The Beethoven Experience

January 17, 2020

Photo by Richard Bowditch

In commemoration of the 250th anniversary year of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, the strains of some of his most celebrated works will sound in the iconic Blackfriars Playhouse, as part of “The Beethoven Experience,” a six-concert performance, symposium, and residency series exploring all sixteen of the great German master’s string quartets, which many consider to be one of the pinnacles of Western music.

Photo by Richard Bowditch

The concerts will all feature the acclaimed Borromeo String Quartet, in residence during the academic year at New England Conservatory, and during the summer at the Heifetz Institute, whose first violinist and founder Nicholas Kitchen serves as the Institute’s Artistic Director. The concerts will showcase both the world-class artistic excellence of the Quartet, as well as Mr. Kitchen’s pioneering research into Beethoven’s manuscripts, which has been described by the Boston-based Center for Beethoven Research as “One of those remarkable breakthroughs in music that come only once every few decades.”

In addition, each performance will include a pre-concert Symposium investigating the intersection between Beethoven and the intellectual, political, and artistic currents of his time – and ours. The symposia will feature Mr. Kitchen and fellow members of the Borromeo Quartet, alongside ASC Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny, and MBU College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean Paul Menzer, as well as special guest commentators drawn from the Mary Baldwin, ASC, and Heifetz faculty and staff.

“Through this partnership, our students and community alike will have a front-row seat to experience the musical soul of one of the greatest cultural figures in history, from some of the most accomplished artists of our time.”
Dr. Pamela Fox, MBU President and Professor of Music

Each of the six concerts, presented in the intimate surroundings of the ASC’s iconic Blackfriars Playhouse, will feature a quartet from Beethoven’s so-called “Early, Middle, and Late” periods. The Beethoven Experience will be both a concert and education “experience,” particularly for Mary Baldwin students, who will have the opportunity for dialogue with the members of the Borromeo Quartet, as well as to witness up-close open rehearsals and enjoy free access to the evening concerts. In addition, students and ticket holders alike will have the opportunity to participate in the pre-concert public symposia, moderated by Heifetz Institute President & CEO Benjamin K. Roe. Roe observes, “During its storied 25-year history as one of the world’s great chamber ensembles, the Borromeo Quartet has earned a sterling reputation for their groundbreaking Beethoven interpretations. It is a distinct honor – and a testament to the remarkable cultural profile of this area – that the Borromeos are presenting the complete Beethoven quartet cycle in just two locations during this milestone year: At the New England Conservatory in Boston, and the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton.”

Mary Baldwin University President and Professor of Music, Pamela Fox, shares her excitement for the program, “Through this partnership, our students and community alike will have a front-row seat to experience the musical soul of one of the greatest cultural figures in history, from some of the most accomplished artists of our time.” Adds ASC Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny, “Beethoven lovers the world over know that the composer had a special, deep connection to Shakespeare, so ASC’s incomparable Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only recreation of Shakespeare’s indoor stage, is really the perfect place to experience the Borromeo Quartet tackling this once-in-a-lifetime, extraordinary and demanding program.”

The six symposia and performances will take place at the Blackfriars Playhouse, 10 S. Market Street, in Staunton, VA. The symposia will start at 6:30 pm, and the concerts at 7:30 pm. Complete ticket and program information is available at

The Spring 2020 Season of “The Beethoven Experience” is generously underwritten by Chris & Betsy Little.

Feb. 24 – Bor-Romeo
Beethoven and Shakespeare Beyond the Tomb
String Quartet No. 1 in F major, Op. 18, No. 1
String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59, No. 1
String Quartet No. 12 in E-flat major, Op. 127

Oct. 5 – Beethoven’s “Punny Money”
The humor, profundity, and pfennings of Beethoven’s life and music
String Quartet No. 4 in C minor, Op. 18, No. 4
String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat major, Op. 74 “Harp”
String Quartet No. 16 in F major, Op. 135

April 6 – Speaking to God: The Beethoven Hotline
Beethoven’s spirituality, explored, and expressed
String Quartet No. 2 in G major, Op. 18, No. 2
String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2
String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132

Nov. 10 – The Flexing Muscle
The contrary composer’s rigidity – and surprising elasticity – revealed in one formidable fugue
String Quartet No. 5 in A major, Op. 18 No. 5
Grosse Fuge in B-flat Major, Op. 133
String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat major, Op. 130

May 4 – B.A.C.H.D.N.A.
Beethoven’s worship of Bach, examined and exposed in his quartets
String Quartet No. 3 in D major, Op. 18, No. 3
String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59, No. 3
String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131

Dec. 7 – Questions from the Journey
At the end of this epic cycle, a lively Q & A between panelists and audience
String Quartet No. 6 in B-flat major, Op. 18, No. 6
String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95 “Serioso”
String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat major, Op. 130 (including the Grosse Fuge)