A triple bill with three different choreographers each using the same piece of music. Crazy or inspired?

Grosse Fuge Lucinda Childs’ Grande Fugue. Photo © Bertrand Stofleth

In 2016, Lyon Opera Ballet presented Trois Grandes Fuguesfeaturing works by American choreographer Lucinda Childs, Dutch choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, and French choreographer Maguy Marin to Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, Op. 133. The three choreographers, all seminal figures in contemporary dance, each chose different recordings. The stark, volatile, uncompromising music was originally composed as the finale to Beethoven’s String Quartet No 13, Op. 130, which premiered in 1826, when the composer was virtually deaf and just a year away from dying. It received a mixed response, so Beethoven composed a new ending, and published the Grosse Fugeseparately.

The immense double fugue was condemned by critics, with one describing it as “incomprehensible, like Chinese” and “a confusion of Babel”. It is now considered one of his greatest achievements, with Stravinsky calling it “an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever”.

“Many directors might have feared boring audiences by playing the same score three times. Instead, the experience is riveting, opening up and deepening Beethoven’s complex,...