Week 3 – Beethoven’s Blog

Posted on August, 3rd 2021

The string quartet was a very important medium for Beethoven, He wrote 16 of them from early in his career in Vienna to the very last piece he wrote. Today we will look at the 4th in the set of 6 of Opus 18 (1798-1800). The 4th is in the key of c minor, the only one in this set in a minor key. If your curiosity so guides you you’ll find that the others are in the keys of #1 F Major, #2 – G Major, #3D Major, #5 – A Major, and #6 Bb Major. While these quartets certainly reflect the heritage of Haydn and Mozart they look forward at the same time to a new musical expression – harmony, emphasis on rhythm, motivically conceived “melodies”, etc. Thus it is with Opus 18 #4 in c minor. The opening movement has that Storm und Drang furious feel to it but with no real formal surprises to it. Then, instead of a typical slow second movement he writes a flowing 3/8 fugue which is absolutely beautiful and charming. An elegant minuet usually follows but rather comes a wildly fast scherzo movement in 3/4 time that is actually counted one beat to a bar. And last a rollicking rondo in c minor to bring us home. These quartets together foreshadow the great genius and mystery that Beethoven will reveal to us as his musical life unfolds. I urge you to acquaint  yourselves with as many of these wonderful Opus 18s as you can.