Haydn and Beethoven

posted in: News

When the Isidore String Quartet performs at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium on Thursday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m., the program will bear an interesting resemblance to a concert from eleven years ago.

The opening half of the program has a quartet by Joseph Haydn followed by something more contemporary. The second half will be taken up by a Beethoven work. That is exactly what the New Orford String Quartet did here in 2013.

This may seem like nothing but a minor coincidence, but a closer look reveals that this is a pairing that makes a great deal of sense.

Haydn is known as the Father of the String Quartet. He wrote 68 of them. A few composers had been experimenting with this combination of players before him, but Haydn is the one who showed what was possible with this form, gave it a structure, and paved the way for those who followed him.

The Isidore String Quartet has chosen to play his 25th string quartet. More interestingly, it is catalogued as Opus 20, No. 2, part of a set known as the Sun Quartets for the simple reason that the publisher put a picture of the rising sun on the cover.

The six quartets of Opus 20 are considered a milestone in the history of musical composition. It is in these that Haydn developed the techniques and forms that would define string quartet composition for the next two hundred years.

At first glance, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15 would seem to bear little resemblance to the music of Haydn. It is a huge work of five movements taking more than forty minutes to play. The Haydn is four movements that take half the time.

But appearances can be deceiving. Beethoven studied Haydn’s Opus 20 quartets closely, copying them out, marking them up, and even creating an orchestral version of one of them. Haydn gave Beethoven the structure which he developed and expanded to create another legendary set of compositions, his late quartets.

Beethoven’s late quartets, Nos. 12 – 16, are regarded by many to be among the greatest musical works ever composed. They come from the last two years of Beethoven’s life, after he had completed his great sonatas, concertos, and symphonies, including the magisterial ninth.

Isidore has drawn from two of the pinnacles of string quartet writing in creating this program. You can expect a wonderful rendition of these esteemed works from the talented members of the Isidore String Quartet.

Tickets are available online at www.alleyconcertsociety.com at $32 for adults/seniors and $20 for students. Call 604-289-3377 for more information.

I look forward to seeing you at the concert.

John Wiebe - President

The Valley Concert Society