The (New) Beethoven Quartets is a re-imagining of the 32 Piano Sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven for string quartet transcribed and arranged by composer Jeffery L. Briggs. The complete cycle will be performed by the award winning Amernet String Quartet (amernetquartet.com), the FIU professional ensemble-in-residence, in Miami and the beaches during 2016-2019. (view schedule here)
The Pathetique debuted in Martha’s Vineyard in August, 2016, and the Appassionata debuted t in Fort Worth at the 30th anniversary of the Fort Worth Chamber Music Festival in February, 2017. The Fort Worth concert received a great review from the Fort Worth Theater Jones Performing Arts News, excerpted as follows:
" ...this particular transcription by Jeffery Briggs does what a transcription is supposed to do: adding new understanding to an existing work and expanding the base of musicians and audience-members who have access to the work. The transcription of the Appassionata was the first item on the agenda, and ...it was obvious that this was a version worth hearing. If there (was someone) who hadn’t heard the Appassionata Sonata in its original version for piano solo, that listener would assume, on hearing this version, that this was an original work for string quartet."
Some comments from the arranger, Jeffery Briggs.
After arranging a couple of variations from Opus 26 just for fun, I realized that voicing and range were nearly always appropriate for quartet — which raised an eyebrow for me. I then looked around a little and noticed that, while Beethoven’s String Quartets have been transcribed for piano many times (for solo piano, piano 4 hands, and for 2 pianos), other than Beethoven's own transcription of Opus 14/1 (transposed into F Major), the Piano Sonatas had never been done for string quartet. So I decided to do it myself, simply because the world needs all the Beethoven it can get.
This was a great project for me because it’s big, challenging, but do-able. It was also a lot of fun because I tried to do the arrangements as Beethoven would have done had he written these originally for quartet. So typical piano passages (Alberti bass, arpeggiations, and so on) are arranged such that the players maintain their roles as independent, equal participants. For the audience familiar with the Piano Sonatas, it’s an interesting and thrilling (if somewhat surreal) experience hearing classical music you know but have never actually experienced before — with the sustain and dynamic abilities of the stringed instruments, you’ll hear lines that were implied in the piano but never stated so clearly. Also musical structure is more readily revealed by differences in timbre among the players.
If you’re unfamiliar the Piano Sonatas, you’re in for a unique cultural experience as you hear how Beethoven builds inevitability into every phrase. You'll also get the thrill of watching a quartet put through the paces and blending together.
- Jeff Briggs, Composer