Ludwig van Beethoven [1770-1827]
String Quartet No.3 in D major Op.18/3 
2. Andante con moto
Ever since Haydn's Op.33 Quartets written in 1781, the string quartet had become the most sophisticated form of chamber music. Where the symphony had become a large-scale, public display of compositional craft, the quartet was the serious composer's most elevated private thoughts intended only for the ears of connoisseurs – thus the princely commissioners. Beethoven methodically tackled both genres in the 1790's under the tutelage of Haydn and Albrechtsberger and by mid-1800 had completed his First Symphony and his first set of quartets. He began the latter in the summer of 1798 and the first one, actually published as No.3, was virtually completed that year.
All six quartets demonstrate that Beethoven had fully absorbed the example of both Haydn and Mozart. No other composer had matched their sophistication and doubtless he saw himself as their true heir, just as, twenty-seven years later, Schubert took on Beethoven's mantle. During his preparation for these quartets, Beethoven even copied out two of Mozart's quartets (K.387 and K.464).
The D major Quartet has a strangely equivocal opening from the first violin and for a few bars it could be a slow introduction, but once the Allegro takes off all is clear. The hesitant opening reappears to mark the way through the movement, which has an unexpectedly impassioned development. The return to the recapitulation is cleverly handled. The movement closes with two firm chords.
The Andante, in the surprising key of B flat, opens with a distinctive smooth but shapely theme that leads eventually to a second theme with a light, staccato principal motif and a more powerful continuation. The development, based on elements of both ideas, is placed between the restatements of the first and second subjects, thus giving the feeling of a rondo. There is a substantial and deeply felt coda.
The miniature Scherzo is remarkable for its legato character and offbeat stresses and pauses; there is a brief, flashy Trio in D minor. The colourful and ebullient final Presto has his teacher written all over it. Beethoven chooses the whirling 6/8 metre of a tarantella, but the flashes of wit and the trick ending are the kind of jokes Haydn enjoyed.