Tuesday, 27 January 2009

238. Ludwig van Beethoven - Late String Quartets (1825-26)


Title: Late String Quartets
Performers: Takacs Quartet
Year: 2003-04
Length: 3 hours 20 minutes


We finally come to the last compositions by Beethoven and it will be a pity to see him leave. No other single composer was as responsible for a complete revolution in the music world, and these Quartets are another great example of this.

By this time, Beethoven is, of course completely deaf, and one has to ask if that is part of the reason why he is so willing to explode the conventions on "how things should sound". These quartets are anything but traditional, full of dissonance and hard to get used to. They are properly challenging music, probably the most challenging music by Beethoven.

The whole musical genre is pushed forward by leaps and bounds with this work. Music has stopped being solely about auditory pleasure and it starts being conceptual as well. Much of the music here is beautiful because Beethoven is such a master, but it is mainly concerned with experimentation and creation. They take some effort but it is very worth it.

Final Grade



Together, all five quartets comprise the last major, completed compositions by Beethoven, and are widely considered to be among the greatest musical compositions of all time, though they are also notoriously difficult for audiences to digest. Musicologist Theodor Adorno, in particular, thought highly of them, and composer Igor Stravinsky is reputed to have believed the Grosse Fuge to be the greatest piece of music ever written. Wagner, when reflecting on Op. 131's first movement, said that they contained some of the saddest music he knew.

First Movement of op. 131:

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