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Piano Quartet No.1 in E flat Wo0.36/1

Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 1770 - d. 1827)

Philip Cassard

Philip Cassard

Composer
Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 1770 - d. 1827)
Composition Year
1785
Work Movements
1. Adagio assai
2. Allegro con spirito
3. Thema & 6 Variations – Cantabile
Artists
Philippe Cassard [piano], Pekka Kuusisto [violin], Hartmut Rohde [viola], Anja Lechner [cello]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

Beethoven was only fourteen when he wrote his three piano quartets, whose publication he never approved - Artaria published them posthumously in 1828. Almost certainly the reason Beethoven never authorised their publication is their obvious debt to Mozart. Beethoven’s composition teacher since he was nine was Christian Neefe, who introduced Beethoven to Bach’s Das Wohltemperirte Clavier as well as Mozart’s music. Neefe was an impresario as well as court organist and when he took his opera company on tour in 1782, Beethoven took over his organist duties at the tender age of eleven – and by 1784 Beethoven was Neefe’s salaried assistant. And in the 1782-3 season one Neefe’s Bonn productions was Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail. When Beethoven moved to Vienna he wrote to Neefe: I thank you for your advice which you so often gave me as I progressed in my divine art. If some day I become a great man, you too will have a share in it.

The E flat Piano Quartet is extensively modelled on Mozart’s G major Violin Sonata K.379, which had been published in Vienna in 1781. Mozart’s Sonata has an unusual form – it begins with an Adagio in which only the first part is repeated, with the second part leading into an Allegro in triple time, while the finale consists of a cantabile theme, five variations, a reprise of the theme plus a short coda. Beethoven preserves all these features except he adds an extra variation in the finale and his Adagio theme is very similar to Mozart’s. The differences however are also notable – Beethoven’s work is substantially bigger, more instruments, more bars, more difficult, greater dynamic range, greater dramatic intensity - before our eyes and ears we see Mozart being transformed into the young Beethoven. No wonder he could not publish it.

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Piano Quartet No.1 in E flat Wo0.36/1

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 1770 - d. 1827)
Performance date: Friday 2nd July 2010
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 1770 - d. 1827)
Work Title Piano Quartet No.1 in E flat Wo0.36/1
Composition Year 1785
Work Movements 1. Adagio assai
2. Allegro con spirito
3. Thema & 6 Variations – Cantabile
Artist(s) Philippe Cassard [piano], Pekka Kuusisto [violin], Hartmut Rohde [viola], Anja Lechner [cello]
Performance Date Friday 2nd July 2010
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Coffee Concert
Duration 00:24:11
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Piano Quartet/Piano Quintet
Instrumentation pf, vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

Beethoven was only fourteen when he wrote his three piano quartets, whose publication he never approved - Artaria published them posthumously in 1828. Almost certainly the reason Beethoven never authorised their publication is their obvious debt to Mozart. Beethoven’s composition teacher since he was nine was Christian Neefe, who introduced Beethoven to Bach’s Das Wohltemperirte Clavier as well as Mozart’s music. Neefe was an impresario as well as court organist and when he took his opera company on tour in 1782, Beethoven took over his organist duties at the tender age of eleven – and by 1784 Beethoven was Neefe’s salaried assistant. And in the 1782-3 season one Neefe’s Bonn productions was Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail. When Beethoven moved to Vienna he wrote to Neefe: I thank you for your advice which you so often gave me as I progressed in my divine art. If some day I become a great man, you too will have a share in it.

The E flat Piano Quartet is extensively modelled on Mozart’s G major Violin Sonata K.379, which had been published in Vienna in 1781. Mozart’s Sonata has an unusual form – it begins with an Adagio in which only the first part is repeated, with the second part leading into an Allegro in triple time, while the finale consists of a cantabile theme, five variations, a reprise of the theme plus a short coda. Beethoven preserves all these features except he adds an extra variation in the finale and his Adagio theme is very similar to Mozart’s. The differences however are also notable – Beethoven’s work is substantially bigger, more instruments, more bars, more difficult, greater dynamic range, greater dramatic intensity - before our eyes and ears we see Mozart being transformed into the young Beethoven. No wonder he could not publish it.