BEETHOVEN: String Quartets Op. 18, Nos. 1 and 2

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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)

String Quartets Vol. 1

String Quartet in F major, Op. 18,No.1

String Quartet in G major, Op. 18, No.2

In 1792 Beethoven left his native cityof Bonn to seek his fortune in the imperial capital, Vienna. Five years earlier hispatron, the Archbishop of Cologne, a scion of the imperial family, had sent him to Vienna,where he had hoped to have lessons with Mozart. His plans were frustrated by the illnessand subsequent death of his mother, which made it necessary to return to Bonn and beforelong to take charge of the welfare of his younger brothers. Beethoven's father,overshadowed by the eminence of his own father, Kapellmeister to a former Archbishop, hadproved inadequate both as a musician and in the family, of which his son now took control.

As a boy Beethoven had been trained tocontinue family tradition as a musician and had followed his father and grandfather as amember of the archiepiscopal musical establishment. In 1792 he arrived in Vienna withintroductions to various members of the nobility and with the offer of lessons with Haydn,from whom he later claimed to have learned nothing. There were further lessons from theCourt Composer, Antonio Salieri, and from Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, and an initialcareer of some brilliance as a keyboard virtuoso. He was to establish himself, in thecourse of time, as a figure of remarkable genius and originality and as a socialeccentric, no respecter of persons, his eccentricity all the greater for his increasingdeafness. This last disability made public performance, whether as a keyboard-player or inthe direction of his own music, increasingly difficult, and must have served to encouragethe development of one particular facet of his music, stigmatised by hostile contemporarycritics as "learned", the use of counterpoint. He died in Vienna in 1827.

In his sixteen string quartets, thefirst set of six published in 1801 and the last, completed in 1826 and published in theyear of the composer's death, Beethoven was as innovative as ever, developing andextending a form that seemed to have already reached a height of perfection in the laterwork of Haydn and of Mozart. The earliest mention of a string quartet comes in therecorded request of Count Apponyi in 1795. This had no immediate result, but it seemsprobable that Beethoven in these years was influenced by Emanuel Aloys Forster, amusician 22 years his senior, whose proficiency as a teacher of counterpoint he admiredand recommended to others, while himself perhaps profiting from the example of Forster'sown quartets. The first group of string quartets by Beethoven, published as Opus 18, consisted of quartets written between 1798and 1800 and was dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz. The third of these, in D major, was the first in order of composition,followed by what was issued as Opus 18, No.1,the Quartet in F major. This last wascompleted in its original version by 25th June 1799, the date of an inscription by thecomposer on the first violin part, addressed to his close friend Karl Amenda, who hadtaken up residence in Vienna in 1798, serving first Prince Lobkowitz and then asmusic-teacher in the Mozart family. The friendship of Beethoven and Amenda had started ata quartet evening in a friend's house, when the composer turned the pages for Amenda,playing first violin. In 1799 Amenda was obliged to return home to Courland after thedeath of his brother. Beethoven's note to his friend reads: Accept this quartet as a smalltoken of our friendship. Whenever you play it to yourself, remember the days we have spenttogether and at the same time the sincere affection I felt and will always feel for you,your warm-hearted and true friend. In a letter to Amenda of 1st July 1801 he warns him notto lend the quartet to anyone, since he has made various changes in it.

The Fmajor Quartet opens with an exciting first movement in which the openingfigure, announced by all four instruments, assumes dramatic importance in the centraldevelopment section. Beethoven is reported to have played the D minor slow movement on the pianoforte to Amenda,who heard in it the parting of two lovers, an image that the composer approved, tellinghis friend that he had had in mind the scene in the burial vault in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The Scherzo and Trio

make a lively contrast, after the sustained beauty, tinged with tragedy, of the Adagio, while the finale explores contrapuntalpossibilities, a considerable movement that significantly extends the technical potentialof the form.

The second quartet of the Opus 18 set, the Quartetin G major, is a less demanding work, for players and listeners. It has a firstmovement very much in the style of later Haydn, a movement that has won the work thenickname the Komplimentierquartett, areference to its graceful formality. The C major

slow movement is in the mood of a contemplative hymn, until the unexpected intrusion of anF major Allegro, its rhythm hinted in ashort figure in the coda of the first section of the movement. The C major Adagio returns, to be followed by the true Scherzo in G major, framing a contrasting C major Trio, a movement that conforms with theexpectations aroused by the first movement. The quartet ends with a rapid final movement,opened by the cello, with a subject that re-appears in the central development briefly inless usual keys, before the concluding recapitulation.

Kodaly Quartet

The members of the Kodaly Quartetwere trained at the Budapest Ferenc Liszt Academy, and three of them, the second violinTamas Szabo, viola-player Gabor Fias and cellist Janos Devich, were formerly in theSebestyen Quartet, which was awarded the jury's special diploma at the 1966 GenevaInternational Quartet Competition and won first prize at the 1968 Leo Weiner QuartetCompetition in Budapest. Since 1970, with the violinist Attila Falvay, the quartet hasbeen known as the Kodaly Quartet, a titleadopted with the approval of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education. The KodalyQuartet has given concerts throughout Europe, in the Soviet Union and in Japan, inaddition to regular appearances in Hungary both in the concert hall and on television andhas made for Naxos highly acclaimed recordings of string quartets by Ravel, Debussy, Haydnand Schubert.

Item number 8550558
Barcode 4891030505582
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Classical
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Beethoven, Ludwig van
Beethoven, Ludwig van
Orchestras Kodaly Quartet
Kodaly Quartet
Producers Toth, Ibolya
Toth, Ibolya
Disc: 1
String Quartet No. 2 in G major, Op. 18, No. 2
1 I. Allegro con brio
2 II. Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato
3 III. Scherzo: Allegro molto
4 IV. Allegro
5 I. Allegro
6 II. Adagio cantabile
7 III. Scherzo: Allegro
8 IV. Allegro molto quasi presto
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