Beethoven Without Bounds

FOUR of the UK’s leading string players are getting together to fulfil a lifelong ambition - playing all 17 of Beethoven’s great string quartets.

Certainly never before have they been performed on the Isle of Harris. This is a rare occurrence anywhere in the world!

All four musicians have played together in various combinations, and have now reached a point in their careers that they feel ready to tackle this momentous task.

Cellist Robert Irvine, senior professor of chamber music at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, says: “It’s to a cellist what climbing Everest is to a climber. Lots and lots of preparation, organisation, training and then you just hope for half decent weather on the day!”

Jackie Shave has played Opera, led a String Quartet for 15 years and recorded and performed with many artists as diverse as Rostropovitch, Sting, Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, Murray Perahia and many others.

Jackie and Robert have been close friends since students and played for many years together in the Brindisi String Quartet, touring many corners of the world and recording and broadcasting extensively.

When they were scouring the island for a venue, they went to look at the Mission House Studio– a workshop and gallery – Jackie Shave expands: “As soon as we walked into the beautiful gallery space we were totally inspired by the beauty and creativity of the place. A wonderful light, stunning photographs and lots of raw stoneware bowls and sculptures.

“We realised that Nickolai and Beka were true artists - people who we at once felt shared a vision about art and the sharing of creativity. We want to share these amazing musical pieces with people in a place which has a special atmosphere and where the audience will be in a really receptive frame of mind.”

Jackie continues: “I have been fortunate to have had a very rich and varied musical life over the last 30 years. All music reaches and touches people in different ways, for me personally, it doesn’t get any better than working at and performing Beethoven’s String Quartets.

“The work is incredibly strong, challenging and hugely rewarding. He encompasses so many emotions. The idea of immersing ourselves in all of his quartets in such a raw beautiful environment is so exciting and wonderful and to be able to present them at The Mission House is the icing on the cake. It truly seems like it is all meant to be.

“We feel very lucky that Nickolai has been brilliant putting the organisational side of it together. They also both happen to be stunning artists creating unique ceramics and photographs imbued with the ancient landscape surrounding them,” she adds.

Jackie has just come to the end of the last tour with her Orchestra The Britten Sinfonia, where she has been leader for six years, and is taking a year off to concentrate on the Beethoven project.

And with their music, the group hope to raise funds for two deserving charities, as Jackie comments: “These happenings are rare, beautiful and valuable. We all felt that in the spirit of creativity and joy, that we would give all the proceeds to charity so that others who might not be able to come could experience the same in other ways.

“Our two chosen charities are the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) - a charity that provides the only hospice services in Scotland for children and young people with life-shortening conditions and The Leanne Fund, a charity which provides funding for special treats for Cystic Fibrosis sufferers in the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland.”

If you would like to come to the quartets, there are six concerts in total, two in April, two in July and two in September. As seats are limited to 50 per concert, we ask that you book online at or contact The Mission House Studio on 01859 530227 in advance.