Recorded on 07/16/2010, uploaded on 10/17/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
The six quartets of Beethoven’s opus 18 were composed between 1798 and 1800 and their publication followed swiftly on the heels of the First Symphony in 1801. They were Beethoven’s first essays in the genre and represent the culmination of the Classical style handed down from Mozart and Haydn. Yet, they also give evidence to a mind already struggling to break free into a deeper and unique expression. In essence, opus 18 was the proving grounds for Beethoven’s ability to write within the quartet medium and the quartets that would follow six years later, beginning with opus 59, mark the starting point of the artistic journey that ended in the Late Quartets.
Second in the set but actually the third in order of composition, the String Quartet No. 2 in G major seems to have occupied Beethoven’s thoughts for a considerable amount of time. Abounding in grace, it is full of the spirit of Haydn and the flawless technique of Mozart. The opening Allegro is a perfectly cut sonata form and has been described as a “brilliant scene in some eighteenth-century salon, with all the ceremonious display and flourish of courtesy typical of the period.” The following Adagio, however, is more original and here one catches a glimpse of Beethoven’s need for new modes of expression. The tranquil Adagio melody is broken off by an energetic Allegro, which is then developed to a considerable extent. The Adagio returns greatly embellished and with the melody transferred to the cello.
Though marked a Scherzo, the third movement still owes much to the minuets of Haydn. It is an animated movement dominated by a motif in a dactylic rhythm. The movement’s Trio, however, is more original and characteristic of Beethoven. In the key of C major, it presents a heroic theme accompanied by reiterated harmonies. Lastly, the finale is a lively and jocular movement, recapturing the mood of the first movement but utterly dispensing with its formalities and courtesies. Like many of Beethoven’s finales, it is mainly concerned with a motif heard in the opening theme which is worked and reworked in a myriad of ways during its course, leading to a thrilling and good-humored ending. Joseph DuBosecourtesy of the Steans Music Institute
The Steans Music Institute is the Ravinia Festival's professional studies program for young musicians.
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