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. When first heard, performers, friends, and especially 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.
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."
The UB Music Department presents the award-winning Dover Quartet tonight, March 8, in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on SUNY at Buffalo's North Campus at 7:30 p.m. Joel Link & Bryan Lee, violin; Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola; and Camden Shaw, cello, will play, in order, music defined as "early, late style, 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. Camden Shaw spoke with WNED's Peter Hall.