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Finally! Rescheduled! Beethoven’s “message to the future” tonight at UB with Dover Quartet Slee Cycle III

(Updated from original March 8, article)

The UB Music Department’s presentation of the award-winning Dover Quartet tonight, April 24 in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on SUNY at Buffalo’s North Campus at 7:30 p.m. is the rescheduled concert #3 in the annual Slee Beethoven Cycle. Originally planned for March 8, when high winds grounded their flight, Joel Link & Bryan Lee, violin; Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola; and Camden Shaw, cello, will play, in order, music defined as “early, late, and middle period” Beethoven: his Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3; the “Grosse Fuge,” Op. 133, and the Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1.

$15 general admission; $10 seniors/UB community/non-UB students; UB students free with valid ID. Tickets available at the door. Call 645-2921 or visit www.slee.buffalo.edu

Over his lifetime, Beethoven’s music changed dramatically. So called “early” Beethoven (before 1800) sounds a lot like Mozart and Haydn (with whom Beethoven studied, but only briefly, because Beethoven didn’t take direction from others very well). His collection of string quartets known as “Opus 18” are featured, one each evening, in the six concerts of the Slee Cycle at UB. These “Opus 18” quartets were published as a group of six, because that’s the way it was done in the late 1700s. So if you say “I like Mozart” (and who doesn’t), you’ll like tonight’s first work on tonight’s program at Slee Hall (7:30 p.m. start), Beethoven’s Quartet in D, written in 1799.

It was in Beethoven’s “middle period” (in the early 1800s) where he started to stretch the boundaries of “classical” music. This is the time of his groundbreaking “Eroica” and 5th Symphonies as his music became more emotionally complex and it’s what most people think of when they think “Beethoven.” So, after about a seven-year break from the six Opus 18 string quartets, Beethoven came back to that form in 1806 when his friend, the Russian ambassador Count Rasumovsky, commissioned three quartets which would (hopefully) use Russian themes. Not only did Beethoven admit to speaking with the Russian ambassador on more than one occasion, they were great friends, and the Opus 59 collection, dedicated to the Count, is known as “the Rasumovsky quartets.” So if you say “I like Beethoven” (and who doesn’t), then you will like the Quartet in F, Op. 59, No. 1 which closes tonight’s program in good spirits.

But what of that second piece of music which will be played tonight? After a break of almost twenty years, Beethoven finally came back to the string quartet form, and in the early 1820s he composed his quartets numbered 12 through 16. These are known as his “late style” quartets. Originally the finale to his String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat major (1825) was a “great fugue” known by its German name “Grosse Fuge.”

At the time, performers, friends, and his publisher told him it was too much for audiences of the time. “Cattle!” “Asses!” were Beethoven’s responses, but ultimately, he agreed to write an alternate ending to his Opus 130 and publish the fugue separately as Opus 133. 

According to a bequest of Frederick and Alice Slee, every year since 1955, starting with the legendary Budapest String Quartet performances, Buffalo audiences have heard, in a prescribed order, every quartet Beethoven wrote, and they are played every year in that particular order. The bequest calls for one concert to offer Beethoven’s “late style” String Quartet No. 13 to be played with its alternate ending and another concert (on March 8th, tonight) to offer the original ending, the “great fugue” as a stand-alone piece.


Of that great fugue Beethoven said that he was writing not for his own time, but for the future. That future is here. Imagine that Beethoven put a message in a bottle or time capsule and buried it. Now, almost 200 years later, as quartets have done in Buffalo since 1955, we get to open that message once again. In a conversation with the Dover Quartet’s cellist, Camden Shaw said that “kids and younger people love it… the rawness and the intensity.” And that the pinnacle of listening will come at the end of the fifteen-minute “Grosse Fugue.” When he was a student at the Curtis Institute (which he calls “The Hogwart’s of Music”) his cello teacher, Peter Wiley, (who played for many years with the famous Guarneri Quartet) told Shaw: “Just wait until you get to play the ending of the Grosse Fuge.” And, indeed, says Shaw: “There’s a moment right at the end, where we hear the theme of the fugue one last time with these stirring triplets underneath. It’s one of the most satisfying moments in all of music to play.”

Again, tonight’s concert, April 24 in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on SUNY at Buffalo’s North Campus is at 7:30 p.m. is the reschedule March concert #3 in the Slee Beethoven Cycle. Tickets from March 8 will be honored or you can buy tickets at the door. $15 general admission; $10 seniors/UB community/non-UB students; UB students free with valid ID. Call 645-2921 or visit www.slee.buffalo.edu.

Upcoming chamber music concerts in the Buffalo area include:

The Camerata di Sant’Antonio presenting “Maestro’s Muse” Wednesday, May 17 (a date change from the original), at 7:00 p.m. at Blessed Sacrament R.C. Church, 1033 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. The “Camerata” is a string orchestra which includes many “moonlighting” Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra musicians. They will play music by Mozart, Bartok, Lekeu, Alvarez, and the U.S. premier of Odermatt’s “Concerto for Oboe d’Amore” (a seldom heard, duskier, sexier cousin of the oboe, whose name translates to “the oboe of love.”) Tickets are $18 at the door; reception to follow.

The Buffalo Chamber Players (another very high level group which also includes many other “moonlighting” Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra musicians) will present “Music and Dance,” their fourth and final concert of their 10th Anniversary season on Thursday, May 25, at 8:00 p.m. in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14222. The BCP will collaborate with Lehrer Dance, the innovative professional dance company based in Buffalo, NY.  For tickets, visit the Albright-Knox Art Gallery at www.albrightknox.org or call (716) 270-8292.

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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