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
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.