Performance Friday, March 31, 2017 | 8 PM

Quatuor Ebène

Zankel Hall
Beethoven’s string quartets are road maps that chart his development as a composer. His String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 18, No. 6, is a progressive work with an unforgettable final-movement dialogue between melancholy and jolly spirits. The “Serioso” Quartet is true to its nickname; it’s an impassioned work with a tremendous intensity in its stormy struggles, and only finds victory in its final measures. The String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127, has episodes of daring harmonic exploration and a magnificent set of second-movement variations built on a lofty theme.


  • Quatuor Ebène
    ·· Pierre Colombet, Violin
    ·· Gabriel Le Magadure, Violin
    ·· Adrien Boisseau, Viola
    ·· Raphaël Merlin, Cello


  • String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 18, No. 6
  • String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95, "Serioso"
  • String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


Pre-concert talk starts at 7:00 PM in Zankel Hall with the Quatuor Ebène's cellist, Raphaël Merlin, in conversation with Jeremy Geffen, Director of Artistic Planning, Carnegie Hall.

At a Glance

Beethoven’s career is traditionally divided into three style periods—early, middle, and late—and tonight’s program includes one string quartet from each of them. As such, it charts the composer’s evolution from the callow piano virtuoso who took Vienna by storm in the 1790s to the mature artist whose revolutionary conception of music set the pattern for the Romantic era.

In his six Op. 18 string quartets, written between 1798 and 1800, the young Beethoven staked his claim to the title of Haydn’s and Mozart’s successor in the realm of the string quartet. The last of the set, the B-flat–Major Quartet is refreshingly iconoclastic in both form and expression: The hauntingly mercurial finale, with its sharp contrasts of mood, anticipates the language of Beethoven’s late quartets.

A mere decade separates the mostly well-tempered classicism of the Op. 18 quartets from the idiosyncratic and emotionally intense Quartet in F Minor, aptly subtitled “Serioso.” Beethoven’s five late-period quartets pose special challenges, and offer commensurate rewards, for listeners and performers. The Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127—one of three commissioned by Prince Nikolai Golitsïn, the composer’s Russian patron—is remarkably adventurous both formally and tonally, packing a wealth of surprising twists and turns into its “conventional” four-movement format.
Program Notes
This concert is made possible, in part, by The Joan and Ernest Bragin Endowment Fund.
This performance is part of Chamber Sessions I.