The Simply Quartet
Photo Tessa Veldhorst © De Schaapjesfabriek

The third Februari Festival opened last night in The Hague. This year it celebrates Beethoven’s birth 250 years ago.

The concerts are held in the Nieuwe Kerk, Den Haag, which is one of my favourite venues. The almost round church interior has a wonderful, intimate warmth, as well as exceptional acoustics, all of which are perfect for Beethoven’s highly emotional work. His alternating of delicate and tender passages with the thunderous ones illustrate the composers life struggles movingly – and an emotionally hard life he had, losing his mother when young, then his brother, not to mention his unhappy love life, mostly due to being deemed too low a class to marry a succession of high-born women.

Tonight’s programme, entitled Beethoven and the liberation of the violinists, started with the quintet for piano and four wind instruments, wonderfully performed by the Ensemble 4.1. This quintet was Beethoven’s only quintet, inspired by Mozart’s line up of instruments. It is especially satisfying musically because each instrument gets a chance to shine.

I have a particular liking for quartets and quintets. There is usually a very watchable dynamic between the musicians, one of intimacy and friendship as they glance at each other, eyebrows rising or frowning, taking queues from their neighbours or just smiling to themselves. The animated faces transmit the emotions and meaning intended by the composer and add to my enjoyment of the music.

The Simply Quartet closed the evening with a spirited rendition of Beethoven’s Stringquartet No. 8 Op 59. This was a work of Beethovens middle years, one of three commissioned by Russian ambassador to Vienna, Count Andreas Razumovsky. It had a distinctly Russian flavour in parts, the last movement of which ended in an explosion of sound that lifted viola player Xiang Lyu, who throughout played with every sinew of his body, clean off his chair.

Between quintet and quartet we were treated to the Violin Sonata No.2 Op 12, performed masterfully by Quirine Viersen on cello and a very dynamic Enrico Pace on piano. Also appearing was Jacqueline Dupré look-a-like, 24-year-old  Coraline Groenthe, winner of the Nederlands Violconcours 2020. Unfortunatley, I did not catch the name of her young but  excellent pianist. All in all, a very enriching evening opening a highly recommended festival.   Astrid Burchardt  13th February 2020

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