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Beethoven Quartets

Studying Ludwig van Beethoven through his magnificent 16 string quartets played by well-established ensembles from around the world: the Guarneri, Takács, Tokyo, and Alban Berg string quartets. The string quartets offer well-defined early, middle, and late stages both in his life as well as the string quartet as a form, including the Grosse Fuge, Op.133 (which Beethoven wrote while he was stone deaf), and the Cavatina from String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major.



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 Op.18 No. 4,5,6, and Op.59 No.1 and 3. Bill touchs on 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
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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

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

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
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Beethoven: Op. 74 String Quartet, I
Takács Quartet
Decca 470847
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Beethoven: Op. 95 String Quartet
Alban Berg Quartet
EMI 54592
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Program 4

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. 

Beethoven: Op. 95 String Quartet (excerpt)
Alban Berg Quartet
EMI 54592
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Beethoven: Op. 130 String Quartet, IV + Grosse Fuge
Emerson String Quartet
DG 447075
7:12 + :20
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Program 5

We wrap up with the 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. 135 String Quartet, III & IV
Alban Berg Quartet
EMI 76824
8:50, 5:44


The Exploring Music streaming website is supported by Mr. & Mrs. William Gardner Brown and the Richard P. and Susan Kiphart Family.  
You have opened up the world of Classical Music to me, where previously, it seemed too complicated.
Steffen Demeter
This is simply one of the very best radio programmes in the medium!...The study of the people, the times, and the events that inform the music we otherwise enjoy and even, heaven forbid, take for granted, brings the entire world of the music and the composer to life.
Walther Davies
There isn't a program you broadcast on Exploring Music" that isn't of interest. I find them all engaging. It is a combination of variety of subject, intellectual curiosity and your obvious enthusiasm which characterize your satisfying programs.
Michael Sanders
It’s a great way to re-engage myself with consciousness before heading off to work.
I Love this program! I am in 7th grade and I am the complete opposite of the other kids. I am 4th chair in the orchestra and I love to read. But most of all, I LOVE classical music!
Claudia Wertz
Your show has helped open my mind and heart to this world of music, and every show I hear confirms my place in music and gives me new ideas for where I'd like to go with it in the future….I grew up with classical music as a child and always held it in my heart, but I didn't have the confidence to be a good student (or a good violinist.)
Christine Anderson
Listening to you is almost interactive.You invite us in with so many well modulated dramatic and informative comments, enticing, enthusiastic interpretations, and coherent, beautiful presentations. It's a privilege to follow you into the musical space you create.
Sally Rosenbaum
I just love this program. It is soothing and comfortable at the end of the day. I find his comments interesting, but they aren't so dragged out that there is very little music. The balance of both is just right.
Jean Quay
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