On Late Style
Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132 Giacinto Scelsi: String Quartet No. 4
This program explores works from the late, mature periods of two musical revolutionaries, Beethoven and Scelsi, whose works are often catalogued into three (or in Sclesi’s case, sometimes four) periods of stylistic evolution. Beethoven’s String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132, is one of the cornerstone pieces of his late style, in which traditional forms and genres become fragmented, drawn out, and reinvented in a highly personal language. Traces of autobiography also appear in the quartet; the beautiful central movement, titled Heiliger Dankgesang (“Holy Song of Thanks”), is a hymn of gratitude “from One Made Well, to the Divine; in the Lydian Mode.” In Theodor W. Adorno’s 1937 essay on late Beethoven, he describes the artist’s self-exile and alienation from his contemporaries and audiences as a major cultural moment in the history of music. This program takes its title from Edward Said’s “On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain,” a collection of essays on the subject, which was itself inspired by Adorno’s earlier essay.
Like Beethoven, Giacinto Scelsi found his most individualistic voice late in life. A period of psychological crisis and spiritual transformation led to a new style based on the most basic elements of sound and its infinite varieties. In his fourth string quartet, long drawn-out phrasing allows for migration between areas of extreme focus – on a single pitch, for instance, or slight changes of timbre obtained through special playing techniques.
“On Late Style”
Presented by Roger Smith Arts & The Talea Ensemble
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