Fulfillment instead of pleasure

Back in the concert hall after the Corona forced break: The Kuss Quartet and Nico and the Navigators present their spectacular Beethoven project at the Orangery.

Even the key is a warning. Beethoven's late string quartet, Opus 131, is in C-sharp minor. Hardly any other composer uses such a detached sound world, and even Beethoven himself had resorted to it only once before: a quarter of a century earlier in his "Moonlight Sonata". The nocturnal earthiness of the key, which can already cause some unease in the piano sonata, is now somberly condensed in the quartet. It is music like a restless night. Thoughts and memories drift through the brain like wisps of fog: beauty and sadness, comfort and guilt. The many leaps of thought and abrupt changes of theme, as well as the quartet's idiosyncratic form, which is very vaguely divided into seven different movements, leave the listener as defenseless as a dreamer. The carousel of thoughts in this music is unstoppable and its next turn unpredictable. The piece, which was never performed during the composer's lifetime, is not suitable for entertaining background music that can be overheard. One is at the mercy of these sounds. This is rather no pleasure - but it can be fulfillment.

Air and space

To put such extreme music on the program when a concert is played in a concert hall in Lower Saxony for the first time after the Corona compulsory break is a strong sign. Since the beginning of the week, this has been allowed again, and the chamber music community immediately seized the opportunity and organized two performances with the Kuss Quartet. Oliver Wille, the ensemble's second violinist, is also artistic director of the chamber music community. He has made sure that the reunion will be an event. The Herrenhausen Orangery has been given a rustic ventilation system for the occasion: Two thick yellow hoses on the ceiling silently suck out stale air and bring a breath of fresh air into the already very spacious room. Generous space is left between the seats, so that there is room for at least 100 visitors who can follow the concert with their mouths covered. But the special external circumstances fade into the background as soon as the first notes ring out in the good acoustics: a long-desired experience. The Kuss Quartet is able to enhance this even more with its extraordinary program dramaturgy. Beethoven's early B-flat major quartet, with its peculiarly intertwined rhythms in the scherzo and the unusual and melancholy introduction to the finale, at least prepares the listener a bit for all the unheard-of things in Opus 131. And like Beethoven, who wrote two more great string quartets after this work, the Kuss Quartet finds a way to finish the concert evening with a flourish: The composer's last quartet is not simply played in the conventional way - after the intermission, it is the focus of a "Staged Concert," that is, a now-staged concert that the musicians have devised in collaboration with the Berlin-based music theater group Nico and the Navigators. Grim humor Director Nicola Hünrpel, who brought Rossini's "Barber of Seville" to the stage of the Hanover State Opera as recently as January, expands the personnel only slightly: in addition to the four string players, dancer Yui Kawaguchi is also part of the cast. The Japanese dancer proves to be a responsive translator: she transforms the expression of the music into movement. She transforms the expression of the music into movement, into dejection and laborious uplifting, into quiet happiness and irrepressible joy. The dance, however, is neither a purely doubling pantomime that shows what is already there, nor is it a foreign body that adds what is not in the tones. The movements often seem weightless, lending an astonishing lightness even to the brooding art of the music. One senses much more strongly the humor and delicate poetry that almost always lie behind Beethoven's often grim music. This is also helped by the simply refined stage design, which can be a stable seat for the musicians, who also act scenically. Turned on its side, however, it becomes a moon, a boat or a seesaw that can put violinists and violists in fragile equilibrium. The collaborative work on this piece is part of a larger Beethoven project by Nico and the Navigators and the Kuss Quartet. The Corona pandemic interrupted work on it. Now it is being resumed. The premiere is scheduled for December in Berlin. It could be a fascinating finale to the current Beethoven year.

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