PDF String Quartet No. 5 in A Major, Op. 18, No. 5 - Violin 1

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The end is inconclusive and the Scherzo breaks in abruptly. Beethoven does not call it a scherzo — he used this term only literally, when humour or wit was intended. There is no humour in this fierce piece, nor in the wonderful Trio, unlike anything else in the quartet literature, and also unique in occurring twice in different forms, the second time with more marvellous modulations than before. The final statement of the blunt Scherzo is sharply truncated and speeded up.

The Finale opens with a short but deeply elegiac introduction, leading to a movement of extraordinary tortuous grace — a dance of despair, some might think — anticipating in some ways the last movement of the late A minor Quartet.


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But despair is not an element in Beethoven's art. Profoundly disturbing as he can be, he cannot express mere depression, for the human energy of his work is irrepressible, breaking through the most terrible agonies of his life with prodigious creative effects. This is one of the works where he achieves the apparent impossibility of totally convincing dissociation — in this case the gloriously fleet and elated F major coda.

What does this mean? We have already thought of a possible extra-musical explanation — but it doesn't have to "mean" anything except the miracle it performs. The other great works in which dissociation is a positive and paradoxically unifying force on a much greater scale are the last Piano Sonata in C minor Op. The F minor Quartet and the "Egmont" Overture are the first notable examples of this phenomenon, of which Beethoven was the first and, perhaps, the only master.

There is much mystery in this angelic work, the first of the late quartets. The serenity is not unaware of problems, yet is above them. The calm expansiveness of the whole contains a paradoxical degree of thematic concentration. The unprecedented originality of the quartet texture is carried by a structure more "classical" than we find in any of the Rasumovsky quartets.

The astonishing beauty and innocence of much of the music seems to clothe a spirit more bold and exploratory than ever before. These are some of the apparent contradictions that conspire to produce an indescribably perfect work, The key is E flat, but C major is important. Take note of the dignified and rhythmically ambiguous introduction, fixing itself and E flat in the mind. In the middle of the first movement's development it returns in a bright C major; most composers would have brought it back if at all in the tonic at the recapitulation. The fact that it comes unexpectedly, and in a bright foreign key, creates a memorable mystery; we subconsciously remember it a long time later when the coda of the Finale begins with a magical change to C major in a mysterious new tempo.

The two middle movements are among the greatest and most original of their kind. The Adagio consists of four variations and coda on a theme of vast calmness and humanity, the whole movement a triumph of quiet sustained inner strength, one of the supreme examples of decorative variation in all music.

When one considers what Beethoven had suffered by this time in his life, such music as this illuminates the more his true nature. The scherzo is one of his largest and strangest, alternating solidity and disparateness of texture, all pervaded by a playful unpredictability; the trio in the minor is wild and fantastic, the more so in the context of this work, yet puzzlingly not at all out of place.

The deceptively simple finale it has no tempo indication makes as if to begin in C — and this is connected with the point made earlier by the C major intrusion in the development of the first movement. The simplest things seem continually to renew themselves. The coda, with a change of tempo, makes a magical modulation to C major before finding its way back home again. In its original form with the Grosse Fuge as finale, this was the longest of Beethoven's quartets. The fugue was found at first incomprehensible and almost unplayable and Beethoven was at length persuaded to substitute a shorter, lighter, "easier" finale; this was the last thing he ever completed.

Although it seems surprising that Beethoven agreed to this compromise, the artistic reason for it could have been deeper than a mere desire to please, or a lack of confidence in his own judgment. Such indecisions had plagued him before, in the Fifth and Ninth symphonies, in Fidelio, or in the appalling cuts and shifts he suggested in in the Hammerklavier Sonata.

Publishing the Grosse Fuge separately as Op. But if the Grosse Fuge is restored to Op. The idea that two such disparate movements are satisfying alternatives could be sustained only by ingenuity. Perhaps the answer lies further back.

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Listening to the first movement, notice the mysteriously disembodied effect of the whole second group in the strange key of G flat, approached abruptly, and not grounded in a tonality at all. The same thing happens in the Grosse Fuge, even more mysteriously, when everything slips into a wonderful animated cloud of soft G flat. These two events are crucial. The work as a whole also has something in common with a Bach partita; Beethoven in his later works searches the past ever more deeply.

The first movement is followed by a very fast and short scherzo in the tonic minor; the next movement, ambling gently and delicately, with many original quartet textures, is in the related key of D flat. Then comes the simple Alla danza tedesca, but suddenly in the strange key of G major, as far as possible away from D flat — a switch to the other side of the musical universe! This violent dissociation, expressed in the simplest language, is the secret heart of the work, psychologically connected with those in the first movement and the Grosse Fuge.

From G it is an easy step to E flat, where we find the touching Cavatina, and the note G at the top of its last chord begins both the Grosse Fuge and the second finale.


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The Fugue is a mighty struggle stretching mind and sinews to the limit, and besides the great G flat dissociation it contains, it also makes another such rift by means of the key of A flat, the "contradictory" flat seventh of the tonic B flat. But at length, with an unmistakable sense of release, it breaks through into sunlight — the air is all at once fresh and free and the music takes flight.

Does not the extra movement say, gloriously, "Now we can play! Is it not a felicitous appendix, in its vivid delight the most heroic of all Beethoven's utterances? His bodily condition was piteous, but his spirit found its way into this sparkling allegro, in which all tonal contradictions and dissociations are wonderfully resolved especially the A flat question, the point of which depends on our having heard the Grosse Fuge.

There is a powerful case for freeing ourselves from the vexing choice. Beethoven might have welcomed this way out; perhaps he felt that Op. Therefore, already in extremis, without time to change existing publishing arrangements, he achieved his happiest music.

