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Announcing the 2024–2025 Season at CMS

January 29, 2024
The Calidore String Quartet performs the complete cycle of Beethoven quartets throughout the 2024–25 season.

Musical Centers of Gravity

By Katelyn Simone

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center recently unveiled an exhilarating new season anchored by the timeless music of Beethoven. At its heart is The Beethoven Trilogy, a season-long series centered around the Calidore String Quartet’s performances of the complete Beethoven quartet cycle. Alongside these monumental works, CMS will present selections by classic and contemporary composers that resonate in various ways with Beethoven’s music and legacy. In this interview, CMS Co-Artistic Director David Finckel offers insight on a season that, like Beethoven’s music, encompasses past, present, and future.

Katelyn Simone: As a longtime cellist of the Emerson String Quartet (who culminated their 47-year career with performances at CMS last October), I imagine the Beethoven quartets are personal to you.

David Finckel: It’s a very personal relationship. In 1980, the Emerson Quartet, we managed to secure for ourselves the invitation to perform the complete cycle of Beethoven quartets—a steep learning curve. These pieces became my friends, and they’ve stayed that way.

There are so many different ways to hear them. You can play them in the order they were composed, or you can juxtapose the three broad periods of early, middle, and late. You can do fanciful, creative orders. The quartets also travel very well; we did a tour across Colorado, the entire cycle in Los Angeles, and performances in many different cities and suburbs around the country.

The Emerson was the first quartet
to play all of the Beethoven quartets for CMS in 86–87. In some ways, it’s because of the Beethoven quartets that I got to where I am.

Sir Stephen Hough makes his CMS debut as pianist and composer on November 24, 2024, with works by Chopin, Chaminade, and Liszt, as well as the world premiere of his Les Noces Rouges for Piano Quintet.

KS: Why is now the right time to hear the entire cycle?

DF: The presenting that we do is not only intellectual, but also human and visceral. When the pandemic hit, it was just after the Danish String Quartet had finished the cycle. When we got back to presenting concerts, [CMS CoArtistic Director] Wu Han and I looked at each other and said: I think people need the Beethoven quartets.

The Beethoven story is one of construction and deconstruction and re-imagination and transition and transcendence to the music of the future. In times of trouble, we listen to Beethoven’s great works of strength, like his Fifth Symphony; in times of transition, we listen to his transcendental late works, which seemed to have one foot in the afterlife in an almost supernatural way.

[The early, middle, and late] stages of Beethoven’s music seem to me like three enormous stars in the musical sky. Each has a number of moons and planets—music by composers whose work he was almost able to foretell—orbiting around it because Beethoven is such a center of gravity. Beethoven was able to write in his past and in his present, and also in his future. Nobody understands how he was able to do that.

KS: Why is the Calidore String Quartet the right ensemble to perform Beethoven’s full quartet cycle?

DF: We could sense that the Calidore String Quartet was on the same cusp of Beethoven maturity as the Emerson was so many years ago. We did not reach the maturity that the Calidore has now for another ten years after we first played the cycle, and they have already recorded all of it.

KS: Tell us about why an all Haydn program kicks off the season (October 15).

DF: We must always have our hats off to Haydn for showing us the way to the great, enduring Classical structure. These narrative musical constructs that draw people in are still being used today. A great first movement in sonata form is exactly the same as a movie plot.

KS: Many will be glad to hear that Summer Evenings are back (July 9–27).

DF: With the support of some visionary board members and supporters, we were able to launch a three-concert summer series in 2015. Last year we added a fourth, and I’m so proud to announce that next summer we are having six Summer Evenings concerts in the month of July. For all those who may be missing Mozart, there’s always CMS!

Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade returns to the CMS stage as part of The Wadsworth Legacy on May 1 and 2, 2025. She will be joined by soprano Kathleen Battle, tenor Ben Bliss, and baritone Thomas Hampson.

KS: At the Wadsworth Legacy concerts (May 1–2), what is it about CMS Founding Artistic Director Charles Wadsworth that you want to celebrate?

DF: Charles is an incredibly talented and gifted musician. We have always admired his affinity for the human voice and working with singers. Some of the biggest names, from Beverly Sills to Kathleen Battle, have loved working with him.

Charles also championed new music and young artists. The Wadsworth Legacy is not only about Charles and what he did for [CMS], but more about his brilliant vision for what this organization could and should be—he had certain guidelines, aspirations, and values that endure to this day.

CMS has expanded its Summer Evenings series to six concerts in July 2024. Pictured from left: violinist Bella Hristova, pianist Juho Pohjonen, and cellist Nicholas Canellakis.

KS: Speaking of young artists, the new class of artists in the Bowers Program (CMS’s prestigious residency for exceptional early career musicians) will be featured throughout the season.

DF: Someday there will be all new artists on this stage, and they’ve got to come from somewhere. The importance and roles of the Bowers artists are equal to those of the senior artists. Our ages range from 20 to 87 now, and we all make music together. The energy that the young artists bring to us, and also the opportunity that they give us to pass along knowledge, practical advice, and great stories of our mentors—that’s a golden opportunity. Every single person here thrives on it. It’s very much like a family. And no matter how large our artist roster grows, we always make more room at the table.


Katelyn Simone is a New York City– based writer and oboist working at the intersection of art and social impact.