© Julien Mignot
RADAR

Beethoven Around The World

To celebrate the Beethoven Year, the prestigious Quatuor Ébène quartet have undertaken the enormous challenge of touring the world with Beethoven's sixteen quartets. They will be performing in Brussels on 25 January.    

The idea for the world tour germinated in 2014, when Carnegie Hall asked the famous quartet if they would like to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary in 2020 by performing all sixteen of his string quartets at the famous New York City venue. Though obviously honoured to be given the opportunity, the quartet understood the enormity of the challenge: in a relatively short space of time - and alongside their other major commitments - they would have to learn sixteen demanding masterpieces. But their doubts were soon dispelled by the belief that playing Beethoven's quartets is ‘the most complete musical experience that there is’.

Quatuor Ebène in South Korea © Instagram quatuor_ebene
Quatuor Ebène in South Korea © Instagram quatuor_ebene

The idea of embracing Carnegie's challenge on an even grander scale, by performing the masterful quartets around the world, also soon took hold. The plan met with plenty of interest from prospective partners, so they will perform forty concerts from April 2019 to late 2020, in eighteen countries across six continents. They have also linked the tour to a major project to record the full suite of quartets. So far, recordings have been made in Philadelphia, Vienna, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Melbourne and Nairobi. Soon to follow on 27 January is Paris. They reached the firm decision to record the concerts live, to avoid what they themselves describe as getting caught up in 'sterile perfectionism'.

Beethoven, Bonn © Instagram quatuor_ebene
Beethoven, Bonn © Instagram quatuor_ebene

Their concert and recording adventures will be captured by a film crew, to culminate in a documentary for release at the end of 2020. In it, they wish to honour Beethoven as a humanist composer, building bridges between cultures. It is their mission to ‘draw out the parallels between the music and the diversity of today’s world’.

Quatuor Ebène in New Zealand © Instagram quatuor_ebene
Quatuor Ebène in New Zealand © Instagram quatuor_ebene

On 25 January, the quartet call in at BOZAR, following performances in Basel, Bonn and Cambridge in the preceding days. In the large and wonderfully acoustic Henry Le Boeuf Auditorium you will hear Beethoven's Third and Fifteenth string quartets, being one early and one late quartet. For the musicians it will be an important moment to refine their interpretations, as they go on to immortalise the version two days later in Paris!

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