Becoming Beethoven

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Photo courtesy Chamber Music Tulsa.
Photo courtesy Chamber Music Tulsa.

A string quartet meant something extremely intimate to legendary composer Ludwig van Beethoven. To him, quartets were reserved for expressions about his most private experiences. To hear these movements performed by the celebrated Miro Quartet, visit the Beethoven Winter Festival, brought to Oklahoma by Chamber Music Tulsa.

The festival will cover all of Beethoven’s 16 quartets, performed in chronological order over six concerts. Highlighting the successes and failures of his life, these compositions explore such themes as personal struggle, coming of age, illness, love and, lastly, death – all through the use of only two violins, a viola and a cello.

“This musical journey speaks to the power of the human spirit and the triumph of creative genius,” says Bruce Sorrell, executive director at Chamber Music Tulsa. “It is a mark of the sophistication of our Tulsa audience and the operational capacity of Chamber Music Tulsa that we are able to offer this landmark event here this year.”

The festival began in December with Beethoven’s Birthday Celebration, a daylong commemoration that included specially prepared treats, a beer tour and more at Tulsa-area locations. Along with panel and book discussions in January and a residency by the Aeolus Quartet this month, the Winter Festival offers both cultural and academic appreciation for an iconic musician.

“We have planned a large number of free events to engage as many Tulsans in the extraordinary world of Beethoven’s quartets as possible,” Sorrell says.

Chamber Music Tulsa has also teamed with the Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges to bring an art exhibition, entitled Gifted, to the Performing Arts Center Gallery from Feb. 1 to 28. Gifted will feature works by members of the center’s programs who, much like Beethoven, overcame physical disabilities to create meaningful art.

“The idea of art created by individuals with disabilities seemed like a natural addition; Beethoven composed his set of great final quartets at the very end of his life while in a state of complete deafness,” Sorrell says. “We were thrilled that the Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges accepted our invitation to participate.”

With many activities to participate in and quartets to listen to, Sorrell promises that the festival has much more than just a night of good music.

“I expect [the festival] to be a transformative experience, spiritual even, and something I will talk about the rest of my life,” he says. “Encounters with great art leave us changed forever.”

The concerts will run at 7 p.m. Feb. 17, 18, 21, 23 and 25 and at 5 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Tulsa PAC. Visit chambermusictulsa.org for tickets and details.

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