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Quartet No.11 in F minor Op.95 'Quartetto seriouso'

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

Vanbrugh Quartet

Vanbrugh Quartet

Composer
Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 1770 - d. 1827)
Composition Year
1810
Work Movements
1. Allegro con brio
2. Allegretto ma non troppo
3. Allegro assai vivace ma serioso
4. Larghetto espressivo - Allegretto agitato
Artists
Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins] Simon Aspell [viola] Christopher Marwood [cello])

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

This all-Beethoven concert features three major but very different chamber works written over three years and almost coincidentally having three consecutive opus numbers. The Op.95 Quartet is renowned for its extreme compression and the explosive concentration of its ideas. The Op.96 Violin Sonata, the last in a distinguished series cherished by all violinists, revels in its spacious lyricism. The Op.97 Trio, best-known as the Archduke after its dedicatee, is written in Beethoven’s Olympian mode and is his final piano trio.

The F minor Quartet was written in 1810 and it was to be his last quartet for nearly fifteen years. Here he is the direct successor of Haydn’s economy of expression and the immediate forbear of Bartók and Berg. The first subject is like an image of Beethoven, abrupt, intense, sudden in his tenderness and equally quick to take offence. The second subject group is every bit as dramatic in its contrasts, a melting wisp of a theme over a tremolo accompaniment that suddenly bursts into a driving rhythmic idea that is a precursor of the Grosse Fuge. The material is so compact that an exposition repeat is out of the question and we are thrown straight into the 24 bar development. The recapitulation holds no more surprises except to wonder again at its extraordinary brevity.

The slow movement in D major is in simple Lied form of ABABA. The austere beauty of the cello’s opening scale is softened by the caressing melody that circles around it, though the subtle minor key inflections do disturb this serenity. The second idea is a fugue set off by the viola, a gentle forerunner of the great fugues of the last quartets. The Scherzo bursts in without a break, reverting to the intense compression and the minor key of the first movement that had been slightly relaxed in the Allegretto. It has a persistent dotted rhythm and a stark energy that is mellowed by the two brief Trios.

The Rondo Finale is introduced with a few tender Larghetto bars before launching the ambivalent Rondo refrain. The construction is regular with three refrains and three dramatic interludes, which appear to conclude the work before the sudden flowering of F major in a whirlwind presto coda, like a sudden glass of Champagne.

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Quartet No.11 in F minor Op.95 'Quartetto seriouso'

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 1770 - d. 1827)
Performance date: Thursday 7th July 2016
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 1770 - d. 1827)
Work Title Quartet No.11 in F minor Op.95 'Quartetto seriouso'
Composition Year 1810
Work Movements 1. Allegro con brio
2. Allegretto ma non troppo
3. Allegro assai vivace ma serioso
4. Larghetto espressivo - Allegretto agitato
Artist(s) Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins] Simon Aspell [viola] Christopher Marwood [cello])
Performance Date Thursday 7th July 2016
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:21:08
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category String Quartet
Instrumentation 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

This all-Beethoven concert features three major but very different chamber works written over three years and almost coincidentally having three consecutive opus numbers. The Op.95 Quartet is renowned for its extreme compression and the explosive concentration of its ideas. The Op.96 Violin Sonata, the last in a distinguished series cherished by all violinists, revels in its spacious lyricism. The Op.97 Trio, best-known as the Archduke after its dedicatee, is written in Beethoven’s Olympian mode and is his final piano trio.

The F minor Quartet was written in 1810 and it was to be his last quartet for nearly fifteen years. Here he is the direct successor of Haydn’s economy of expression and the immediate forbear of Bartók and Berg. The first subject is like an image of Beethoven, abrupt, intense, sudden in his tenderness and equally quick to take offence. The second subject group is every bit as dramatic in its contrasts, a melting wisp of a theme over a tremolo accompaniment that suddenly bursts into a driving rhythmic idea that is a precursor of the Grosse Fuge. The material is so compact that an exposition repeat is out of the question and we are thrown straight into the 24 bar development. The recapitulation holds no more surprises except to wonder again at its extraordinary brevity.

The slow movement in D major is in simple Lied form of ABABA. The austere beauty of the cello’s opening scale is softened by the caressing melody that circles around it, though the subtle minor key inflections do disturb this serenity. The second idea is a fugue set off by the viola, a gentle forerunner of the great fugues of the last quartets. The Scherzo bursts in without a break, reverting to the intense compression and the minor key of the first movement that had been slightly relaxed in the Allegretto. It has a persistent dotted rhythm and a stark energy that is mellowed by the two brief Trios.

The Rondo Finale is introduced with a few tender Larghetto bars before launching the ambivalent Rondo refrain. The construction is regular with three refrains and three dramatic interludes, which appear to conclude the work before the sudden flowering of F major in a whirlwind presto coda, like a sudden glass of Champagne.