The Elias String Quartet played an all Beethoven program at Middlebury College this evening. Each of the players are equally charismatic and watching them is akin to observing a dinner party of four devoted old friends of equal standing. The program ended with the C# Minor, Op. 131 piece which is a 40 minute piece of multiple connected movements. The friends bask in eachothers jokes and pleasures and nearly moan and exhibit heartfelt sympathy for tales of sadness, hardship, and the torments of life through notes, phrase and rhythm. Watching them play is a bit like eavesdropping. The audience is a part of course, and enhances the intimacy of the dinner party, but the focus is very inward within the quartet.
At the concert they played last year at Middlebury, they ended with a Scottish folk song encore which I remembered fondly during the slow movement of the F Major, op. 135 slow movement. The stark slow notes were “simply” played, at times mystically quiet and meditative, but at the same time a bit like “early” music. There was something Scottish and medieval folky about it.