The Complete Beethoven Cycle 4 Book Tickets

Saturday 16 December

RTÉ Contempo Quartet – Beethoven Music for a Later Age

Beethoven String Quartet No. 4, Op. 18 No. 4 in C

Deirdre McKay New work (RTÉ commission)

Beethoven String Quartet No. 10, Op. 74 in E-flat

With its chiaroscuro contrasts and structural surprises, the Fourth Quartet strikes out for new creative territory, the Tenth Quartet elegantly integrates Classical ideas while looking steadfastly ahead. A new RTÉ commission by Deirdre McKay promises much from a composer of ‘perfect musical expression’ (Opera Journal).


The last of the Op. 18 Quartets to be completed, the Fourth Quartet saw Beethoven getting into his stride as his long creative march away from the influence of Mozart and Haydn developed a surer sense of direction.

Pointedly rooted in the key of C major (previously employed by his Classical totems for dramatic effect) the Fourth Quartet’s tempestuous opening announces a work in which Beethoven’s own searching credo begins to break through the conventions of inherited tradition.

Drawn from Beethoven’s ‘middle period’, the Op. 74 Tenth Quartet was nicknamed the Harp Quartet by the composer’s publisher for its striking mimickry of the Irish instrument’s distinctive plucked sound.

Deirdre McKay’s new RTÉ-commissioned work comes from a composer ‘exceptionally imaginative in the sound world she creates’ (Irish Examiner).

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