The 2020 York Chamber Music Festival welcomes my friends back to the city, who are among the leading professional players in the country. I have also invited the brilliant Russian pianist Katya Apekisheva to join us.
This year we celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.
In 1796 the young Ludwig was in his late twenties and living in Vienna having secured aristocratic patronage. We are focussing on these early years up to 1801. Uneducated, rough-mannered, already aware of hearing loss, but with an enticing personality and undoubted musical genius he fed the insatiable appetite of his patrons for chamber music of all sorts, not forgetting that his ability to improvise on the forte piano was legendary.
Piano sonatas, violin sonatas, string trios, string quartets and more flew off his pen; already masterly, deeply poetic, turbulent, unorthodox in structure, pushing players beyond the edge; opening up new possibilities, new horizons. And so in these pieces we glimpse the creative soul of possibly the greatest musician who ever lived. This is not ‘early’ Beethoven… he shot off the blocks already fully formed!
Almost everything else in the programme can be thought of as a legacy of this one man. A feature of the programme is that we are playing piano quintets which was more or less invented as an ensemble by Robert Schumann – having immersed himself in a study of Beethoven’s trios and quartets (Mozart and Haydn too) while Clara was away on tour. We played the Piano Quartet at the end of last year’s festival in St Chad’s on the Knavsmire and we are back there in the first concert to play the epic Quintet.