Rewarding Cycle of the Late Beethoven Quartets – The Enterprise Quartet

Beethoven, in the 1820 Stieler portrait. (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

The Enterprise Quartet of Edmonton is presenting the cycle of the late Beethoven string quartets, and is now at Op. 131, half way through. This is a daunting venture, so the musicians, and the support received from the Edmonton Community Foundation, the Alberta Foundation of the Arts, and the Robertson-Wesley Church, at which several of the concerts are held, warrant a standing ovation. The concerts, on top of this, are free; and each of these Beethoven works is preceded by a performance of one of the 1773 set of six by Mozart.

These quartets by Beethoven, written in the last years of his life, indeed after the completion of the Ninth Symphony and the Missa Solemnis, represent one of the summits of the quartet literature, and one of the summits of Western classical music. Without questioning the exceptional quality of the quartets by Haydn and Mozart, the only composer who cultivated a similar musical path has been Dmitri Shostakovich. Shostakovich composed seven of his 15 quartets after completing the 13th of his 15 symphonies. That symphony, known as Babi Yar, is also a choral symphony, and in many ways as powerful as Beethoven’s Ninth.

The Enterprise Quartet, on the steps of the atrium of Edmonton City Hall. 29 August 2012. (Courtesy: Enterprise Quartet)

The Enterprise Quartet has been playing these late works of Beethoven with great attention to their tonal and textural qualities and innovations. For example, special care was taken to work through the textural newness at the conclusion of the first movement of Op. 127; remarkable interpretation was given to the beklemmt section of the cavatina movement of Op. 130; and, fine suspension of the sounding of the rhythm was demonstrated in the allegretto variation, with its double-stopping, in the fourth movement of Op. 131.

The Quartet has posted a live video excerpt of the City Hall performance of Op. 130. It begins with the beklemmt section of the Cavatina, and continues to the movement’s end. See Op 130/5 Cavatina, from beklemmt section on.

These quartets evince an aesthetic world of their own, and unfold with an ineluctable inner logic that disciplines and deepens the experience of that world; for that world is part of ours, and yet informs and heightens our understanding of it. One must only ready oneself to listen.

Robertson-Wesley Church, Edmonton. 3 June 2012. (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

Today’s superb performance, of the Op. 131, was given at Robertson-Wesley Church, and was further enriched by the church’s intimate acoustics.

These performances, and these performers, are bringing something special to music in Edmonton, and warrant greater attention and certainly larger audiences. Spread the word. The full schedule is at the Enterprise Quartet’s website,

The Enterprise Quartet is comprised of Guillaume Tardif, first violin; Virginie Gagné, second violin; Charles Pilon, viola; and, Tanya Prochazka, violoncello. In today’s performance, the second violin part was taken by Vladimir Rufino.

One thought on “Rewarding Cycle of the Late Beethoven Quartets – The Enterprise Quartet

  1. Pingback: Music – 52 Works Recently Studied | CulturalRites

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