Recording

String Quartet in B flat major, opus 130; “Grosse Fuge”, opus 133 Listen to these clips: opus 130, first movement Grosse Fuge, opus 133

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Recording

String Quartet in a minor, opus 132; String Quartet in F major, opus 135

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Program Note

We are told that Beethoven’s Quartet in D major, opus 18 #3, was actually composed first, before any of its opus 18 companions.  That it did not retain pride of place when the group was published — ceding the first position to the more muscular and substantial F major quartet — may have to do […]

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Project

Stylistic progression over an artistic lifetime is often a complex, even convoluted journey, a refashioning of texture, rhetoric and form to suit the expressive concerns of a personal historical moment.

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Post

Here’s a live concert recording from Princeton University — a beautiful concert hall and also our school!

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Program Note

The second of these quartets, in G major, is a case in point. The music is genial, filled with sunlight. The first movement enters the room like an elegant stranger: courtly bows, witty conversation, suspenseful pauses.

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Program Note

As Wittgenstein investigates the link of language and thought, as Gödel asks what truths may escape any given formal system, so Beethoven uses music to refer to and ask questions of itself, writing in Op. 130 a precarious piece that investigates and attempts to define the limit of what can be expressed.

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Recording

String Quartet in E-flat Major, opus 127; String Quartet in C# minor, opus 131 Listen to these clips: opus 127, 1st movement opus 131, 4th movement

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Program Note

The String Quartet in F, opus 135, was the last complete work Beethoven composed, only a few months before his death in March 1827. It is traditionally grouped together with his other late quartets, opp. 127, 130, 131, 132 and the Grosse Fuge; but it’s hard not to wonder what Beethoven would have thought of that grouping.

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Program Note

Here Beethoven, rather than aiming for consolation, shows only the reflection of the heavens in the eyes of the man whose feet are firmly planted on the earth, strong and proud in his humanity, holding an equally vast universe within.

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Program Note

Beethoven’s opus 18 quartets are his earliest compositions for the medium, written in the closing years of the 18th century, when he was in his late twenties.

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Program Note

For so many, Beethoven’s music seems to represent a protagonist to whom they would like to relate, who represents the best version of who they might be. As heroes of great epics rise above struggle and difficulty to triumph, so does Beethoven’s music so often seem to surmount uncertainty and threat to emerge victorious.

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Program Note

The last of Beethoven’s opus 18 quartets, number 6 seems especially to affirm his debt to Haydn. Like its companions, this quartet on the whole favors wit and surprise over melodiousness. Despite hewing faithfully to Classical forms (at least in the first three movements), the piece recalls the fondness of Haydn for sudden stops, changes of mood, rhythmic elegance, and economy of material.

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Program Note

Perhaps this is the greatest gift that Beethoven has given us. He grapples with the vicissitudes of our inner and outer lives, in full acknowledgement of our native suffering, and through the transformative power of art leads us to recognition of beauty and faith in humanity.

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Program Note

In the E-flat Major quartet, Op. 127, in particular we find a spiraling inwards, a refutation of earlier models of drama and struggle. There is an omnipresent sense of dissolving into acceptance and clarity, and for Beethoven it is an uncommonly tender and introverted work.

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Program Note

Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, Op. 133, is one of the great artistic testaments to the human capacity for meaning in the face of the threat of chaos. Abiding faith in the relevance of visionary struggle in our lives powerfully informs the structure and character of the music; this is surely one of the composer’s most inspiring achievements.

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