The Alexander String Quartet again teams with music historian Robert Greenberg for a Saturday morning series exploring all of the quartets of Beethoven. The San Francisco Performances series spans seven concerts from October through May, covering most of the composer’s creative life. Cellist Sandy Wilson says the pieces, which they’ve been playing as an ensemble for decades, fit like a really comfortable glove. 2020 is the 250th anniversary year of the composer’s birth.
There’s more information about the series at the San Francisco Performances website.
“It really is a journal,” Wilson says. “It gives us this opportunity to explore these works in the sense of a diary. The journal of Beethoven’s life experience, and his approach to his work. It is such an extraordinary privilege to realize that we’ve spent a career with this music. It’s familiar. It fits. It’s like a glove that’s really… not just well worn, it’s really comfortable.” The three distinct periods of the quartets show the personal growth of the composer, as he wrestled with some devastating personal challenges. Robert Greenberg says the early quartets are when Beethoven had it the easiest, although it certainly didn’t seem that way at the time. “He’s still a young man – a very talented young man. His hearing disability has already begun. He has constant buzzing and humming in his ears, very uncomfortable… Based on these quartets, you would think that this was someone in complete control of his life. But Beethoven was only in control of his music. The rest of his life was a shambles, and it got worse and worse.” During the Saturday morning series, Greenberg will give a presentation, with musical examples pulled from the pieces, before they are played in their entirety. ” There’s no better way to get centered, and to get the quartet into the same place at the same time,” Wilson says. “We always learn something. It’s true that we’ve, in many cases, heard a lot of Bob’s commentary before, but it’s never quite the same twice.”