Thu 19 Apr 2018
6:30pm | €12/10
Thu 19 Apr 2018
6:30pm | €12/10

RTÉ Contempo Quartet – Beethoven Music for a Later Age

John Kinsella String Quartet No. 3

Beethoven String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 in A minor

Composed in 1977, John Kinsella’s dark-hued Third String Quartet was his response to a time of intense personal and creative tumult. It explores similar emotional terrain (and with no less profundity) to that of Beethoven’s turbulent and fiercely interior Fifteenth String Quartet.

In his last quartets, Beethoven seems possessed by an urge to test the limits of what music can convey. Whether Beethoven meant his late quartets as self-analysis or unchecked confession remains unknown. (The investigation of the interior self was a novel notion, its codification by Sigmund Freud still decades away.) But their power to communicate with unfettered emotional directness renders them as some of the most potent of artistic testimonies.

The five-movement Fifteenth Quartet (Op. 132) was completed while in ill health and begins in shadow, plumbs the darkest depths and ends in sublime sweetness.

John Kinsella’s Third Quaret (1977) carries some of the chiaroscuro anxiety of the Op. 132, its decidedly more modern sensibilty revealing the string quartet as a still cogent and compelling form.

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.

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