Shouldn't it take its natural place? Adagio ma non troppo e molto espressivo — Allegro molto vivace — Allegro moderato — Adagio — Andante ma non troppo e molto cantabile — Presto — Adagio quasi un poco andante — Allegro. Beethoven wrote this great work in and appears to have thought it his finest.

Certainly nothing could surpass its depth, scope, originality, or organic perfection.


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  6. Although it is continuous and the "movements" are numbered 1 — 7, it can be felt as a five-movement quartet if we regard No. The first movement is a wonderful slow fugue; Wagner said it floated over the sorrows of the world, but even that description is too small for it.

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    For the reader who knows something about normal fugue practice, the answer is here on the subdominant instead of the usual dominant, so that the expressive main accent of the subject now falls on the note D. This becomes the key of the quick, fleeting second movement, in a truncated sonata form, almost miraculously contrasted to the fugue. The subdominant inflection in the fugue is now matched in a quite different way by the relationship between this D major piece and the next main movement, a great set of variations in A major, forming the central slow movement beginning Andante ma non troppo a molto cantabile.

    The whole of this movement remains rooted in A major, and when the scherzo breaks in, its E major feels more like the dominant of the previous A than like a key in its own right. Beethoven shrewdly avoids fixing E as a tonality, always blunting its own dominant into G sharp minor; when the "trio" heard twice complete slips into A we feel this to be by the force of gravity.

    G sharp minor, having been active in the scherzo, next becomes the key of No. The unfathomable unity of all this makes any description merely topographical and pedestrian, the more so in the attempt to be poetical. Musicians or no, we can be aware of it instinctively, even when we don't know why, when we are moved beyond expression. The A minor was the second of Beethoven's late quartets to be composed. Apart from its profoundly luminous slow movement, it is the darkest, and the adagio perhaps represents an inner freedom from the outward sufferings the rest of the work seems to reflect.

    Yet the cruel blandness of the alla marcia that shatters the raptness is one of the boldest strokes in all music; Beethoven does not fail to face necessities, and is able to do so without despair, but not in this work without the severest strain in the last movement. Another aspect of this quartet, in common with other late works, is its exploration of the past.

    Not only is there the deliberately archaic Lydian mode of the adagio F to F on the white notes of the piano — there is also the searching contemplation of a single phrase, the first four notes we hear on the cello at the very opening of the whole work G sharp, A, F, E , with the kind of concentration we hear in Bach's "Art of Fugue". Astonishingly, the heartbreaking main theme of the final rondo was at first intended for the finale of the Ninth Symphony, and it is preceded by some recitatives that actually echo those in the symphony.

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    Beethoven was clearly at one time undecided about how to end the Ninth, philosophically and musically. But even in Op. Allegretto Vivace Lento assai, cantante e tranquillo Grave ma troppo tratto — Allegro The difficult resolution. Apart from the second finale of Op. It is smaller in scope and lighter in character than the other late quartets. Profundity is not always weight or elaboration, and the Lento is a piece as deep as it is seemingly simple. The first movement displays a delicately reticulated texture he had taught himself in some of the other late music, and there is no more sensitive quartet writing.

    The explosively original scherzo takes us by surprise after this, especially its wildly repetitive trio, reaching a hair-raising climax. The tensions that show their teeth in this piece remain beneath the utter quiet of the Lento assai: three very slow variations on a theme of elemental simplicity, the central one in the minor, hushed and fragmented.

    Deep contemplation without relaxation can be felt in this movement. The finale reacts with an indescribable blend of humour and seriousness, quoting a joke phrase Beethoven wrote in reply to someone who owed him some money and was reluctant to pay, saying "Must it be? We should not read too many heavy hidden meanings in all this, so far as the quartet is concerned — but there is something in it nobody will ever altogether fathom, and it is this that keeps the work perennially fresh and fascinating.

    All rights reserved. Links Sitemap. All files courtesy of Musopen. String quartets by Ludwig van Beethoven. String quartet arrangement of Op. Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. In other projects Wikimedia Commons. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Allegro con brio II.

    Adagio ma non troppo III. Scherzo: Allegro IV. He has specialised in the Viennese Classical period and in Lieder. String Quartet in A major, Op. Allegro 2. Menuetto 3.

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    Andante cantabile 4. The writing of string quartets was a daunting proposition for any young composer in the Vienna of the s. Not surprisingly, then, Beethoven was careful to establish his credentials as a composer for his own instrument, the piano, before taking up the challenge of this most exalted genre. Before he bit the bullet in , Beethoven undertook a rigorous course of preparation.

    String Quartet No. 5 in A major Op. 18 No. 5: I. Allegro

    He studied fugue and counterpoint with the venerable J. Albrechtsberger, and copied out movements of several Haydn and Mozart quartets. When the six quartets of Op. Compared with the earlier Op.

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    A shift from E major to F sharp minor at the start of the development promises tense drama that Beethoven quickly defuses, relaxing into the key of D major over pastoral drones in the cello. For that we must wait a quarter of a century until the A minor quartet, Op. Yet the minuet in Op. Even Mozart rarely wore his polyphonic learning more lightly than Beethoven does in this scintillating movement.

    String Quartet No.5, Op.18 No.5 (Beethoven, Ludwig van)

    String Quartet in C major, Op. Introduzione Andante con moto — Allegro vivace 2. Andante con moto quasi Allegretto 3. Menuetto Grazioso 4. Allegro molto. Around the turn of the nineteenth century Vienna was swarming with musically cultured Russian, Polish and Hungarian aristocrats. Those who could afford it even supported their own string quartets.

    They are profoundly thought through and composed with enormous skill, but will not be intelligible to everyone, with the exception of the third, which by virtue of its individuality, melodic invention and harmonic power is certain to win over every educated music lover. But while the Op. On the whole No.