Your Beethoven

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Our Personal Statements

Here are our personal statements about our first experiences with Beethoven’s String Quartets.

MARIE BITLLOCH

MARTIN SAVING

DONALD GRANT

SARA BITLLOCH

Beethoven’s String Quartets are a lifetime’s work. We want to hear from you with your experiences with these quartets. Be it as audience, performer or scholar, about the whole body of work or just your favourite quartet. Use the form on this page to send us your tales or anything else you’d like to share

29 Responses to “Our Personal Statements”

  1. Charles Kelley Osborn says:

    Dear Sara, Marie, Donald, and Martin,
    My wife and I had the privilege of attending your all-Beethoven program at the Wortham Center in Houston last Thursday, November 12, and meeting you after the performance. I have since played your new Beethoven CD of the Op. 18/4, 74, and 130 quartets. I am struck by the passion and imaginativeness of your playing. I have heard several other ensembles live in this repertory and have collected a number of recorded cycles of the Beethoven quartets over the years, including those by the Budapest, Vegh, Guarneri, Italiano, Amadeus, Takacs, Emerson, and Lindsay Quartets. Your accounts in the live concert we attended and on your CD are the most individual readings of the Beethoven quartets that I have heard. In your hands, these great works seem to transcend the bounds of musical art to become living things. I eagerly anticipate the next release in your Beethoven cycle and sincerely hope that you will return to Texas for future concerts.
    Warmest Regards,
    Charles Kelley Osborn

  2. pbanados says:

    After 25 or 30 yrs going listening to chamber music live and on my thousands of records, I had a mystical experience last night listening the first three quartets (Emerson Str Qt version), like never ever before I have had with classical music. I was in a kind of continuous feeling that I was in complete communion with Beethoven, over 200 years in distance, he talking to me personally. Every note, dialog among players, melody traveling from one instrument to another, sudden violent breaks in mood, gave a sense that each and every note was exactly the only one that could have gone there, transmititing in a shocking emotional way the feelings of one the greatest human beings that had ever lived. Unbelievable. And yet, this religious experience is still waiting me for the last quartets.
    Btw, this deep listening was pot-induced. An experience that I’m sure is life changing for any musician (which i’m not, but had a similar effect, I guess).

  3. Frank Horsman says:

    Hearing your performance of op 131 in the Hague from further away than has been our experience at the Upper Chapel, Sheffield, the result of your beautiful communication with each other was perhaps more evident ; you sounded like a single instrument. At the latter venue we had more experience of the internal mechanics that produced that effect. Both occasions were very inspiring in different ways. We look forward to hearing op 131 at the Upper Chapel.

    In The Mauritshuis the following day the analogy with viewing paintings struck me : you can look close and see the individual brush strokes or stand back to appreciate the whole. Even more so the difference between hearing the music live, or seeing the original painting, and listening to recordings or looking at reproductions of paintings was most striking.

    Many thanks for another magical experience.

    Frank and Barbara.

  4. Mike Addiego says:

    I have Opus 18 (Alban Berg), Middle and Late Quartets (Emerson) and am trying to understand them. The Late pieces sound almost modern. First impressions of them are chaotic. I’m going to keep listing and see what happens. I just started learning to play the viola…at 56

  5. Louis Eeckhout says:

    Hi,

    I loved your concert yesterday in de Bijloke in Ghent. I find the Opus 131 one of the most convincing pieces of the entire classical repertoire and you all really played it with the exact amount of required passion.

    Thank you!
    Louis

    • Wim De Nil says:

      I fully agree with Louis Eeckhout. I was there too, at the Ghent concert, and I hold the highest esteem for your exceptional performance of this astonishing masterpiece.

      May your future be as bright as your playing!!!

      Hope to see you guys and girls again soon!!!

