Projects – After Beethoven

The String Quartet after Beethoven

We’re offering a series of four concerts in which we’ll explore “life after Beethoven” from a string quartet’s point of view.

The idea came as we were coming to the end of our Beethoven project. It has been an extraordinary and profoundly changing experience. Similarly, we’ve been wondering what it must have been like, back then, for audiences to discover Beethoven’s quartets, and in what ways the music world was changed by them. Composers writing string quartets now had Beethoven’s monumental legacy to live up to, not only in terms of the quality of the music but also of the unbelievable development which it encompassed. This would remain intimidating for many of them, and all would be influenced by it in one way or another.

The question of how to follow on from Beethoven was addressed in radically different ways by composers, each coming up with their own solutions by turning to sometimes opposite means of expression. So we’ve arranged each of our programmes around a group of composers (not necessarily all from the same era or part of the world) that seem to us to embrace similar ways of dealing with this challenge.

1. In Beethoven’s footsteps. Brahms and Bartok followed on in Beethoven’s footsteps by developing and expanding his musical language, pushing its boundaries further and in different directions.

2. Poets. Schumann was a wonderful writer as well as composer, and always had a poetic turn of phrase, just as in his music. Mendelssohn and Kurtag may not be as eloquent with words but their music speaks with a similar blend of imagination, earnestness and poetry.

3. Melodists. Schubert and Dvorak share a particular gift for writing melodies that seem to spring from a endless well of inspiration. There is a freshness and fluidity to their music which makes it seem almost improvised, as if hummed rather than thought out.

4. National Voices. French impressionism, Shostakovich’s subversive writing, the integration of Czech folk tunes into Czech classical music: three forms that music took as each country’s artistic and historical contexts became inherent parts of it. After a short break we finish the evening with a late night concert of Donald’s own music (approx 40mins but flexible). He is a well known Scottish fiddle player and has written music rooted in this tradition for the quartet.

The project will run over two seasons (2016-17 and 2017-18), with two programmes per season.


In Beethoven’s footsteps

Beethoven: Op. 95 “Serioso”
Bartok: String Quartet no 4
Brahms: String Quartet no 2 in A minor


Schumann: String Quartet Op. 41 no2
Kurtag: 6 Moments Musicaux
Mendelssohn: String Quartet Op.13 in A major


Schubert: Quartettsatz
Dvorak: String Quartet – TBD
Schubert: “Death and the Maiden”

National Voices

Ravel: String Quartet
Shostakovich: String Quartet no7
Smetana: String Quartet “From my Life”

Late night concert of Scottish folk music written by Donald.