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Beethoven Quartets

This week on Exploring Music, we’ll be tracing the life of Ludwig van Beethoven through his string quartets, analyzing key movements in this magnficent body of chamber music.

 
Program 1

Bill examines three of Beethoven's early string quartets and illuminates how the composer made this still relatively young musical form his own despite the imposing shadow of Haydn.

Beethoven: Op. 18, No. 3 String Quartet, I & IV
Guarneri Quartet
RCA 60456
7:56, 5:51
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Beethoven: Op. 18, No. 1 String Quartet, I & II
Emerson String Quartet
DG 447075
8:31, 8:44
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Beethoven: Op. 18, No. 2 String Quartet, I, III & IV
Alban Berg Quartet
EMI 62781
7:54, 4:26, 5:13
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Program 2

This episode features ​Beethoven's 4th, 5th and 6th string quartets, publisher mistakes, gypsy rondos, string quartet parties, and the beginning of Beethoven's hearing troubles. 

 

Beethoven: Op. 18, No. 4 String Quartet, IV
Tokyo String Quartet
RCA 61621
4:18
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Beethoven: Op. 18, No. 5 String Quartet, III & IV
Talich Quartet
Calliope 3633/9
9:00, 5:10
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Beethoven: Op. 18, No. 6 String Quartet, III & IV
Emerson String Quartet
DG 447075
2:58, 8:15
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Beethoven: Op. 59, No. 1 String Quartet, I
Julliard Quartet
Sony 87889
10:37

Beethoven: Op. 59, No. 3 String Quartet, IV
Guarneri Quartet
RCA 60457
5:25
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Program 3

We pick up with Beethoven in the year 1806 with his string quartet commissioned by Count Razumovsky, the Russian Ambassador to Austria. We then hear "The Harp," nicknamed for the frequent use of pizzacato. In 1810, Beethoven published the last of his middle era. It was 12 years before Beethoven published another string quartet.

Beethoven: Op. 59, No. 2 String Quartet, III & IV
Fine Arts Quartet
Music & Arts 1154
7:26, 5:18
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Beethoven: Op. 59, No. 3 String Quartet, II
Emerson String Quartet
DG 447075
8:49
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Beethoven: Op. 74 String Quartet, I
Takács Quartet
Decca 470847
9:36
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Beethoven: Op. 95 String Quartet
Alban Berg Quartet
EMI 54592
19:30
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Program 4

Bill brings us to Beethoven’s later string quartets, including Op. 131. It is the most tragic of his quartets, and was not heard in public until 1835, after Beethoven died. However, Schubert had heard it and requested to hear it on his deathbed. Four musicians came to play it for him five days before he died in 1928.

Beethoven: Op. 95 String Quartet (excerpt)
Alban Berg Quartet
EMI 54592
2:05
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Beethoven: Op. 127 String Quartet, I
Guarneri String Quartet
RCA 60458
7:11
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Beethoven: Op. 130 String Quartet, IV + Grosse Fuge
Emerson String Quartet
DG 447075
7:12 + :20
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Beethoven: Op. 131 String Quartet
Emerson String Quartet
DG 447075
35:43
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Program 5

We wrap up with Grosse Fuge as its own opus as well as what may be Beethoven's most famous string quartet, known by its German name, Heiliger Dankgesang.

Beethoven: Op. 130 (excerpt) Op. 133 “Grosse Fuge”
Emerson Quartet
DG 447075
3:48, 14:41
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Beethoven: Op. 132 String Quartet, II
Fine Arts Quartet
Music & Arts 1154
16:08
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Beethoven: Op. 135 String Quartet, III & IV
Alban Berg Quartet
EMI 76824
8:50, 5:44
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