      Wim De Nil

  6. Frank Horsman says:

    My first experience of Beethoven Quartets was from a set of vinyl discs of an American quartet, the Fine Arts, that Barbara, my wife had found in a charity shop. I had a love of orchestral music, especially Beethoven’s symphonies, but what was this? It sounded so squeaky! (no offence to the Fine Arts Quartet). Some years later I was listening to a recording of op. 131 by the Lindseys. The first movement suddenly came to me as the most divine sound I’d ever heard, even surpassing Bach’s famous D minor chaconne.
    Last Tuesday night we were in Sheffield’s Upper Chapel a few feet away from you four. Your emotional involvement in this music was palpable : the intercommunication, the energy – expended at no cost to the precision, and evidence of so much dedicated effort in preparation. Even for a musical illiterate it was a moving, even life-changing, experience. We felt so privileged. During the adagio of op59 no1 I had strong experience of what Buddhists call priti, such as tingling in the spine. I was close to tears but you feel you can’t blub in that situation! That came later, reliving the experience through the BBC’s radio 3 website.
    We will see and hear you perform Op 131 at the Hague and next January back at the Upper Chapel. I can’t wait!
    Thanks a million
    Frank

  7. Leon T says:

    Loved the concert in Houston last night. Hope you come again!
    Regards,
    Leon

  8. Trevor Hyde says:

    I was fortunate enough to hear you at the Sheldonian last December for the first time. Last night I heard you at the Abbotsholme Arts Society concert. I thought both performances were wonderful. Last night I was in the front row and able to totally immerse myself in the music. At times it was breathtaking and very moving. I was particularly impressed by your attention to dynamics. It is wonderful to hear an early, middle and late Beethoven quartet together at each concert.The Beethoven quartets have a special place in music and it is very interesting to compare quartets from each period. I have been to many chamber music concerts. Last night’s was, for me, one of the best. I hope you will come back to Abbotsholme.

  9. Wilson Whitelock says:

    My first experience of a quartet live last night at Keswick. Loved it. Hope to be back to hear any further concerts in the area. Understand the Elias will be coming to Rosehill and St.Bees school, I hope to be able to attend.

  10. Jonathan Phillips says:

    loved the concert in Ilkley. I was slightly disappointed not to hear the grosse fugue as it would have been the first time I heard it “live” but enjoyed the alternative ending. The Cavatina was equisitely sad.

  11. Mike Kontor says:

    I could not understand the late quartets until I was past the ager of 60….many have the same experience.
    What helped me tremendously is J N Sullivan’s book Beethoven and his spirituality; he dissects the middle and late quartets and I hear what he hears – he ascribes quite specific meaning to the individual movements of these masterpieces, and they all fit. Mainly I think the late quartets reflect Beethoven’s loneliness, his despair at being an outsider (so easy to forget he was totally deaf) and his vision of the possibility of happiness in another state of being/life. There is such utter despair in some of the movements, it can be quite painful to listen to.
    I highly recommend you all read Sullivan’s book; there are many insights, not just into the music of the quartets.

    I love your commitment to music; you are so utterly sincere and very exciting; your attention to dynamics and phrasing are exceptional. Your Mendelsson disc is a particular favourite – isn’t that early quartet just amazing in the way he absorbs the essence of the late quartets?!

  12. Jonathan Julyan says:

    I attended your fabulous concert in Bristol last week and can’t wait for the next instalment. I’m a bit of a Beethoven quartet junkie, and find them endlessly fascinating (especially the late ones). I last heard Op 131 in concert a few weeks ago played by the Dorics, and it’s amazing how the same piece can come across so differently between one performance and another (I loved both!). And I’m still purring after your Elgar concert last night – those 3 pieces make a lovely programme, and that Quintet slow movement is just heartstopping (as it was a year ago when you played it with Tom Poster in Bristol).

