World premiere of Beethoven string quartet heads up the autumn programme for The Arts Institute

Artists from Tjanpi Desert Weavers let their tjanpi sisters fly, Papulankutja, Western Australia, 2015


A world premiere of a new string quartet based upon Beethoven’s musical sketches and a European premiere of a major Australian art exhibition headline the autumn season at The Arts Institute.

With a theme of ‘storytelling’ running through the cultural programme, spanning music, film, performance, talks and exhibition, the season will welcome back live audiences to venues at the University of Plymouth after 18 months of predominantly online events.

It opens in earnest on 30 September with a three-day celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, comprising live performances and thought-provoking lectures. A major feature will be the new piece based upon Beethoven’s sketches for Op.135. Composer Jonathan Dawe has been commissioned to compose the piece, which will be performed live on 2 October, by the Ruisi Quartet, winners of the Royal Philharmonic Society for Young British String Players.

"Much of Beethoven’s music was revolutionary,” 

says Dr Robert Taub, Director of Music at The Arts Institute and a world-renowned expert on Beethoven. 

“It sounds new and innovative today if we immerse ourselves in understanding how his music was created and why, and then play his works as if the ink is barely dry on the pages. That is what we will do during the festival, and in the case of Jonathan Dawe’s work, we will be unveiling something genuinely new and groundbreaking.”

Beethoven: Innovator – a 250th Celebration will open with a public lecture and music demonstration by Jonathan and Robert on 30 September. The following night, Robert will perform three of Beethoven’s pivotal Piano Sonatas: the adventurous Op.2, no.1 (Beethoven’s first Piano Sonata); the heroic Op.53 ‘Waldstein’ (the first Sonata he composed following his admission that he was facing the onset of deafness); and his final transcendent Sonata, Op.111.

“Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas are central to his creative oeuvre. Even when his deafness prevented him from playing publicly, Beethoven continued to compose Piano Sonatas to continually express his most experimental elements of musical expression, often challenging musical expectations and creating new perceptions of music.”

Dr Robert Taub

A portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler

A portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler

The European premiere of Australian exhibition, Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters – delivered in partnership with The Box – is the headline event for The Levinsky Gallery this autumn. Running from 21 October – 27 February 2022, the exhibition forms part of the UK/Australia Season 2021-22, a major programme of cultural exchange taking place across the two nations.

Originally staged at the National Museum of Australia (NMA) in Canberra before touring to Perth’s Western Australian Museum Boola Bardip, the exhibition has attracted in excess of 400,000 visitors to date. Entirely conceived and curated by a team of First Australians, led by Margo Neale, Senior Indigenous Curator at the NMA and custodial elders from across the Central and Western Deserts of Australia, it combines state-of-the art exhibition and display technologies with art, song and dance in order to share ancient stories from the world’s oldest continuing culture.

For the Plymouth run – the first time it has been seen outside of Australia – more than 300 paintings and objects by more than 100 artists will be on display across The Box and The Levinsky Gallery. Alongside the exhibition is a programme of complementary events, including both a guided walk on Dartmoor and a talk on the moor’s own ‘songlines’, with author Emma Cunis; a talk on amphibians by Dr Robert Puschendorf, inspired by the Aboriginal creation story, Tiddalik the frog; and screenings of iconic Australian films Walkabout, Ten Canoes, Samson and Delilah, and In My Blood It Runs.

Among the other highlights of the autumn season include a performance by Far From The Norm on 1 December, when the winners of the Best New Dance Production at the 2019 Olivier Awards, will bring their blend of hip hop dance and ‘free form antics’ to The House. And on 6 December, the premiere screening of The Arts Institute Film Commission 2021 will take place, with internationally renowned filmmaker Mohini Chandra unveiling her new piece of work, Tall Tales and Wonder Rooms.

Mary Costello, Exhibitions Coordinator for The Arts Institute, said: 

“This season, we’re inviting audiences to delve into a rich programme of cultural events exploring the narratives that continue to shape our idea of the world. Storytelling is unique to humanity, and whether through word, image, sound or performance, it provides us with understanding, context and perspective. And we're delighted that we’ll be able to welcome audiences in person once again to our venues and campus where they will be able to participate in those communal cultural experiences.”

For more information on The Arts Institute and its public programme, visit the University’s website.