ClassicalRap is a forum for discussion and information on classical music genres from the Baroque through the 20th Century eras in particular. Information will be provided on the various genres of classical music in these eras, and discussions will involve the lives of composers, their works, and standard and new recording releases. This is not a blog about Rap music.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Evolution of the String Quartet (Part Four)

Since August has turned out for CR to be Beethoven month, I thought I'd continue where we left off with this series on the evolution of the string quartet by exploring Beethoven's quartets.  So far we've covered the beginning of the classical string quartet in Part One, the Haydn quartets in Part Two and Boccherini and Mozart's quartets in Part Three (Link fixed) While these three posts are just a scratch off the surface of the quartet output from these three Classical era composers, I want to go more in-depth with Beethoven's quartets, since the form found its most prolific development in the Romantic era beginning with Beethoven.

Beethoven wrote a total of 16 string quartets and one Gross Fugue, which is a single movement fugue for string quartet.  His quartets are commonly divided into three periods, his first 6 quartets of the early period; the three Rasumovsky quartets and two others from the middle period and the last five quartets and Gross Fugue from the late period.  In our discussion (hopefully we can develop one) we will start with a couple from the early period and try to figure out what elements distinguish the three periods.

Our first quartet is of course Beethoven's String Quartet No. 1 in F major, Opus 18, No. 1, written in 1799.  There are 6 quartets as part of Opus 18; thus the first 6 quartets, which make up the early period.  Beethoven wrote these six under commission from Prince Lobkowitz, the employer of a violinist friend of Beethoven's.  The exquisite performance below is by the Alban Berg Quartet, named after the famous composer.  The video post from YouTube does not state the performance date, but in 2005 the performers retired.

I: Allegro con brio

II: Adagio affettuoso ed appassionata

III: Scherzo - Allegro molto - Trio

IV: Allegretto

For more information on this series of quartets go here and here.

As part of a service to our readers I will attempt to provide links to the scores (whenever available for free) of the pieces I present starting now with this link here.

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