Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Nationality: German
Baptized: December 17, 1770, Bonn Died: March 26, 1827, Vienna (age 56)

String Quartet No. 4 in c minor, Op. 18, No. 4

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
8:24 I. Allegro ma non tanto
6:13 II. Andante scherzoso, quasi allegretto
4:37 III. Menuetto. Allegretto
4:31 IV. Allegro
Duration: 24 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1798-1800 (age 27-30)
Published: 1801 (age 30-31)
14 recordings, 35 videos
autoopen autoplay
8:43
Cleveland Quartet
I. Allegro ma non tanto
7:08
Cleveland Quartet
II. Andante scherzoso, quasi allegretto
3:40
Cleveland Quartet
III. Menuetto. Allegretto
4:21
Cleveland Quartet
IV. Allegro
23:37
Ying Quartet
5:51
Talich Quartet
II. Andante scherzoso, quasi allegretto
8:45
Sharon Quartet
I. Allegro ma non tanto
6:51
Sharon Quartet
II. Andante scherzoso, quasi allegretto
3:52
Sharon Quartet
III. Menuetto. Allegretto
4:47
Sharon Quartet
IV. Allegro
8:34
Quator Mosaiques (3-4)
III. Menuetto. Allegretto
9:05
Quator Mosaiques
I. Allegro ma non tanto
7:09
Quator Mosaiques
II. Andante scherzoso, quasi allegretto
163:57
Quartetto Italiano (complete)
24:56
Pascal Quartet
8:50
Musica Anima
I. Allegro ma non tanto
5:12
Musica Anima
II. Andante scherzoso, quasi allegretto
3:45
Musica Anima
III. Menuetto. Allegretto
4:50
Musica Anima
IV. Allegro
4:36
Kodaly Quartet
IV. Allegro
9:05
Barylli Quartet
I. Allegro ma non tanto
5:51
Barylli Quartet
II. Andante scherzoso, quasi allegretto
4:21
Barylli Quartet
III. Menuetto. Allegretto
4:16
Barylli Quartet
IV. Allegro
6:17
Arcadia Quartet
I. Allegro ma non tanto
4:57
Arcadia Quartet
II. Andante scherzoso, quasi allegretto
3:40
Arcadia Quartet
III. Menuetto. Allegretto
4:59
Arcadia Quartet
IV. Allegro
6:41
Amadeus Quartet
I. Allegro ma non tanto
5:33
Amadeus Quartet
II. Andante scherzoso, quasi allegretto
8:16
Amadeus Quartet
III. Menuetto. Allegretto
8:44
Alban Berg Quartet
I. Allegro ma non tanto
5:14
Alban Berg Quartet
II. Andante scherzoso, quasi allegretto
3:25
Alban Berg Quartet
III. Menuetto. Allegretto
4:42
Alban Berg Quartet
IV. Allegro
From Kai Christiansen

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

String Quartet in c minor, Op. 18, No. 4, 1801

Ludwig van BeethovenBeethoven worked painstakingly for two years to produce his first string quartets, Op. 18, published in 1801 in the fashion of the time as a set of six. Pre-dating them are the complete string quartets of both Haydn and Mozart, Haydn having written his last two complete quartets in the same years, finishing in 1799. Just as later composers were daunted by the supreme achievements of Beethoven before them, so Beethoven was acutely aware of the rich legacy of quartet literature already preceding him.

The last to be written, the C minor quartet is unique among the six of Op. 18. First, it is the only quartet for which no previous sketches have been found. This has lead scholars to conjecture that the quartet was assembled from earlier music that Beethoven "stockpiled" before coming to Vienna. Others have concluded that the quartet was written without the extensive revisions typical of Beethoven. The quartet is also unique for being the only one of the set in a minor key. C minor is often regarded as "the" minor key for Beethoven, the same he chose for such works as the earlier "Pathétique" piano sonata, the later fifth symphony and his final piano sonata, Op. 111. One of the most popular quartets, this one is full of drama revolving around the gravity of its ruling minor mode.

The first movement has a vivid exposition with the first subject in the minor, the second in the brighter relative major key (E flat). The sonata can be considered nearly monothematic in that the second subject is directly derived from the first. A tense development and conclusion emphasize the "tragedy" of ultimately returning to the minor key. The second movement relieves the tension with an experiment unique for a string quartet of the time showing that Beethoven was already tinkering with the form he inherited. Rather than a slow lyrical movement, Beethoven offers a moderately paced sonata marked Scherzoso and packed with polyphonic play. The exposition is a little fugue whose recapitulation blossoms into three-part counterpoint with an independence of melody and rhythm that is simultaneously learned and gallant.

A more traditional Menuetto restores the dark urgency of C minor with a trio temporarily brightening back into the major. This syncopated scherzo is especially compact and driven since the traditional trio repeat is omitted and the return of the Menuetto marked for a tempo faster than the first time around (yet another novelty of Beethoven's early quartets). The final movement is a spicy rondo based on a "Gypsy" flavored refrain alternating with more lyrical episodes. The major versus minor drama of the entire quartet is encapsulated here with a battle that extends into the final bars of an exciting coda where Beethoven dissolves the drama into humor, nearly making fun of all the histrionics.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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