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Hyperion Records

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Landscape with windmills (c1823) by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)
Schloss Charlottenberg, Berlin
Track(s) taken from CDA66402
Recording details: December 1989
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Arthur Johnson
Engineered by Tim Handley
Release date: June 1990
Total duration: 24 minutes 33 seconds

String Quartet in C minor, Op 18 No 4
composer
1798/1800

Allegro  [4'30]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
It has been suggested that Beethoven's C minor Quartet is based on material from his earliest period in Bonn. Whatever the truth, the work represents him at full power so far as he had evolved it around 1800, when the six Opus 18 quartets were being composed. C minor has always been connected with Beethoven in trenchant mood, and there is some of that here - a direct shortness of address, a certain impatience with the finesse of transition, and a clear simplicity of texture, with instantly assimilable melodic invention. For all this, there is no lack of subtlety in the proportions, and the sense of movement is as perfect as a cat's. In the crisply effected first movement we feel strong purpose rather than the tragedy or pathos often associated with a minor key, and the E fiat music of the second group has an unmistakably optimistic 'lift'. As if to confirm this, there is no slow movement - instead a lighthearted C major Andante actually entitled 'Scherzo'; this anticipates in some ways the second movement of the First Symphony, especially in its fugato beginning.

By far the most serious part of this Quartet is the so-called minuet, having the urgency of some of Beethoven's later scherzo movements (which incidentally when they were not humorous he never called 'scherzo'). This dramatically intense 'minuet' has some remarkable chromaticisms, and the Trio, with its constant quick triplets in the first violin, could well have influenced Schubert's quartet textures. The Finale is one of Beethoven's rare excursions into the Hungarian style of which Haydn was fond; it is a simple rondo with a contrasting much broader second theme. At the end the tempo increases and, unlike Haydn in such cases, Beethoven allows the minor key to persist to the end. In this Quartet all the movements are in C.

from notes by Robert Simpson © 1990

Other albums featuring this work
'Beethoven: String Quartets' (CDH55021/8)
Beethoven: String Quartets
MP3 £24.99FLAC £24.99ALAC £24.99 CDH55021/8  8CDs Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Deleted  
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