  13. Hugh Savill says:

    Your Beethoven at St. George’s on Friday night was a great experience, principally because you brought something fresh and new to what is wonderful but also very familiar repertoire. Your performance was so committed and alive that at times, particularly in the slow movements, it sounded improvisatory and it felt like a unique interpretation that would never be the same again – which is what live music is all about. 131 is such extraordinary writing and you really made the most of it’s innovative and profound character but you also found real drama and depths in 18/5; 59/3 started with a wonderfully controlled and intense slow introduction and ended in tremendous excitement with the fugue (which is one of the few pieces of music which I think really can be taken as fast as possible!). The concert was a superb demonstration of the difference between music and the visual arts in that it has two, not one, creative processes: composition and interpretation. My one caveat is that, at times, the exuberance of performance allowed the accents and the, always controversial, sforzandos to be rather strong and too intrusive, particularly in the opus18.

    I am very much looking forward to your future concerts and am absolutely thrilled that you are including the opus 29 quintet, surely one of the most unjustly neglected pieces of chamber music (I hope you are doing this one rather than 4 or 104). The opening of the last movement must be one of the most dramatic pieces of programme music written by 1801 – it sounds way ahead of it’s time.

    Thank you for a great evening.

    Best wishes

    Hugh

  14. Karen Vaughan says:

    I really enjoyed your performance this evening in Ilkley.

    A friend gave me a spare ticket at the last minute and I feel very lucky!

    I wondered what I would feel about an all Beethoven programme and was pleasantly surprised. I’m glad you played the lighter fugue at the end as it is such a big programme this worked very well.

    You played with so much colour and contrast throughout – how did you have the energy?

    My favourite one was probably the first one, which surprises me as I thought I would prefer the later quartets. I particularly loved how much energy to the sound the quiet bits had and also how well you matched each other in the detail of every note. Truly inspirational.

    Karen.

  15. David Parkin says:

    Thank you so much for last night’s brilliant concert at St George’s in Bristol (22 Feb 2013). I have known about opus 130 and Grosse Fuge Op. 133 for over 50 years since the head of my school – a fine viola player – kept insisting that we should listen to the greatest bits of music he knew! Well, ALL of last night’s Beethoven was the greatest I have heard over the years. I loved the friendly preface to the Op 130 and the reasons for NOT doing Grosse Fuge. “What the hell!” after the cavatina was just perfect. But I’m watching out for the promised performance with the Grosse Fuge. When? Where?

  16. Steve Williams says:

    Thank you for a wonderful concert last night in Ilkley. I envy those able to reach your complete cycles.

    PLEASE come again!

  17. I attended your concert in Bristol last night and was deeply moved, with a range of emotions between sadness and joy!
    It was a great concert made more intense by your wonderful and natural physical expression of your emotions as you played and the affectionate glances between sisters, between all players in fact.! Thanks you so much and good luck with the rest of the cycle – I look forward to hearing and seeing you back in Bristol on Feb 22nd.
    PS Apologies for my joyful whooping and hollering from row C at the end. I think there should be more of it at what jazzers might refer to as ‘straight’ gigs!

  18. Tony Barton says:

    John Innes Centre Norwich 2nd Dec

    Searching perfs of Op 18 nr 5, Op 59 nr 3 and Op 131. The Borodin Quartet gave a complete cycle here in 2004 – all within a week!! To say that the Elias’s accounts of these quartets were the equal of the Borodins’ is the highest praise I can give.

    looking forward to meeting you all in Oxford next week for some Elgar.

  19. David Rands says:

    Your Turner Sims concert was a revelation. Now 84, I have been listening intently to Beethoven’s quartets for nearly 70 years, and have attended two previous complete cycles. I particularly enjoyed the Op 131 and was reminded of Wagner’s description of B’s music (or was it the 7th. Symphony?) as “the apotheosis of the dance”. At first I thought “too romantic”, but you convinced me that that this was how Beethoven heard it and it was right & very moving. I was a bit concerned that the excessive, sometimes inaudible, pianissimi were not true to character and in danger of becoming an irritating mannerism. Otherwise a great evening!

