Friday, December 23, 2011

Beethoven : Two late quartets - Belcea Quartet

Here you are: a Christmas present for the Belcea Quartet fans who have placed countless comments on the blog pages (two, actually – I just counted them) asking for Belcea Quartet late Beethoven. 

The monumental E flat quartet (like a string quartet, only bigger) and the mysterious B flat. I love the way that when you think the last movement of the E flat must surely be about to finish, there is a sound like everything beginning to grow again after the Winter, and a joyous coda erupts.

I hadn't realised until recently, but Beethoven originally conceived the B flat in the form of a divertimento – hence the peculiar arrangement of the movements. Unfortunately, every single movement grew way out of all æsthetic proportion to the original idea. And this still doesn't help to make sense of the work. Perhaps nothing, other than knowing every note of it, helps.

Quartet in B flat Op 130
Download from Rapidshare

Quartet in E flat Op 127
Download from Rapidshare


  1. A fine, fine Xmas present, for which I thank you very much.

    Let me tell you something - I know every note of the B-flat Quartet and it doesn't really help understand the work or Beethoven's compositional process. But luckily, total comprehension of the details does not preclude enjoyment of the whole. You don't have to understand photosynthesis to enjoy the Spring bloom.

    Beethoven does his best to lead us into his own rarefied ozone to show us. He leads us as far as we can go, he smooths the road with familiar forms likes Cavatinas, Ariosos, Varistions. But then he has to stop, his genius requiring him to leave me alone in his world - to turn his back on me as if to say, "Wait a moment....I must work this out." And so I stand there in the elevated plane to which he has brought me as he steps even higher where I have no business going, until he comes back for me. But the act of waiting has changed me. Taking the journey with him is a rejuvenation - of mind and spirit, of the belief in the potential of mankind to do wondrous things. And, even though he left me alone for a moment it was still sublime. For as I stand in Beethoven's world, I sometimes feel as if I can almost reach out and touch the outstretched hand of the Creator himself.

    Thanks so much. -- Progress

  2. What an astonishingly, uncannily accurate description of the whole experience of late Beethoven, Progress! Yes - the strange admixture of the simple and tuneful with the utterly private is something we can only follow to a point but, as you say, taking the journey to that point is what changes you.

    I have never come across a more utterly right description of the experience. Thank you.

    And a very happy Christmas

  3. Ronan, thanks a lot for the post.
    I guess awareness of our inability to grasp Beethoven's compositional process contributes to that sense of sublime we sometimes experience while listening to his music (though, in my case, with no connection to otherworldliness).
    Now, just to bring us back to the earth a small token of appreciation. This should be a rarity: the lighthearted Foerster's second horn concerto (Baborak's playing is close to the sublime though).
    Venue and date of recording were not announced (or so I think, since I do not understand czech myself), and I could not find mention of it anywhere but on the website of the broadcasting channel.
    Details are included within the archive file (available for 30 days only).


  4. Piero - thank you! It's real Christmas listening - doing the washing up, or making soup out of whatever is left over in the fridge or (I'm still hoping) sitting by the fire with a glass of that sherry I bought for just that purpose.

    This is splendid playing too. Having played with horn players, I am only too conscious of just how impossible the damned thing is to play! Finding a good horn player is hard, and finding one who is also sane is next to impossible.

    Thank you!