Fitzwilliam String Quartet – 23rd March 2019

Our next concert, on 23 March, will be exceptional – both in terms of the music, and the musicians who will perform it!

Having just celebrated their 50th year in existence, the Fitzwilliam String Quartet is one of the longest established Quartet ensembles in the world, and their violist, Alan George, is one of the original Cambridge undergraduates who formed it in 1968.

Alan obviously knows, and has performed, just about everything in the genre. So after the last FSQ concert at Greenacre, I naively asked him to name what he considered to be the truly greatest quartet ever composed. He thought carefully, but not overlong. “Sorry”, he said, “there isn’t just one such quartet, there are two. In my opinion, the two greatest quartets ever composed are Schubert’s last quartet in G Major – and the very last quartet that Beethoven completed, Opus 131 in C Sharp Minor.”

And that, friends, is the programme for the next concert! Maxability audiences are immeasurably privileged to hear the FSQ in a real “Chamber Music” setting, and you hardly need to know more than that before booking a place!

The two works were completed within a fortnight of each other, respectively in June 1826 (Schubert) and July 1826 (Beethoven), when both were very close to the end of their lives, aged 31 and 57 respectively. When Schubert heard a performance of the Beethoven quartet, he said “after this, what’s left for us to write?”

Yet his own final quartet in G, although utterly different, is equally remarkable. Its opening is unforgettable. It is launched by a swelling chord that slips from G Major to G Minor before reaching a leaping motif in dotted rhythms – and then a haunting passage of shivering mystery…….no words can convey what follows. Just listen.

Only five days before he died in November 1828 Schubert’s final request to his closest friends was for them to perform Beethoven’s C Sharp Minor Quartet.

Beethoven considered this quartet to be his “most perfect single work”. Robert Schumann said that this quartet “had a grandeur that no words can express. It seems to me to stand on the extreme boundary of all that has hitherto been attained by human art and imagination.” It consists of seven movements played without a break, the 6th lasting barely 10 seconds, and only the first and last movements are in the key of C Sharp Minor. When listening to this astonishing creation you will recognise above all that, in Beethoven, form and content are inseparable: the medium and the message are one.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. We look forward to welcoming you on 23rd March.