  20. Patrick Meehan says:

    John Innes Centre, Norwich … this evening 2nd Dec.

    A cold evening to turn out, but wow! what a delight.

    What a combination of some of the most amazing music written .. unbelievable —

    and then, performances from all of you, Elias Quartet, to bring it to life beyond any hopes or expectations.

    My friend and I looked at each other at the end of each Quartet, knowing there were no adequate words. It was breathtaking. Overwhelmed by the ‘Wow’ of it all.

    Thank you, all.

  21. Thomas Hull says:

    Well… what can I say. I am still rather lost for words after hearing the first programme in Southampton last night. I was looking forward to it so much and always knew this would be the start of something very special, but nothing prepared me for enormous emotional impact the concert had on me. What a programme – the second movment of op.59 no.3 was just devastating, and the whole journey through Op.131 was like listening to the piece being composed right in front of me. I wish I could hear that programme again but will have to wait for the Brighton Festival. Thank you all for a very very special evening.

  22. Martin Kemp says:

    It was a privilege to attend the inaugural concert in the Sheldonian last night. Fiercely committed, moving, sensitive and (not least) witty. As good as I have ever heard. A test for me of great Beethoven playing is that it should “get you” in the body as well as in the ears and mind. That somatic, dance-like dimension was more apparent than I can ever remember. Thank you.
    Martin Kemp

  23. Alan Simpson says:

    Thank you for a truly superb performance at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre last night. Quite the most enjoyable concert I have been to in years! So crisp and such enthusiasm. Wow!
    We are so lucky to have Oxford included in your venues for this cycle. I can’t wait for the next in the series in March.
    Best wishes
    Alan

  24. andrew morgan says:

    Thank you for a wonderful concert at Rosehill last night. I experienced your performance as emotionally raw; both exciting and disturbing. A truly thrilling evening.
    I feel so fortunate and priveleged that we are going to have the opportunity to experience an entire cycle here in Cumbria.

  25. Kerr Noble says:

    Heard you at St Monans church during the East Neuk Festival when you kindly put on an extra performance because of demand – The Harp and the Mendelssohn Op 80. What a day, what a performance! Topped off by a lovely cycle home with my friends who were also at the concert, back through Fife and over the bridge to Edinburgh. I had been looking forward to it ever since hearing the Mendelssohn on the radio when it was chosen as the Building a Library recommendation. Looking forward to hearing more of your Beethoven over the next year or so when you come back to Scotland.
    Best wishes,
    Kerr

  26. Judith Hanley says:

    Heard you in Scarborough last Friday (July 15th) & want to thank you for a wonderful concert. Only sorry the audience was the usual pathetic Scarborough turnout (quantity-wise not quality-wise!). Not sure I understand most of the ‘Harp’ quartet yet, but the slow movement certainly brought tears to my eyes. I love the Rasumovsky quartets above all, perhaps because I find them the most accessible. I have, however, made a determined effort to listen to the ‘late’ quartets with application & feel I’m getting there gradually.
    Simply loved the Smetana. Also want to thank you for introducing me to the Elgar piano quintet a few years ago with Ensemble 360 – an outstanding performance, it’s now one of my favourite pieces.
    Bonne continuation!
    Judith

  27. Mike Parsey says:

    Wonderful performance of Op 95 in Kilrenny Church
    on July 2nd…can you please send me dates/locations for your November 2011 performances in Scotland when they become available ?
    Will be following your whole project with interest

    All good wishes,

    Mike and Julie

  28. Kate Hollingworth says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

    I came to see you last night at The New Vic, Newcastle under Lyme

    The first time I have seen a String Quartet and you moved me to tears – twice!!

    Thank you. I haven’t looked yet, but hoping I am able to purchase some of your recordings from your site – I’ll check now!

    Hope the tour continues with much success.

    Best regards, Kate

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