Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Nationality: German
Baptized: December 17, 1770, Bonn
Died: March 26, 1827, Vienna (age 56)
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String Quartet No. 3 in D major, Op. 18, No. 3

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
7:29
I. Allegro
7:40
II. Andante con moto
2:57
III. Allegro
5:44
IV. Presto
Duration: 24 minutes (approximately) - hide movement times
Composed: between 1798-1800 (age 28-30)
Published: 1801 (age 30-31)
Dedication: Prince Franz Joseph Maximilian von Lobkowitz
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10 recordings, 31 videos
7:21
Artemis Quartet
I. Allegro
7:47
Artemis Quartet
II. Andante con moto
2:48
Artemis Quartet
III. Allegro
6:01
Artemis Quartet
IV. Presto
7:21
Alban Berg Quartet
I. Allegro
7:01
Alban Berg Quartet
II. Andante con moto
2:52
Alban Berg Quartet
III. Allegro
5:09
Alban Berg Quartet
IV. Presto
7:35
Barylli Quartet
I. Allegro
7:13
Barylli Quartet
II. Andante con moto
2:50
Barylli Quartet
III. Allegro
5:11
Barylli Quartet
IV. Presto
7:35
Cleveland Quartet
I. Allegro
8:04
Cleveland Quartet
II. Andante con moto
2:57
Cleveland Quartet
III. Allegro
5:46
Cleveland Quartet
IV. Presto
7:36
Emerson String Quartet
I. Allegro
7:09
Emerson String Quartet
II. Andante con moto
2:44
Emerson String Quartet
III. Allegro
5:35
Emerson String Quartet
IV. Presto
5:48
Guarneri Quartet
I. Allegro
8:07
Guarneri Quartet
II. Andante con moto
3:04
Guarneri Quartet
III. Allegro
4:18
Guarneri Quartet
IV. Presto
25:05
Parker Quartet
22:09
Pascal Quartet
26:28
Quartetto Italiano (complete)
8:14
Sharon Quartet
I. Allegro
8:22
Sharon Quartet
II. Andante con moto
3:47
Sharon Quartet
III. Allegro
6:54
Sharon Quartet
IV. Presto

From Kai Christiansen:

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3, 1798-1800

Ludwig van BeethovenBeethoven's String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3 occupies a noble, if humble, place in history. Though placed third in the Op. 18 set of six quartets published in 1801, this was the very first that Beethoven composed. An antipode to the misty mountain of Beethoven's transcendent "late" quartets, the D Major quartet is earliest, the first time he chose to publicly try his hand with this supreme and daunting art. Haydn and Mozart and a number of other worthy composers that Beethoven admired had all significantly built a genre of high art in the shape of a four movement sonata for string quartet with a well established roster of formal contingencies (or "tendencies") all bent on delighting the heart and mind of the avid connoisseur. Here was a rite of passage, a daring moment to entertain a dialog with colleagues, mentors and gods. As it turned out, Beethoven's Op. 18 quartets admirably hit the mark. Although these "early" period quartets fall within his "period of imitation" as it is often called with gentle disdain, they are bold, masterful quartets often overflowing with invention, amplified emotionality and brilliant contrapuntal feats while frequently referencing Haydn and Mozart as the finest points of imitation. Within, Beethoven demonstrates his complete assimilation of the art and some potent suggestions of where he might go next.

Of the six quartets in Op. 18, the D Major quartet is certainly the most genial and, in a sense, relaxed. Its mood is bright, lyrical and humorous with just a touch of poignancy in the slow movement. The scherzo is quite mild by Beethoven's standards and, equally uncharacteristically, there are no formal fugues nor a brilliant set of variations, no earth shattering destruction nor euphoric hymns of otherworldly grace. Here, Beethoven simply writes an extraordinary string quartet in the finest style, worthy of Haydn or Mozart and already finer than anything by any contemporaneous practitioner whose name, once fashionably noteworthy, is now lost to obscurity. If there is any place where this "excellent, fine" quartet tips into the realm of genius, it is the fantastic finale, a tour de force of ingenious vivacity and wit.

The opening movement is begins with a broad singing gesture in the style of Mozart whose luxurious lyricism and fecundity of thematic ideas appear to have strongly influenced Beethoven. The exposition features several themes, key areas and rhythmic styles, the very opposite of Haydn's typical monothematicism. Where Beethoven becomes Beethoven is in the brief but suddenly dramatic swatch of development that rises to a pitch and abruptly halts with a complete breakdown of harmony and sound. As with both Haydn and Mozart at their best, Beethoven's "recapitulation" sustains the rich development and elaboration complete with a signature that would hold great store for Beethoven in the future: a significant coda.

Beethoven's possibly overeager musical invention flows into the slow movement as well. A gentle, heartfelt lied suggests a simple song form but the andante has much more in store: a rondo with several contrasting episodes, each a point of departure in between "verses" of a soon familiar tune. Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart all make passing appearances here. Mozart with his suave, accented delicacy, Haydn with his simple majesty and kind of ticking clock, and Beethoven with his brusque energy and his surprising depth of feeling arising within such a gentle context.

The "Scherzo" is tidy in form and expression, agile and lively with its syncopated hiccup. An element of rustic folk dance is further intensified by a darker hued trio with its more sinuous almost gypsy-like folk fiddling. A competent scherzo that is not quite as gorgeous as Mozart nor as inventive as Haydn, it satisfies the formal contingencies without broaching the revolutionary transformations Beethoven would bring to the form in future outings.

Beethoven's finale sets the high water mark. The first fiddle launches a blazing presto with a happy, almost laughing theme humorously similar to "The Mexican Hat Dance". Giddy, galloping, virtuosic and richly contrapuntal, the music weaves in and out of a rondo form, the second in the quartet, until the driving dance refrain splinters into fragmented developments that elongate tangents and defer resolutions in what feels like an uproarious Warner Brothers chase scene. The perfect blend of sonata and rondo infused with a jovial wit points directly to Haydn right down to the last measures of this exuberant romp. With his first string quartet, Beethoven opened the door to untold riches ahead.

© Kai Christiansen. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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