Imagine Beethoven standing on top of all his musical accomplishments. He’s at the summit of Mt. Genius. He is a wizard surrounded by a swirling tornado of musical notes with storm clouds racing by in the background highlighted by strikes of green-glowing lightning. Light shoots out of his hands, mouth, and eyes devastating all that it touches.
Now imagine he takes all of that and focuses into two violins, a viola, and a cello and then crams the entirety of it inside your head in about 40 minutes. I’m thinking about the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when all the lighting kills the bad guys.
That’s as close as I can get to describing listening to Beethoven's String Quartet No. 13 Opus 130 at the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest on Sunday, August 16. It was intense.
Before the music began, the Borromeo String Quartet gave us a presentation on playing Beethoven from a PDF of his handwritten score and the intricacies of the dynamics and phrasing. I can’t begin to imagine the mental capacities of these musicians.
Talking about Beethoven’s codified emotions is one thing. Performing them is quite another. The Borromeo Quartet fulfilled their presentation by playing this music with phrasing and insight that exceeded the boundaries of traditional discourse.
Their dedication to what Beethoven wrote was relentless. This could explain the mushy brain I possessed for about half an hour after the concert. Have you ever had this experience — the type of experience where you are taken so far beyond your daily mental activity that your brain actually feels soft?
I don’t think my ears are accustomed to the detailed musicianship that the Borromeos brought to the table. This performance could well fall under the discipline of eschatology — the metaphorical "end of ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine.”