|Beethoven, Ludwig Van / Middle Quartets, Ops. 59, 74 & 95 (Cypress String Quartet), The|
|Add Date:||2017-07-26|| ||Pull Date:||2017-09-27|| ||Charts:||Classical/Experimental|
These “Middle Period” string quartets of Beethoven (1770-1827) broke with the traditions of Mozart and Haydn, whose quartets were written for talented amateurs, to be performed in palace or home settings. Beethoven’s quartets have more dramatic sweep, complexity and range of emotion and intensity, as well as being more difficult to perform. They express his heroic vein, having been composed when Vienna was experiencing the Napoleonic expansion of popular uprisings and public outcry. The 3 “Razumovsky” quartets, Op. 59 incorporate characteristically Russian themes (in 4th mvmt of No. 1, the 3rd mvmt of No. 2) and a Russian character (in No. 3), in honor of the Russian Ambassador in Vienna, Count Andreas Razumovsky, who commissioned them. No. 1’s 3rd mvmt is tragic; the 4th is light-hearted. No. 2’s 2nd mvmt conveys heavenly immensity through transformations of a hymn tune. The 3rd mvmt builds fugues and canons on the Russian theme. Quartet No. 3 is closest in style to Mozart, and is theatrical and operatic, with each instrument playing character roles. |
Op. 74 “The Harp,” so named because of the pizzicato (plucked string) sections in the 1st mvmt, is notable for Heroic (grand) style. The 1st mvmt’s two themes of differing rhythm and character create tension until being combined in the mvmt’s climactic section. The 2nd mvmt is lyrical, the 3rd assertive. The 4th mvmt is a traditional theme and variations on a lyrical theme.
Op. 95 “Quartetto serioso” points the way to Romanticism, with lyricism, inwardness and a spirit of melancholy. Beethoven described it as intended only for a small circle of connoisseurs and never to be performed in public. It experiments with compositional techniques he utilized later in life (shorter development sections, silences, ambiguous meter, seemingly unrelated outbursts and freer tonality [key changes]), which would not have been well received in Vienna in 1810, the year Napoleon invasion of Vienna upset Beethoven, and the quartet was composed.