In a first for Dallas-Fort Worth, the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth will present all 16 of Ludwig van Beethoven's string quartets in a series called the Quartet Cycle.
The Miró Quartet, a classical string quartet based in Austin, will perform the Quartet Cycle with five concerts over seven days, November 7-13, at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. (The Miró knows the pieces well, as they've released a recording of them; listen here.)
Gary Levinson, CMSFW artistic director, says the Quartet Cycle will resemble a resume of Beethoven’s life’s work as a musician, composer, and pianist. Throughout the concert series, the quartets will be divided into three distinct areas of Beethoven’s career: his early work, the middle of his career, and his late work up until he died.
All 16 quartets are rarely performed together as part of one event, Levinson says. Although the Quartet Cycle has been performed internationally, it has never been performed in its entirety in the DFW area, he adds. Performing all 16 quartets is an “enormous emotional commitment” for the performing musicians, which makes it hard to produce often.
“The actual physics of performing it is not such a big deal, but to perform and connect with audiences at such a high level of music, which requires so much emotionally, is a huge deal,” says Levinson, the Dallas Symphony senior principal associate concertmaster and a renowned violinist who has played chamber music all his life.
The Beethoven super-event was originally planned for 2020, in celebration of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CMSFW has had to postpone the event three times.
Levinson says it’s hard to say whether the delays will have significantly impacted the performances. A year or two’s worth of delays won’t make the Miró Quartet’s performance better or worse — it’ll just be different because they will have evolved and grown as people and musicians since 2020, he explains.
“It’s just going to be a different interpretation than if the event had happened in 2020,” Levinson says.
Levinson says part of what makes the Quartet Cycle so special for listeners is the ability to connect with the music and the musicians on an emotional journey each night. That’s what sets the series apart from even the greatest concerts, he says.
“In many ways, this is much less like a concert and much more like a journey — much more like almost an evolution for the group and for the listener,” Levinson says. “You won’t be the same afterwards.”
Although audiences should attend every concert if they can, those who can only come to one or two will still experience great music and a great time, he says.
The concert series will be almost like a mini music festival within the society’s fall schedule, Levinson says. In addition to the concerts, Bill McGlaughlin, host of the public radio program Exploring Music, will give a 45-minute lecture about all the quartets before performances. Levinson says all are welcome to attend the lectures but especially encourages those who are not familiar with chamber music to consider attending.
The Quartet Cycle promises to excite and entertain chamber music fans, and those who are not classical or chamber music aficionados can expect a “rock 'n' roll” experience, Levinson says, adding that those who have not attended this kind of event before may be “blown away” by the power and energy that a four-person classical music group can produce.
“If I was inviting someone who has never been to a chamber music concert, I would say, ‘Get ready for a really exciting experience,’” Levinson says. “And the kind of energy that you feel from your fellow audience members is second to none. It’s really like being at a sporting event.”
The performance schedule includes concerts at 7 pm on November 7, 9, 10, and 11 and at 2 pm on November 13. The evening concerts will be preceded by a pre-concert lecture at 6 pm, and the afternoon concert’s lecture will be held at 1 pm. Tickets are $35 per person.
More information is available at the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth’s website.