DSQ presents ‘Beethoven, Beethoven and more Beethoven’
The DaPonte String Quartet (DSQ) opens its new series May 4. This exciting program features pieces from Beethoven’s early, middle and late string quartets.
Wrote Dr. Robert Greenberg, music historian-in-residence with San Francisco Performances: “In his 16 quartets for two violins, viola, and cello, Beethoven created a Mount Everest for string players and some of the most sublime, unforgettable music ever written. Continuing to astound listeners after 200 years, these glorious quartets give voice to the innermost landscape of the human heart and spirit. They stand, like Michelangelo's statues or the plays of Shakespeare, at the pinnacle of Western art.”
The late works, such as “Quartet No. 12,” are a special treat, written to be performed only for small groups of connoisseurs. They were introduced to wider audiences in France in the early 20th century. “Quartet No. 12” responded to philosopher Immanuel Kant’s dismissive attitude toward music as an art form. Beethoven created an order of music – relative to lyric and epic poetry – far outstripping any of its forerunners, both in formal complexity and in its richness of imagery.
Beethoven announced this new kind of music to great public success with the “Ninth Symphony” in 1824. By 1825, and for the rest of his life, he worked exclusively in the medium of the string quartet. As he did so, he further developed narrative ideas, bringing the composer’s work into aesthetic territory previously inhabited only by arts interfacing with philosophy.
Beethoven’s late quartets were such a drastic departure from other works of the time, audiences and musicians were overwhelmed and often confused. However, more recent critics and modern composers, like Stravinsky, have described the late works as “absolutely contemporary pieces of music that will be contemporary forever.”
“Quartet No. 4 in C Minor” represents some of Beethoven’s early work. His expertise and mastery are on full exhibit in this glorious work in the tradition of Haydn, but Beethoven progresses far beyond his classic mentors. ‘Quartet No. 4’ is considered a musical work of theatre, creating character with symbols and infusing flavor into keys. He moves between angst, rumblings, and restless rhythms into uplifting reversals of the spellbinding depths. His devilish minuet, a wild breathless romp, rushes us towards a final movement that finishes with impish ambiguity.
Beethoven’s middle period is represented by “Quartet No. 11.” Often referred to as the heroic period, this piece is infused with dignity and elements of his late style. The music seems to rail against the inevitable, but fate leads us towards understanding, and finally we give way to the welcoming releases of catharsis. The jagged fugue leads to uplifting energy, rising to the level of dreams, while the dark moments of the last movement float towards hopeful joy and leave you to ponder greater spaces and places, far beyond earthly realms.
The spring concert is sure to be a wild ride filled with welcome moments to contemplate and enjoy the journey. Performances: Saturday, May 4, Rockport Opera House, 2 p.m.; Sunday, May 5, Brunswick, Unitarian Universalist Church, 2 p.m.; Thursday, May 9, Portland Jewish Museum, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 11, St. Columba’s Church, Boothbay Harbor, 2 p.m. ; and Sunday, May 12, Lincoln Theater, Damariscotta, 2 p.m. Tickets and more information at www.daponte.org