© 2022 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world. To listen to KPAC 88.3 FM, simply open the player in the gray ribbon at the top of this page and choose KPAC: Classical Music.

Beethoven Makes Great Chamber Music, Great Screenplay

At the center of "A Late Quartet" is Beethoven's String Quartet #14, Opus 131. Throughout the drama, the sublime sounds of the work are played by the Brentano String Quartet. Onscreen are Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Mark Ivanir as the "Fugue String Quartet."

"A Late Quartet" is now available on DVD and Netflix. While there are goofy and sometimes abrupt shifts in the tone, director Yaron Zilberman has done wonders with this movie. The storyline is plausible for the classical world; this could easily be the Guarneri or Emerson Quartet facing the loss of a member.

I thoroughly enjoyed the acting, and while I play the violin, thought the instrument faking was alright - certainly there was some good coaching, but sometimes I couldn't help but laugh seeing a still left hand and numerous notes played. But that's not why I watched "A Late Quartet."

I wanted to see Walken as a cellist - and what great delivery of T.S. Elliot, and a story about Pablo Casals to a class of music students. I wanted to see Hoffman walking with a violin case in New York. In fact, the scenery, acting, and soundtrack are to die for.

OK, maybe a stereotypical European first violinist is cheesy, a second violinist having misgivings is cheap, as well as tawdry escapades being a little over the top. But overall, it suits the film fine. Even a Latin dancer falling for an older, heavier Hoffman wasn't too far field.

While prime time is filled with competitions for singing and dancing, bachelors and weight loss, "A Late Quartet" is a great way to be entertained and hear some awesome Beethoven to boot!

John Clare is comfortable behind a microphone, streaming video or playing violin. A former broadcaster for NPR, John has previously worked with Voice of America, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation and stations in Kansas, Nevada, California, and Pennsylvania.