Beethoven – String Quartet No 1 (Alban Berg Quartet)

Alban Berg Quartet plays Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 1 in F major, Op. 18. The quartet was written between 1798 and 1800 and published in 1801. It is actually the second string quartet that Beethoven composed.

There are four movements:

  1. Allegro con brio
  2. Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato
  3. Scherzo: Allegro molto
  4. Allegro

Beethoven’s Op.18 quartets were not written in the sequence in which they are numbered. Basil Lam in his admirable BBC Music Guide gives the following order:

  1. No.4 in C minor – probably much revised after second version of No.1
  2. No.1 in F (first version)
  3. No.3 in D
  4. (uncertain) No.5 in A
  5. No.2 in G
  6. No.6 in B flat

According to Beethoven’s friend Karl Amenda, the second movement was inspired by the tomb scene from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The quartet was heavily revised between the version that Amenda first received and the one that was sent to the publisher a year later, including changing the second movement’s marking from Adagio molto to the more specific Adagio affetuouso ed appassionato. Of these modifications, Beethoven wrote: “Be sure not to hand on to anybody your quartet, in which I have made some drastic alterations. For only now have I learnt to write quartets; and this you will notice, I fancy, when you receive them.”

The theme of the finale is almost directly borrowed from the finale of his earlier string trio, Op. 9, No. 3 in C minor; the themes are very closely related. The principal theme of the first movement echoes that of Haydn’s Opus 50, No. 1 quartet.

Alban Berg Quartet:

Günter Pichler, violin 1
Gerhard Schulz, violin 2
Thomas Kakuska, viola
Valentin Erben, cello

The Alban Berg Quartet was a string quartet founded in Vienna, Austria in 1970, named after Alban Berg. It was widely considered the most famous string quartet in the world.

The Berg Quartet was founded in 1970 by four young professors of the Vienna Academy of Music, and made its debut in the Vienna Konzerthaus in autumn 1971. The widow of the composer Alban Berg, Helene, attended an early private concert after which she gave her consent for the quartet to use her husband’s name.

In 2005, Thomas Kakuska died of cancer. In accordance with his wish, the ABQ continued concertizing with Isabel Charisius, a student of his. But as cellist Valentin Erben said, “There was a big rupture in our hearts” and the quartet retired in 2008. The concert in memoriam Thomas Kakuska featured a who’s-who of classical music, including an orchestra of friends and students of the quartet. Among them were Angelika Kirchschlager, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Erwin Arditti, Magdalena Kozena, Thomas Quasthoff, Helmut Deutsch, Alois Posch, Heinrich Schiff, and Sir Simon Rattle; the orchestra was conducted by Claudio Abbado. After a worldwide farewell tour in July 2008, the ABQ ended its career.

Sources

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