Sometimes, all you need is Beethoven! Really.
It's been an exciting few weeks preparing for Festival Beethoven at Flagey Radio Hall, a week-long festival in Brussels hosted by the Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth. Our concert on Friday night in the intimate space of Studio 1 was a great occasion to hear his earlier chamber music works. I had the pleasure of performing with three incredible female artists from Latvia, France, and Armenia-Germany (Elina Buksha, violin; Helene Desaint, viola; and Lilit Grygorian, piano) in a program of Beethoven's Piano Quartet in E-flat, Op. 16 (originally for Winds and Piano, and later arranged by the composer himself for Strings and Piano), Violin Sonata No. 8 in G minor, and the dynamic String Trio Op. 9 No. 3 in C minor.
I first heard the Piano Quartet in its original form at Marlboro Festival last summer and didn't realize there was a version for strings until I was asked to collaborate on this project. It's alleged to have been inspired by Mozart's Quintet K. 452 which is in the same key and has the same instrumentation. And there are qualities of a Mozart opera in the slow movement where each instrument gets it's own an aria-like moment. The register and color of each voice reflects a different kind of emotion. I can assure you: we had a verklempt (German for choked with emotion) when we read through the piece for the first time!
The string trio, in particular, is the most intense of all three pieces on the program. The absence of a fourth voice (or a second violin) to help fill out the sound challenged us to create the sonority of a full string quartet. On top of that, each instrument is forced to simultaneously rally between being a virtuoso and supporting voice. It was the first time I performed this trio despite reading it with friends years ago and I can only imagine what it would be like to learn and perform all three string trios as a cycle...perhaps it's a new project in the making? Just because the third trio is from an earlier period of Beethoven, it is by no means 'simple' or one dimensional in character. It is intensely dark and the moments of urgency are paralleled by moments of deep expression and rhetorical beauty. From our morning générale rehearsal until the concert, I think all of us were in deep concentration and hoping to maintain that focus throughout the performance. Here are a few photos from our concert in Flagey's Studio 1 by the wonderful photographer Michel Cooreman.