The upcoming 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s 1770 birth gave the Classical Music Institute (CMI) impetus to celebrate the composer’s lesser-known works for its 2019-2020 season.
“The late quartets are still considered some of the most innovative pieces of music ever written,” said Paul Montalvo, CMI artistic director.
While Beethoven’s symphonies are among the most-performed works in the classical canon, his string quartets, quintets, and other chamber music pieces are better known among chamber music aficionados, Montalvo said.
Thus, the June 25 program “A Beethoven Schubertiade: Late Quartet Hors d’oeuvres” – one of 12 concerts in the upcoming season – was designed by Montalvo to offer audiences “a taste” of each of Beethoven’s last five quartets. Audiences have responded positively to shorter glimpses of grander works, Montalvo said, citing past examples, including the performance of single movements within longer quartets and concertos.
The term “Schubertiade” in this context refers to the tradition of performing concerts for a small, intimate gathering of friends and fans, begun by popular composer Franz Schubert.
Given the nature of chamber music, CMI concerts are at more intimate venues like the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, the Ruth Taylor Recital Hall at Trinity University, and the Seddon Recital Hall at the University of the Incarnate Word.
Schubert also appears on CMI’s April 4 program, with his 1828 String Quintet in C major, paired with Beethoven’s String Quintet in C major, known more commonly as the “Storm” quintet.
Other composers round out the full season, including the Nov. 8 “Audible Fingerprints” program, tracing the enduring influence of Beethoven on modern composers. The program includes Austrian composer Anton Webern’s arrangement of Arnold Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 9.
The program title is taken from a quote by conductor Daniel Barenboim, who said, “Beethoven and Schoenberg … have left audible fingerprints on the scores of all their successors and will most likely continue to do so for as long as music is being written.”
The overall season theme, “Ever Ours,” derives from Beethoven’s still-mysterious “Immortal Beloved” letters, written to an unnamed, presumed lover in 1812 while in Czechoslovakia. One letter, detailing his “tearful longings” while forced to be away from the addressee, ends “never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved … ever thine/ever mine/ever ours.”
The theme encapsulates the resilience and continual relevance of Beethoven’s music, Montalvo said, and his status as “a composer of the common person.” Though an “innovative revolutionary who went against the grain,” and who wrote some difficult music, Beethoven appeals to universal emotions.
In his compositions, Montalvo explained, there exists a sense of inevitability. “You almost sense what’s going to happen, but it still surprises you. There’s also that hope at the end” of so many works, he said, citing the famous Symphony No. 5, with “this struggle, this fight going on, then this explosion of hope and almost celebration at the end. That’s where Beethoven speaks to people.”
The full season schedule will be available on the CMI website Thursday, with a total of 12 concerts. Information on venues, season subscription prices, and single performance tickets will also be available.
Three free concerts include a special June 18 “Candlelit Beethoven” program, featuring the String Quartet No. 14, “one of the greatest string quartets ever written,” according to Montalvo. A free June 21 afternoon concert at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church will feature favorite concerto movements of CMI faculty, and the annual CMI student and faculty concert takes place June 26 at Edgewood Theatre of Performing Arts.