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Ludwig van Beethoven

String Quartet No. 11 in f minor, Op. 95, Serioso  Play

Fifth House Ensemble Ensemble

Recorded on 05/02/2009, uploaded on 05/02/2009

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String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, op. 95      Ludwig van Beethoven

                The op. 95 string quartet, subtitled Quartett Serioso by Beethoven himself, is the final quartet of his so-called middle period as well as the last before the fourteen year hiatus he took from the medium. The manuscript bears the date of October 1810, the year following the op. 74 quartet, though it was not published until 1816. It was in 1810 that Beethoven's engagement to Thérèse von Brunswick was broken off and brought him much sorrow. When Bettina Brentano visited Beethoven in May of that year, she wrote to Goethe:

"His power is the strength of maturity; careless of everything, he abandons himself to his own fierce riot of emotions, without a thought for the world's little opinion, or the forms and conventions of others. What forces has he to guard against, to contend with, now that love and ambition are forever buried? All that is left to him is the splendor and joy of his genius, and the craving to exercise his creative power and to spend it recklessly."

Indeed, it would not be many years hence before Beethoven embarked on that strikingly unique path of his late period.

                The quartett serioso serves as a link to that forthcoming period of Beethoven's music. In it, he experimented with many of the techniques he would draw on later, particularly in the late string quartets. The first movement exemplifies an unmistakable characteristic of Beethoven's middle period-a continuous sonata form without repetitions. However, the actual structure of the movement looks forward to the unified forms of his late period in which the strict divisions of the sonata form are broken down to create an artistic whole in which an idea continuously evolves from beginning to end. Another unmistakable foreshadowing is the expanded use of foreign tonal centers. The keys of A major and D major, not in the slightest way theoretically related to the tonic of F minor, both make brief appearances.

                The unusual use of the key of D major carries over and becomes the tonic of the middle movement. However, the original key of F minor casts an ominous shadow over the movement in the recurrent flattening of the sixth scale degree (B natural to B flat). Like so many examples from Beethoven's late period output, this movement nearly escapes any impression of a tradition form, yet at the same time there is no moment in which the flow of ideas seems haphazard. Even the fugato middle section presages the later contrapuntal nature of Beethoven's music. In character, as well as in technique, this movement alone presents the most convincing link to Beethoven's late period.

                The third movement, beginning without break from the second movement, is best described as a serious scherzo-an oxymoron to say the least and a perfect example of Beethoven's "joking seriousness." The trio is repeated twice like in the scherzo of the later Seventh Symphony. With the scherzo in the key of F minor, the trio makes use again of the foreign tonality of D major.

The last movement begins unusually with a larghetto introduction. These seven measures are remarkably unique, looking forward not only to the late quartets fourteen years later, but, according to Joseph de Marliave, also foreshadow Schumann's symphony in C and even Wagner's revolutionary Tristan. The finale proper, in an allegretto tempo, begins with a straightforward melody but is not lacking in emotional content. The plasticity of the theme makes it perfect for development. After the final reprise of the theme, a brilliant Allegro molto in F major concludes the piece. This coda holds the same relationship to this finale as the triumphal F major march of the Egmont overture (also written in 1810) to what preceded it. With it, the quartett serioso comes to a jubilant, heroic end.

Joseph DuBose

Performances by same musician(s)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Flute Quartet No. 1 in D Major
Anton Webern
Langsamer Satz
Johannes Brahms
Clarinet Trio, Op. 114
Dmitry Shostakovich
String Quartet No. 9
Giacomo Puccini

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I love it!!

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