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Calidore String Quartet & Early Beethoven

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  • Rosemary Waller


In January Music at Oakmont brings not one, but two very special programs to the Berger stage. On Jan. 10 cellist Edward Arron and pianist Jeewon Park return for their third appearance on our series, performing a delightful mix of audience favorites. Opening with Beethoven’s Twelve Variations on “See the Conqu’ring Hero Comes” from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus, they will continue with Manuel de Falla’s Suite popular española. Ms. Park, an acclaimed piano soloist as well as chamber musician, will then be heard in Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G Minor. The duo will conclude with Brahms’s Sonata in F Major.


We hunted for a date to reschedule The Calidore String Quartet’s 2017 concert that was cancelled during last year’s wildfires. A rare opening in the group’s busy tour schedule has allowed us to book them on Jan. 31, and hence the two concerts this month. We are happy that the Calidore’s program will be all-Beethoven, as was planned for October 2017. The string quartets are Op. 18, No. 4; Op. 74; and Op. 131: one each from the composer’s early, middle, and late periods.

The sixteen Beethoven string quartets are now universally regarded as the pinnacle of achievement in that form. Their composition, from 1798 to 1826, encompasses much of the composer’s career, and offers an intriguing glimpse into the development of genius, as well as the progression from 18th-century classicism to 19th-century romanticism. Like forward-looking music of any era, the works were often poorly received by contemporary listeners. Louis Spohr, a much-respected composer of the time, famously dismissed the late quartets as “indecipherable, uncorrected horrors.”


Beethoven waited till he was close to 30 before attempting his first string quartet. Haydn had introduced and refined the quartet form, and Mozart furthered the development. Beethoven must have felt considerable trepidation following in the footsteps of these masters. One of Beethoven’s early patrons, the Bohemian Prince Lobkowitz, was a general in the imperial army as well as an accomplished musician. He built a magnificent palace in Vienna, featuring a grand concert hall. Many Beethoven chamber works were premiered here, including the set of six Op. 18 quartets. They were performed by the Schuppanzigh Quartet, hired by the Prince, and considered to be the very first professional string quartet. First Violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh became one of Beethoven’s few lifelong friends, despite recurring spats. At one point the testy composer, annoyed by Schuppanzigh’s complaints about the difficulty of one of the quartets, railed at him, “Do you suppose I think about your lousy fiddle when the muse strikes me?”

Program notes for the Jan. 10 Arron/Park concert can be found at Complete notes for the Jan. 31 Calidore program will be posted following the Jan. 10 concert.

WHAT: Edward Arron and Jeewon Park Jan. 10

Calidore String Quartet Jan. 31

WHEN: Thursday afternoons 1:30 PM

WHERE: Berger Center

ADMISSION: $20 at the door, or your season pass


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