BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, String Quartet in D Op.18 No.3

Andante con moto

The Quartet Op.18 No.3 is a landmark in Beethoven’s career: it’s his first string quartet. He began it in the Autumn of 1798, finishing it early the following year, and eventually placed it as the third of the Op.18 set. As a preparation, Beethoven immersed himself in quartets by other composers, especially Mozart and his teacher Haydn – he copied out two of Mozart’s Haydn quartets just as he was beginning work on his Op.18.

The first movement opens with an arching theme (characterised by a leap of a minor seventh between the first two notes). The slow movement, in B flat major, begins with a luxuriant presentation of the main theme, but the texture soon becomes more spare and fragmented, with numerous dramatic contrasts. The Scherzo-like third movement has a minor key Trio section, while the final Presto is notable for its unquenchable energy. Composer Robert Simpson wrote that this music ‘flies at once into the sky, alighting when and where it wishes’ – from the stormy development section to the unexpectedly quiet ending.

© Nigel Simeone


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