beethoven  the late string quartets

ALEXANDER STRING QUARTET
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
THE LATE STRING QUARTETS

FCL 2002

“The overall approach is taut, animated and, wherever all four players are busily conversing, distinguished by a welcome refusal to promote any one particular voice....And then there’s the heavenly, long-breathed Molto adagio of op.132, skillfully sustained by the Alexanders, serving as both sick room and prayer before a delirious and energetic thanksgiving for recovery... It’s the sort of musical experience that changes lives. The recordings have great presence and body but with such a hugely experienced engineer/producer as Judith Sherman at the desk I could hardly expect less ... So it’s a definite ‘thumbs-up’ from me.” — Rob Cowan, Gramophone

Excerpt from liner notes by Eric Bromberger

When the Russian Prince Nikolas Galitzin wrote to Beethoven in the fall of 1822 to commission three string quartets, his request met a sympathetic response: the composer had been thinking about writing string quartets for some time and promised to have the first done within a month or two. After seven years of intermittent activity he had resumed sustained composing in 1820 with a set of three piano sonatas, but other projects now intervened, and despite the prince’s frequent inquiries Beethoven had to complete the Missa Solemnis, Diabelli Variations, and Ninth Symphony before he could begin work on the first of the three quartets in the summer of 1824. When he did, he was a very different composer from the one who had written his last quartet in 1810 at age 40. Now, as he approached his 54th birthday, Beethoven imagined a kind of string quartet far different from his first eleven. Apparent now were the characteristics of the style that had slowly developed during his long silence as a composer: a new lyricism sometimes derived from the simplest materials, a renewed interest in the fugue and other contrapuntal procedures, and an inwardness of expression. But there were formal as well as stylistic changes. If in his earliest string quartets Beethoven had been intent on mastering classical form, now he was ready to experiment with it: of his late quartets, only two are in the four movements of traditional classical form, while others expand the structure to five, six, and seven movements. If Beethoven’s middle quartets had been difficult for performers and audiences, the late quartets lead us into a new dimension of chamber music, one in which the most heartfelt expression proceeds from what was — for performers — probably the most difficult ensemble music written to that point.


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TRACK LISTING
(part of 9 CD boxed set)

DISC 7

String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127
String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131

DISC 8

String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130
Grosse Fuge in B-flat Major, Op. 133

DISC 9

String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132
String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135

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SEE THE ANIMATED GROSSE FUGE!


More Beethoven:

Complete Boxed Set

Early Quartets

Middle Quartets