The Berlin Philharmonic Piano Quartet, one of the few existing ensembles of that instrumentation, has existed as a Berlin Philharmonic chamber music ensemble since 1985. This highly praised group is a collaboration between three award-winning permanent members of the Berliner Philharmoniker: violist Matthew Hunter, cellist Knut Weber, and violinist Luis Esnaola, along with the renowned concert pianist Markus Groh.
This outstanding ensemble is committed to not only representing the standard repertoire of classical, romantic and modern pieces, but also finding undiscovered masterpieces of the literature that encompasses over 400 works.
Matthew Hunter was 26 when he discovered the viola. He was pursuing the career of violinist and had devised a special training program for that instrument: if he could play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in tune on the larger viola, then – according to his theory – the piece would be child’s play for him on the violin. He became so infatuated with the viola’s dark chocolate tone that he made the switch over to the deeper instrument. Shortly after that he won the Gee International Viola Competition.
Hunter, who began music lessons at the age of seven, cites as his formative teachers Julian Olevsky, Roman Totenberg (former assistant to Carl Flesch in Berlin), Michael Tree and Jaime Laredo. In 1985 he became Masao Kawasaki’s assistant at Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. He also earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy at Dartmouth College as well as a Master of Music and Artist’s Diploma. Matthew Hunter came to the Berliner Philharmoniker from Ottawa, where from 1991- 95 he was associate principal viola of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra. He is a versatile musician, who also plays the guitar (for example in performances of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony), makes arrangements and plays in several Philharmonic chamber ensembles, including the Berlin Philharmonic Stradivari Soloists. Since 2003 he has also been on the teaching staff of Berlin’s Hanns Eisler Hochschule für Musik.
Awards: First prize in the Gee International Viola Competition (1986), Citation of Excellence of the University of Massachusetts (1998).
Knut Weber received his first musical training from the Slovenian cellist Milos Mlejnik. He studied in Cologne with the Alban Berg Quartet and Claus Kanngiesser as well as with Wolfgang Boettcher in Berlin, where in 2002 he passed his concert exam with distinction.
Weber went on to become a scholar and principal cellist of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra before being engaged by the Berliner Philharmoniker. He is a member of the “12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic” and also appears regularly as a soloist and in various chamber ensembles in Europe, Asia, North and South America.
Awards: Prizewinner in the German national competition Jugend musiziert, winner of the Liezen International Cello Competition (1995), Pörtschach Brahms Competition (1996) and Domenico Gabrielli Competition of Berlin (1999).
A native of Madrid, Luis Esnaola grew up in a family where music always played an important role. From childhood, he was particularly fascinated by the violin because of its great expressive capabilities. As a result, he first studied the instrument at the New England Conservatory under Donald Weilerstein, before continuing his training at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin under Antje Weithaas in 2009, where he graduated with a masters in music in 2012.
While still studying, he was offered a place at the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Orchestra Academy where he became a student of Christophe Horak. His time at the Academy made a great impression on him, Esnaola says, discovering not only the special nature of the orchestra’s music making, but also the qualities that make a top musician: Absolute dedication and commitment to the music and a high level of motivation. He received further inspiration from master classes with, among others, Dorothy DeLay, Itzhak Perlman, Rainer Kussmaul and Christian Tetzlaff.
A winner of a range of competitions, he gained orchestral experience as section leader of the second violins in the Tonhalle-Orchestra Zurich in addition to his time with the Berliner Philharmoniker. In September 2016, he joined the first violin section of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Moreover, Luis Esnaola is also active as a chamber musician and soloist. In his spare time he is interested in football, going to the cinema and travelling.
Awards: Finalist at the New York Philharmonic Young Artists Competition, New York 2002; Third prize and audience prize at the International Pablo Sarasate Violin Competition, Spain 1999; First prize in the German national Jugend musiziert Competition (as a soloist and chamber musician) in 1997 and 1998.
Within little more than a decade, German born pianist Markus Groh has established himself as one of the most versatile pianists of his generation, after having won the 1st prize in the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition Brussels in Belgium, 1995. His worldwide concert activities include performances with the London Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Symphony Washington D.C., the San Francisco Symphony, the New Japan Philharmonic and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic under such distinguished conductors as Ivan Fischer, Neeme Jaervi, Fabio Luisi, Kent Nagano, Jonathan Nott or David Robertson.
Markus Groh performs solo recitals all over the world in some of the most important venues of cities like Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Munich, New York, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, Vienna, Washington D.C. and Zurich. His first SACD Solo recording featured the b minor Sonata, the Fantasy and Fugue on B-A-CH and the Totentanz of Franz Liszt and received outstanding reviews in major newspapers (The Times, FAZ among others) as well as in major music magazines including critic’s awards like “Editor’s Choice” (Gramophone Magazine, U.K.), “Recording of the month” (Musicweb International, USA), “Supersonic Award” (Pizzicato, Luxemburg), and “6 of 6 points” (Piano News, Germany). A second all-Brahms SACD was showered with rave reviews as well. It received awards like the Star of the Month of the most important German Music Magazine FonoForum in 2008. Mr. Groh lives in Berlin and New York.