Beethoven’s Music at Nairobi concerts


Ludwig van Beethoven whose music will be played. FILE PHOTO | NMG

As the world gears up to celebrate next year’s 250th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest composers of all time, Nairobi is one of the world cities which has been selected by a group of musicians who are travelling the world to showcase the timeless value of the music

A group of French classical musicians are going around the world playing all the string quartets of composer Ludwig van Beethoven to celebrate next year’s 250th anniversary of the birth of the influential German composer.

This weekend the Quatuor Èbené will play a concert in Nairobi as part of their world tour that has taken them to some of the most famous concert venues in the world.

The idea for the world tour started in 2014 when Quatuor Ebene was invited to perform the complete Beethoven quartets in New York in 2020. The invitation is what gave birth to the idea of playing Beethoven not just in New York but around the world.

Starting in April 2019 until January next year, the Quatuor Èbené will have performed 40 concerts across 18 countries in all six continents. It just so happens that the group is also celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2020. The live recordings will take place in Philadelphia US, Vienna Austria, Tokyo Japan, Sao Paulo Brazil, Melbourne Australia, and of course Nairobi, Kenya.

These concerts are being recorded for an album containing the complete Beethoven String Quartets that will appear at the beginning of 2020 in a seven CD set released by the Erato/Warner label. The live recordings are meant to conserve the passion and spirit that comes with performing for an audience.

A film crew is also accompanying the Quatuor Èbené on its world tour to film and produce a documentary of this musical adventure that will be released at the end of 2020. The film will be a demonstration of how diverse audiences in those different cities with different cultures connect with the music of Beethoven.

The tour is centred on the theme of sharing the music of Beethoven, across geographical and cultural divides. Beginning February to December 2020, the Quartor Èbené will perform the complete set of 16 Beethoven String Quartets in concert at several of the top concert venues in the world. These include the Carnegie Hall in New York. The Philharmonie de Paris, London’s Wigmore Hall and the Bremen Music Festival.

What began as a distraction for the four young French musicians playing in practice rooms at university in 1999 has turned into a solid chamber music quartet that has been hailed for its dexterity in playing concert music.

The string quartet consists of Pierre Colombet on First violin and Gabriel le Magadure on Second Violin, viola player, Marie Chilemme and a cellist Raphael Merlin.

A turning point for the group came in 2004 when they won the string quartet category of prestigious ARD Music Competition, the largest international classical music competition in Germany. They have gone on to win a host of music awards and prizes and made classical music more accessible by connecting to younger audiences.

Quatuor Èbené have recorded albums of classical works by composers like Haydn, Bartok, Debussy, Faure, Mozart and Mendelssohn. When they released their first album devoted to Haydn, they mentioned the dream of one day tackling the Everest: the string quartets of Beethoven.

Their concert programme at the Alliance Francaise auditorium tomorrow evening runs in two sections, opening with String Quartet No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 18, followed by String Quartet No 5 in A Major, Op. 18. This first half of the performance runs into 50 minutes before the breather.

The second half of the concert is just under 40 minutes and consists of String Quartet No. 16 in F Major, Op 135, before the concert closes with Great Fugue in B Sharp Minor, Op. 133.

Until they undertook the world tour, they had played some of the quartets composed by Beethoven. Now, during this tour they are playing and recording all 16 of Beethoven’s quartets, a great expedition in classical if ever there was one.

According to the quartet, the message they hope to communicate to audiences around the world via Beethoven is one of simplicity. “Beethoven’s dream has never been as relevant as now. The great humanist challenge of our generation is to save the planet from the great ecological challenges of our time ,’ they say.