As anxiety about the destruction of the environment, the disappearance of middle Australia and the lack of faith in democracy threatens to overwhelm us, a little solace is sorely needed. For many, solace can be found in the string quartets of Beethoven. The great German composer lived through times of major political upheaval and wrote quartets throughout his career, documenting a life of torment resulting from a string of medical ailments: deafness, stomach complaints and mental health problems.

The Fidelio Quartet, Melbourne Beethoven Quartet Cycle The Fidelio Quartet: Isin Cakmakcioglu and Robert Macindoe, violins, Rachel Atkinson, cello, Lisa Grosman, viola.

Many are familiar with William Congreve’s observation that music can “tame the savage breast”. I have experienced this on stage during the performances of Beethoven quartets. There are magical moments when the audience surrenders completely to Beethoven’s spirit. You can feel a blanket of intense stillness descend and almost see vapours of contentment rising above the listeners.

When Beethoven writes of triumph or joy, our hearts recognise this, enabling us to source our own pleasure from deep within. When he expresses darker feelings, we identify with him and are consoled and healed a little....