Béla Quartet: contemporary classical music on tour in South Africa

Do not think that “contemporary classical” music – the music that seeks alternatives to the main tonal system set by composers through history – is for connoisseurs only. The Béla Quartet, a band of four imaginative French string musicians, has engaged since 2003 in an artistic attempt to get this genre more accessible to the public. Through unlikely associations and astonishing performances, they break new grounds and delight cheering audiences. You can now discover them live, as the band will tour in South Africa from the 8 to the 16 of September.


First performance...

The Béla Quartet will first play compositions of the French contemporary music writer and performer François Sarhan at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg from the 8th to the 10th of September – click here for the full program. The concert will take place in a larger performance by Sarhan. It will be the 4th episode of his well-known series “Lectures of Professor Glaçon” – read our previous article about the performance – which is called this time “Le Serpent à Plumes” (see picture). In this satirical show, Sarhan plays his imaginary alter-ego the Professor Glaçon (a name that one could translate as “Professor Ice Block”), to absurdly question the human knowledge. “Many musical traditions, instruments and phenomena are unexpectedly hidden, ignored or carefully stolen from the attention of the innocent reader in the musical encyclopaedia” he declares about our knowledge of the music. “Would it be because they never existed? Very unlikely...” To make up for this mistake, the Béla Quartet will interpret Sarhan's breaking-genres compositions and accompany Professor Glaçon's diatribes.

…then concerts

The Béla Quartet will then engage in a three-date tour at the Alliance française of Pretoria (13 Sept.), Cape Town (15 Sept.) and Durban (16 Sept.). A good example of the Quartet's innovative spirit, the program called “Bach-Hus” will consist of a dialogue between the works of the classical music mastodon Johann Sebastian Bach and those of Walter Hus, a Belgian contemporary composer. “Bach's and Hus music have been composed at totally different times, in contrasted circumstances. To see it gathered in the same program can be surprising” the band explains. “But behind the intentional play of words Bach-Hus – that will lead us to share a glass of wine with the audience – we will show that this encounter actually makes a lot of sense.” Mastering the musically unexpected like no other, the Béla Quartet is likely to prove right this time again.

Hadrien Diez