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Elias String Quartet Pursues Beethoven’s Complete String Quartets

By Philip Trapp on Mar 16, 2016 10:45 PM EDT

London-based chamber music ensemble the Elias String Quartet began their multi-year endeavor of performing all of Beethoven's string quartets in 2011, dubbing the undertaking "The Beethoven Project."

With Wigmore Hall Live's 2015 release of the group's Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets -- Volume 1, those efforts inaugurate their culmination in a double-disc album certain to captivate even the most discerning of the German composer's fans.

The Elias String Quartet began their journey as a performing outfit in 1998, founded by cellist Marie Bitlloch and violinist Donald Grant. Rounding out the band since 2004 are violist Martin Saving and violinist Sara Bitlloch, sister to Marie. As explained by Sara in an interview on their website, the four members' musical distinctiveness ultimately coalesces into the group's articulate playing style:

"We come from diverse backgrounds, but I think in terms of styles of playing, the more ways we have of expressing things, the more interesting a quartet can be. It's really the big challenge to bring all these differences together, but it's also an amazing thing when it works. The result is somehow bigger than the sum of its parts. No one person comes through as just [themselves]. They're always a part of the four, and it's the combination which is so interesting."

The ensemble has taken this beloved catalog of opuses, preludes and fugues to multiple venues in the U.K., having now performed all 17 of Beethoven's string quartets. The entirety of "The Beethoven Project" will eventually comprise six total albums, with the remaining five volumes to be released at a later date. As noted by the group in a conversation with Presto Classical, the troupe do not take the affair lightly and delight in presenting such marvelous material:

"Presenting a Beethoven cycle must be every quartet's dream. His pieces are a sort of bible of the string quartet repertoire and they work fantastically as a cycle."

Below, listen to the Elias String Quartet's performance of the 4th movement from Beethoven's Opus 130: String Quartet no. 13 (1825). Let us know what you think of the piece in the comments field below, we'd love to hear from you.

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TagsElias String Quartet, Beethoven, Ludwig van Beethoven