Gratitude: Beethoven

Backstage with the Borromeo String Quartet

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Although this event has ended, you can watch the entire program below.

View the 2021 Birdfoot Festival season program book here


Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quartet in A minor Op. 132 

III. “Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der Lydischen Tonart” (“Holy song of thanksgiving of a convalescent to the Deity, in the Lydian mode”).

In addition to his well known hearing loss, Beethoven suffered from episodes of illness and poor health his entire life—his letters are full of references to discomfort and days spent recovering from digestive ailments. It was in early summer of 1825, while recovering from a particularly long and painful illness that Beethoven came back to a string quartet he had started some months earlier, and wrote one of his most intimate and transcendent musical utterances: the Heiliger Dankgesang, fully translated as “Holy song of thanksgiving of a convalescent to the Deity, in the Lydian mode.” This extraordinary song of thanksgiving is unlike anything else Beethoven wrote: hymn-like passages alternate with outbursts of joyful energy—marked “feeling new strength.” The sections respectively grow both more vulnerable and more ecstatic as the movement unfolds.

Join Birdfoot and the Borromeo String Quartet to discover the special resonance of the Lydian mode and explore this sublime expression of musical gratitude.

About the Borromeo String Quartet:

Considered “simply the best there is” by The Boston Globe, the Borromeo String Quartet is one of the most sought-after string quartets in the world, each season performing more than one hundred concerts of classical and contemporary literature across three continents. Audiences and critics alike have championed the Borromeo Quartet’s revealing explorations of the complete quartet cycles of Beethoven, Brahms, and Bartok, and its affinity for making challenging repertoire approachable.

The quartet performs in the world’s most illustrious concert halls and music festivals, and serves as the faculty quartet-in-residence at the New England Conservatory, the Taos School of Music, and the Heifetz Institute, where first violinist Nicholas Kitchen serves as artistic director. 

In 2003, the Borromeo String Quartet made classical music history with its pioneering record label, the “Living Archive Recorded Performance Series,” making it possible to order DVDs and CDs of most of the group’s concerts around the world. The series promotes the importance and impact of the live performance, and allows listeners the chance to explore in greater depth the music they have just heard in concert, as well as experience new and rarely performed works.

In 2006, the Aaron Copland House honored the Borromeo’s commitment to contemporary music by creating the Borromeo Quartet Award, an annual initiative that will premiere the work of important young composers to audiences internationally. In 2000, the quartet completed two seasons as a member of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Two. On NPR, the BSQ served as Ensemble-in-Residence for the 1998–1999 season of “Performance Today”, and was recently featured on “Tiny Desk” in a broadcast celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday.

The Borromeo Quartet have received many awards throughout their illustrious career, including Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Career Grant and Martin E. Segal Award, and Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award. They were winners of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and won top prizes at the International String Quartet Competition in Evian, France.

Learn more about the Borromeo String Quartet here.

Photo by Richard Bowditch