Historic German group brings Beethoven's string quartets to life

The Gewandhaus-Quartett will perform all 16 of the composer's quartets in December.
Ti Gong

The Gewandhaus-Quartett

Due to schedule problems, the Gewandhaus-Quartett had to split their six-night concert in Shanghai into two parts. After the first three performances in September, they will come back in December to finish Beethoven's 16 string quartets at the Shanghai Grand Theater.

It is part of the theater's project to commemorate the 190th anniversary of Beethoven's death, sharing the maestro's works with audiences on December 19-21. 

Widely known for his symphonies such as "Fate" and "Ode to Joy," Beethoven also produced remarkable string quartets, although he wrote fewer than Haydn and Mozart, says violist Anton Jivaev.

"Not every composer is capable of writing for string quartet, but Beethoven was really good at it," says Jivaev.

Beethoven's distinctive style is clear in his compositions, says violinist Frank-Michael Erben.

"Traces of Haydn's and Mozart's influences are often heard in Beethoven's early works, when the focus was more on fluent melodies," he says. "More symphonic sounds were added in his middle works, while his late works reflect more of his philosophical exploration.

"Listening to his late string quartet is much like listening to four wise men talking to each other. It is no longer just for entertainment."

Beethoven's early, middle and late works have been carefully selected for the six nights to give audiences a general picture of his musical development.

The quartet was founded in 1808 when violinist August Matthai began to organize quartet evenings with three colleagues from the Gewanhaus Orchestra.

The quartet is one of the oldest in the history of music, renewing and rejuvenating itself from generation to generation. It has operated uninterrupted for more than two centuries.

Its current members include Erben, Jivaev ,violinst Conrad Suske and cellist Leonard Frey Maibach.

Exhibition details

Date: December 19-21, 7:30pm

Tickets: 80-380 yuan

Tel: 6386-8686

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater

Address: 300 People's Ave

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