The Complete Beethoven Cycle 1 Book Tickets

Saturday 23 September

RTÉ Contempo Quartet – Beethoven Music for a Later Age

Beethoven String Quartet No. 1, Op. 18 No. 1 in F
Boydell Quartet No. 1
Beethoven String Quartet No. 7, Op. 59 No. 1 in F, ‘Razumovsky’
Our journey exploring Beethoven’s String Quartets begins at the beginning. His First Quartet incorporates Classical tradition and hints at emerging Romantic innovation, the technically challenging Seventh Quartet points to coming maturity. Brian Boydell’s avant-garde-edged Quartet No. 1 also finds itself caught between past and present.

Beethoven’s String Quartets mark the beginning of a remarkable creative journey. One that transformed the nature of the string quartet, taking it to emotional heights and depths unwitnessed before and, arguably, never since.

The First Quartet reveals a musical form in transition. Indebted to the Classical model created by Mozart and developed by Haydn, it is stamped through with Beethoven’s own questing signature and lit up by novel ideas hinting at the maturity to come.

Composed in 1949, Brian Boydell’s Quartet No. 1 also finds itself on a musical cusp: caught between traditional conservatism and the post-war avant-garde.

The First Razumovsky Quartet reveals a new complexity in Beethoven’s musical language, with new challenges to players and listeners alike that would reach frutition in the composer’s monumental late quartets.

Beethoven’s sixteen quartets and the Grosse Fugue still stand today as some of the most extraordinary and innovative music ever composed. Written over a span of thirty years in roughly three blocks, Beethoven took the form, perfected by “Papa Haydn” and developed further by Mozart , completely revising and transforming it.

Nos. 1-6, written when he was in his late twenties were early explorations into the form and although lighter than many of the later works there is always a dark side too. The Middle Quartets have at their core the three Razumovskys, commissioned by Count (later Prince) Razumovsky which included Russian themes. Already aware of his deafness, he wrote on one of the sketches:

“Make no secret of your deafness, not even in art!”

The five Late Quartets and Grosse Fugue undoubtedly represent the ultimate in quartet writing, the very best of Beethoven’s genius, described by him to his musicians as:

“music not for you, but for a later age”

Ten Irish works complement each of the nine programmes, with works dating from 1934 to the present day, including three new RTÉ commissions.


The RTÉ Contempo Quartet is one of the most exciting and vibrant chamber ensembles performing today. The members studied together in Bucharest, formed a quartet in 1995 and were appointed as Galway Music Residency’s Quartet in Residence in 2003 and RTÉ’s Quartet in Residence in May 2014. They have given over 120 performances for RTÉ so far with another 40+ planned for the 2017-18 season.

“Full of telling detail…this was a performance undertaken out of love for the music” (Irish Times, 2016)

In its three previous seasons for RTÉ the Quartet has focused on the core repertoire of Haydn and Bartók in particular, with the complete Beethoven Cycle to perform during 2017-18 including three new commissions by Irish composers. At the heart of every performance is the desire to communicate to its audience both the love of, and delight in the music, and the Quartet has gained many new fans with its fresh and enthusiastic approach to a wide variety of repertoire. They continue in their role as educators with quartet workshop sessions in the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin as well as one-to-one teaching in the RIAM and DIT colleges.

Season At A Glance