Violist Naoko Shimizu joins forces with the Kuss Quartet, formed when they were in their teens.

All of us live in Berlin, but nothing is ever quite that easy. In the end, interviewing the members of the Kuss Quartet and violist Naoko Shimizu involves a trip to Milan, where cellist Mikayel Hakhnazaryan and violinist Oliver Wille are playing a concert of Brahms with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra at La Scala as part of an orchestral tour. This is a kind of busman’s holiday, while the other two quartet members take time off to get married (“but not to each other!” adds Wille in hasty explanation).

Shimizu is not touring with the MCO. We meet in a rehearsal room of Berlin’s iconic Philharmonie concert hall, where she works as Principal Violist of the Berlin Philharmonic.

“When I got this job ten years ago, I had to drastically reduce my outside work, because everything was new – there was so much to learn,” Shimizu explains. “But by now I know the orchestral repertoire better, and I’ve recognised that I love playing chamber music – it’s the thing I like most.”

Accounts as to when the Kuss Quartet was founded vary. Some say that...