The mdw’s Motus Quartet in Taiwan

posted by Tim de Vries on May 13, 2024

“We accepted immediately and enthusiastically, of course!” A last-minute invitation to give a concert in Taipei was a great thrill for Tim de Vries, mdw student and violinist of the Motus Quartet. The quartet was given the opportunity to accompany their professor and Vice Rector for International Affairs and Art at the mdw, Johannes Meissl, to his masterclass at the National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU). A joint concert by the Motus Quartet and an NTNU ensemble was an expression of the deepened relationship between the two universities. At the end of February 2024, the students flew to Taipei for a week. Even the outbound flight was exciting for Tim, as he has a passion for aeroplanes: “It has always been a dream of mine to fly on one of these big double-decker planes.” Upon arrival in Taipei, the quartet was taken to their accommodations in a lovely area near the NTNU. The NTNU selected one of its best ensembles for the joint concert with the Motus Quartet. Tim:

The students from the NTNU were especially hospitable, and the collaboration with them was carried out on a very professional level.

The concert on 29 February in the large hall of the NTNU was received with great enthusiasm by the audience. Like the Motus Quartet, the NTNU ensemble selected a piece by Haydn: “It was interesting for the audience to hear how we, a Viennese quartet, interpreted Haydn as opposed to the local ensemble.” To conclude the concert, the students performed Mendelssohn’s string octet together. Afterwards, the Motus Quartet had the opportunity to establish contacts for possible future concerts in Taiwan. “You learn to network when you’re abroad. You have to practise how to market yourself,” as Tim explains.

Alongside the work, there was still time to explore Taipei. Tim was particularly impressed by the Taiwanese cuisine. “The street food is incredibly good and also cheap. Everything is warm—even breakfast. Most of the dishes are with meat, so Taiwanese cuisine is difficult for vegetarians.” Tim can recommend the traditional “hot pots”: a pot with vegetables and meat is placed on a hotplate in the centre of the table, and everyone eats from it. “One time when the pot was stirred, an entire duck’s head appeared—that was very authentic,” recalls Tim.

A highlight for the mdw students was their visit to the Chimei Museum, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of stringed instruments. “I’m a violin nerd, and it has always been my dream to visit this museum,” says Tim. He was able to arrange for a private museum tour, and the quartet was allowed to try out the precious instruments. “We played on over seventy instruments that day. I was familiar with these instruments from photographs, and it was an extraordinary experience to actually be able to hold them in my hands,” the young violinist raves.

The Motus Quartet was formed in October 2022. Of the original members, only Tim and Karla Kříž, both violinists, are still with the group. The cello and viola positions have changed hands, with Domonkos Hartmann taking over as cellist in August 2023.

Tim, who was born in Haarlem, near Amsterdam, in 2001 and grew up there, comes from a musical family. He began learning the violin at the age of seven. When he was seventeen, he came to Vienna to study at the Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna (MUK), later switching to the mdw to study violin performance:

I always had great ambitions. At the beginning, I was pursuing a solo career but then discovered how much fun it was to play chamber music.

Tim says that meeting their present professor, Johannes Meissl, was a turning point for the quartet: “He gave us the support we needed and really motivated us. It felt very natural to rehearse more and more and to learn pieces more quickly.” The way Johannes Meissl works with the group in their lessons very much appeals to Tim: “He always has a positive outlook on everything. Even when things don’t work right away, he is confident that with the right approach, we can do it. The goal in the lessons is to learn to work through a piece independently and to understand the structure of the work. It is a nice, very personal collaboration.”

The Motus Quartet gave its debut concert in April 2023 at Vienna’s Konzerthaus. “The debut concert still resonates today. Based on that, we were invited to give more performances,” says Tim. Making music in a quartet demands great discipline. “What the audience at a concert sees and hears is only the top layer. Behind that is a great deal of work and time. It’s a cliché, but a quartet is like a marriage. We spend every day together and see each other more often than we see our friends, partners, and family,” explains Tim. Then there are the intense concert tours. In February, the Motus Quartet performed in Tunesia as part of a joint project of the Hasdrubal Foundation and the mdw. After Taiwan, the group headed directly to Italy for a concert tour, and after a quick stop for performances in Vienna, went on to the European Chamber Music Academy in Copenhagen. For Tim, there is no doubt: “Our goal is to be a full-time quartet with a lot of concert tours. We are thankful that the mdw supports our career and that we are given opportunities to perform abroad.”

More impressions of Taipei:

Text: Isabella Gaisbauer

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