Sometimes Free, Sometimes Learned:
The Late Quartets of Beethoven are hallowed ground in the chamber music repertoire. There are six Late Quartets in all with the Große Fuge standing alone as a single movement. It stands so because Beethoven’s publisher, Matthias Artaria, requested that he compose a more commercially suitable substitute for the final movement of the Op. 130 Quartet in B flat, a role the Große Fuge originally served. In a rare moment of acquiescence, Beethoven obliged his publisher, agreeing to an additional fee for the new finale, and the Große Fuge was published separately with its own opus number, 133.
Why all the fuss? One need hear only about 4 seconds of the fugue’s exposition to discover why. After an introduction largely dependent on octave unison among the four instruments (each instrument is playing the exact same notes, voiced according to the range of the respective instruments; cello, viola, violin 2, violin 1 from lowest to highest), Beethoven unleashes the fugue in fortissimo (as loudly as possible), each voice entering in seeming competition with the last. Can the human ear truly hear detail, or even beauty, amid the seeming chaos of this music?
As I am fond of saying… There’s only one way to find out! This Special Event is not for the faint of heart. It is Beethoven at his most furious and most glorious.
Commentary: Timothy Christie
Doors open at 6:00pm