A late Beethoven quartet is not normal fare for a Coffee Concert, but the B flat quartet is special in an unusual way. Its six movement format harks back to the divertimentos of his youth and Beethoven seems to have gone out of his way to make this quartet more than usually accessible, that is, until he presents us with the stupendous finale. It seems Beethoven made no outline plans for this quartet and the unusual number of movements were the result of him trying to work his way around compositional problems as they arose, which he partly resolved by resurrecting discarded material from previous works. The final quartet gives the impression of someone who has lost the path and is struggling to find it again with many diversions along the way.
With Beethoven being such a strong personality, the diversions are intriguing to say the least – the opening Adagio/Allegro a long struggle between two completely different paths; the tiny Scherzo tries a high speed approach, speedily rejected; the Andante’s graceful dance goes back in time to the bittersweet divertimenti of the previous century; another dance follows, more modern and popular but almost as gracious; then the famous Cavatina, deeply serious, unbearably beautiful. And so, finally, the goal is reached, well described as the maddest fugue in Western music, several hundred years ahead of its time, music for a later age as Beethoven himself said to one of his despairing performers. It all ends in a blaze of light, but what a journey.
|Beethoven||String Quartet No.13 in B flat, Op.130/133|
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