When Vetta Chamber Music opens the 2021/22 season of The Valley Concert Society on Friday,
October 29, the first notes we hear will come from the pen of Ludwig van Beethoven.
Artistic director Joan Blackman will be joined by three colleagues to perform his String Quartet
No. 1 in F, Op. 18, No. 1. Despite the appearance of “No. 1” twice in the identification of this
work, don’t trust it. This is not Beethoven’s first string quartet. It is generally considered to be
his second. (No. 3 was the first, go figure.) But maybe by the time he was finally finished with it,
it was his sixth.
For this is not a piece that developed easily. We have heard countless stories of musical geniuses
who dash off masterpieces remarkably quickly—Mozart composing a finished work during a
carriage ride; Handel creating the immense Messiah in an impossible 24 days. This string quartet
is not one of those.
Despite his great genius, or maybe because of it, Beethoven invested an enormous amount of
effort into this work. Take for example the opening motif—six notes played in unison by all four
musicians. It sounds simple, but he filled five pages of a notebook and eleven pages of another
notebook just working on variations and permutations of this theme.
After composing all four movements of the quartet, Beethoven sent a copy of it to his friend Carl
Amenda. Two years later he sent him another letter asking him not to show the music to anyone.
“I have greatly changed it, for only now have I learned how to write quartets properly.” And,
indeed, there was hardly any part of the original draft that had not been altered in some way.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s string quartets are a delight to the ear, but they demanded all of his
prodigious talents. They are intricately crafted masterpieces. Vetta Chamber Music will bring
one of these musical treasures to the stage of the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on
October 29 along with Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet.
Tickets are available for $28 for adults and seniors or $15 for students at
Proof of vaccination and masks are required for entry to the
auditorium. Seating will be spaced, and there will be no intermission. Doors will open at 7:00
p.m. Call 604-289-3377 for more information.
By the way, that first version of the quartet that Carl Amenda was not supposed to show
anyone—you can go see it in Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, Germany.
The Valley Concert Society