natalie Chee and Mikhail Kopelman. He likes sports and cooking.

Concerts with Violentango