The Fine Arts Quartet to play classic Beethoven pieces Sunday

The Fine Arts Quartet plays to their strength - mastery of the best of the classical literature featuring the most challenging of Beethoven's quartets - including the Grosse Fugue.

By - Nov 8th, 2013 10:00 pm

L-R: Ralph Evans, Efim Boico, Robert Cohen, the Fine Arts Quartet’s permanent members. UWM photo.

The Fine Arts Quartet, an international resource that calls Milwaukee home base, has been at home with the classic quartet literature since 1946. So while their composition may be less familiar than in years past (violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico have played 30 years together, but cellist Robert Cowen is a recent addition and violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez is an interim performer), their concert Sunday will be roughly standard fare: an afternoon entirely devoted to Beethoven.

Though the membership has changed over the FAQ’s near-70-year run, the quartet has recorded Beethoven string quartets 26 times – not quite two complete cycles of the full 16 works. They played some of his quartets last time around, and there’s surely Beethoven in their remaining two unannounced program lists for the year. But the three works being presented Sunday offer a cross-section of his works that explore the nuances he introduces and celebrate the energy of his quartets.

The first work on the program, Op. 18, No. 5 in A Major, comes from a more traditional time period in Beethoven’s work. This particular quartet honors the form of an A major Mozart quartet, with a pleasant menuetto for the second movement and an andante third movement that demonstrates his mastery of theme and variations.

The later Beethoven quartets both break with classical traditions and are conceived on a much larger scale. His 13th string quartet, Op 130, in B-flat major, breaks with tradition by having six, rather than four, movements. The last movement was so large and challenging that publishers convinced him to replace the near 16 minute last movement with a shorter one.

The Fine Arts Quartet will ultimately play both versions. The quartet proper encompasses the full range of Beethoven’s innovative expression – clever humor, energetic dance, introspective melancholy and and revised finale that reaches back to recall earlier moments throughout the work.

They will also play the original last movement, which was later re-issued as Op. 133, or the Grosse Fugue. It might be thought of as the 17th of the 16 quartets. It is a marvel of ingenuity and complexity – featuring a double fugue, bold dissonant sections and complex development. The Grosse Fugue was not well-received by 19th-century critics, modern critiques have recognized it as a breakthrough work.

The Fine Arts Quartet next concert on February 2 will feature far less familiar works – a Kreisler Quartet, Shostakovich Quartet No. 7 and a Quartet by Efrem Zimbalist.

The free Fine Arts Quartet concerts of the last two years have been replaced by bargain priced seats at $10 per ticket ($5 per ticket for students). Tickets may be purchased online or at the box office, (414) 229-4308. A pre-talk is scheduled before the 3 p.m. concert at 2 p.m. Click through for more information.

Categories: Classical, Music

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