Saturday, September 30, 2017

September 1826: Beethoven completes his string quartets, his final work

Last updated August 31, 2018.

String Quartets (16)

Ludwig van Beethoven (composer)

Composed: 1798-1826

Completed: September 1826

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Genre: classical > chamber

String Quartets:

    Opus 18: (1801)

  1. String Quartet No. 1 in F major
  2. String Quartet No. 2 in G major
  3. String Quartet No. 3 in D major
  4. String Quartet No. 4 in C minor
  5. String Quartet No. 5 in A major
  6. String Quartet No. 6 in B♭ major

    Opus 59: Rasumovsky: (1808)

  7. String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59, No. 1
  8. String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2
  9. String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59, No. 3

    The Late String Quartets: (1825-26)

  10. String Quartet No. 12 in E♭ major
  11. String Quartet No. 13 in B♭ major
  12. String Quartet No. 14 in C♯ minor
  13. String Quartet No. 15 in A minor
  14. String Quartet No. 16 in F major

Average Duration: about 9 hours


Beethoven’s first six string quartets, known as Opus 18, were composed between 1798 and 1800 and published in 1801. They fulfilled “a commission for Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowitz, who was the employer of Beethoven's friend, the violinist Karl Amenda. They are thought to demonstrate his total mastery of the classical string quartet as developed by Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.” WK1

The seventh through ninth quartets, written in 1806, were commissioned by Count Andreas Razumovsky, the Russian ambassador in Vienna. They are referred to as the “Middle Period,” “Middle Quartets,” or “Opus 59: Razumovsky.” They were published in 1808 in Vienna. WK2

The final six quartets, or the Late String Quartets, were “Beethoven’s last major completed compositions. Although dismissed by musicians and audiences of Beethoven’s day, they are now widely considered to be among the greatest musical compositions of all time…and they have inspired many later composers.” WK3

Quartets 12-15 were commissioned by Prince Nikolai Galitzine. He was in failing health while writing them, being bedridden in April 1825 for about a month. His recovery is credited with the “deeply felt slow movement of the Fifteenth Quartet, which Beethoven called ‘Holy song of thanks (‘Heiliger Dankgesang’) to the divinity, from one made well.’” WK3

The Budapest String Quartet recordings from 1940 to 1952 of the complete cycle have “acquired legendary status” AZ having been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2003. The New York Times wrote that they set “the modern standard of performance in the Beethoven quartets.” AZ

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