Beethoven & the Quartet form: the journey of a creative genius
Beethoven’s late quartets are the crown of his extraordinary creative work. The Endellion Quartet presents one of his earliest string quartets and one of his last, with a section of poetry between them, which explores Beethoven’s life and the development of the quartet form. The Opus 18 quartets were published in 1800 when Beethoven was thirty. Twentyfive years later, ill, isolated, deaf and in pain, desperately anxious about his nephew who had tried and failed to kill himself, he wrote Opus 131: seven extraordinary movements played without a break. “A new manner of partwriting,” he said and thought it his most perfect single work. Schumann said it “stood on the extreme boundary of all that has been attained by art and imagination.” Though Louis Spohr called it “indecipherable, uncorrected horror,” Schubert asked to hear it on his deathbed.
How did this lonely restless genius move from the delicacy of Opus 18 to the avant garde daring, despair and reconciliation of Opus 131?
For this unique Festival event, The Endellion Quartet will play Opus 18 Number 6 and award-winning poet Ruth Padel will read a poetry sequence on Beethoven’s twenty-five years of life between Opus 18 and 131, meditating on his exploration of quartet form – four related voices from a man whose own human relationships were constantly under threat. Then the Endellion Quartet will play Opus 131 itself.
The Endellion String Quartet, Andrew Watkinson and Ralph de Souza on violins, Garfield Jackson on viola and David Waterman on cello, is “arguably the finest quartet in Britain, playing with poise, true intonation, excellent balance and beautiful tone” (New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians). They play across the globe, from the Americas and Far East to Europe. “Everywhere, the Endellions set the audience ablaze’ (Daily Telegraph). The quartet was formed in 1979 and named after St Endellion in Cornwall, and has been 'Quartet in Residence' at Cambridge University since 1992.
Ruth Padel is Poetry Fellow at King’s College London, an award-winning poet who has published ten poetry collections and several much-loved books on reading contemporary poetry. Her latest collection Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth (Chatto & Windus 2014), is a meditation on conflict and history: “Wonderful, audacious, minutely crafted, with a magnificent imaginative sequence on the crucifixion.” (Observer).