Give Thanks for Takács Quartet Sunday, December 1st

November 8, 2013

This American Thanksgiving weekend, celebrate a more personal thanksgiving with us and the Takács Quartet!  This group of four fabulous musicians will blend their talents to bring Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet in A minor, Opus 132, to life. The concert starts at 3 pm at the Vancouver Playhouse and tickets are available online via Eventbrite and at the door.

All of Beethoven’s “late” string quartets are special, each for slightly different reasons.  The Takács Quartet recordings of the late quartets prompted the Gramophone critic to write: “Beethoven’s late quartets are the ultimate examples of music that is so great that, as Artur Schnabel famously suggested, no single sequence of performances could ever do them full justice. Still, this set comes close and completes one of the best available cycles, possibly the finest in an already rich digital market… They do Beethoven proud and no one could reasonably ask for more.”

Beethoven is the composer whose music has been performed most often during the 66 seasons of concerts presented by Friends of Chamber Music in Vancouver.  We have heard his piano trios, sonatas for cello, his septet, and other chamber music.  But of all of his music (including the symphonies and piano sonatas), Beethoven’s cycle of string quartets is one of the pinnacles of human artistic expression.  You can be tickled by the Mozartian touches of his early quartets, Opus 18, or roused by the direct intensity of his middle quartets, especially the Razoumovsky quartets, Opus 54, or contemplate the mix of sadness and happiness lying below exquisite structures and melody in the late quartets, like this one.

Beethoven, already completely deaf even though he was a composer of music, was very ill for a month in April 1825.  He was so ill that he did not expect to survive this serious stomach problem.  But thankfully for him (and for us), he did recover.  Beethoven was so thankful for his return to health that he wrote a deeply-felt slow movement that he made into the core of this quartet, Opus 132.  He called it, “Holy song of thanks (‘Heiliger Dankgesang’) to the divinity, from one made well.” The rest of the quartet is wonderful, too, with the dark and light flourishes of melody, harmony, and cresting emotions that Beethoven gave us in his late works.  This is music that defies easy categorization.  The composer, through such great musical interpreters as the Takács Quartet, sings directly to us.

The only thing better than enjoying such performances on your stereo is hearing the group play live, where you can experience the living elasticity of performance and true ‘surround sound’.  And on Sunday afternoon you can share this immersion in the melodies and textures from the mind of the Beethoven, as well as the minds of Mozart and Bartok, with your friends in music!