Late Quartet


The Emerson String Quartet has been performing Beethoven’s quartets for decades. Some of the members are my age, in their late 60’s or early 70’s; Phil Setzer, the first violinist on this recording, was my roommate while we both attended Juilliard. Their accumulated wisdom is something I can trust, and I hear and feel it in their sensitive interpretations of everything they perform. I had not heard their Op. 132 until a few days ago when they shared a performance on YouTube via Stony Brook University/Staller Center for the Arts. I came to the online concert late in the performance, just as the players began the third movement. Before I knew it, I was sobbing, earphones on, sitting at the dining room table, a slobbering fool, totally undone.

Yesterday, I decided to assemble a video tribute in which I would attempt to translate that experience into movement and editing. (The five-section form and awesome sonic power of the music struck me as a premonition of Bartok’s quartets). I was once again shaken to the bones with a sense having been purged or undergone a religious experience. Beethoven included the following note in his score after III. Molto adagio– Andante: “Holy song of thanksgiving of a convalescent to the Deity, in the Lydian mode”. I am not convalescing, unless I consider the year of a global pandemic and my recent COVID vaccination as a kind of trauma and slow convalescence. What I know as a dancer well beyond my prime and shocked at the indignities of being in an aging body, is that I no longer hesitate to put everything out there, as if this is it, my last chance. I also have no patience for costumes or hiding my aging body, unless some theatrical conceit calls for it.

In this version, I add overlays in the third and fifth section, diversifying the imagery and testing the emotional resonances. I may decide to make further alterations.

I offer you “Late Quartet” and dedicate it to the musicians, to all the aging dancers, and to my old friend, Phil Setzer, with deep thanks and appreciation. I also dedicate it to the original quartet of four Sparling boys, who staged dance spectacles in our home living room in Detroit… and to my youngest brother, Dan, who died of complications from AIDS.

Video & Photo

1 photos