Beethoven String Quartets
Beethoven's string quartets have been perennially popular from his time to our own. They fall into four groups. The early quartets (Op. 18) leave give distinct evidence of the composer's promise and already show his originality. The "Rasoumovsky" quartets Op. 59 (nicknamed for their dedicatee) come from one of Beethoven's most fertile and productive periods. Each is a classic in its own right. Collectively they show enormous strides in Beethoven's development and imagination. Opp. 74 and 95 continue in the same directions.
What is surprising is that Beethoven composed so few quartets between 1806 and 1825. He was of course busy composing many other works during the first part of that period. Chamber music was usually written to fulfill a specific commission, and in Beethoven's time typically written to order. The political vicissitudes of Austria, particularly in its battles with Napoleonic France, were periodically inhibiting. Beethoven's personal battle with his progressive hearing difficulties is usually considered the likely explanation for many otherwise inexplicable behaviors.
|Opus||Title||Key||Nickname||Date|| CCARH score
| B&H score|
|Op. 18, No. 1||String Quartet No. 1||F Major||1798-1800||full|||
|Op. 18, No. 2||String Quartet No. 2||G Major||1798-1800||full|||
|Op. 18, No. 3||String Quartet No. 3||D Major||1798-1800||full|||
|Op. 18, No. 4||String Quartet No. 4||C Minor||1798-1800||full|||
|Op. 18, No. 5||String Quartet No. 5||A Major||1798-1800||full|||
|Op. 18, No. 6||String Quartet No. 6||B♭ Major||1798-1800||full|||
|Op. 59, No. 1||String Quartet No. 7||F Major||"Razumovsky"||1805-6||full|||
|Op. 59, No. 2||String Quartet No. 8||E Minor||"Razumovsky"||1805-6||full|||
|Op. 59, No. 3||String Quartet No. 9||C Major||"Razumovsky"||1805-6||full|||
|Op. 74||String Quartet in E♭ Major ("The Harp")||1809||full|||
|Op. 95||String Quartet in F Minor||1816||full|||
|Op. 127||String Quartet No. 12 in E♭ Major||1825||full|||
|Op. 130||String Quartet in B♭ Major||1827||[ ]|||
|Op. 131||String Quartet in C♯ Minor||1827||full|||
|Op. 132||String Quartet in A Minor||1827||[ ]|||
|Op. 133||Grosse Fuge (to follow No. 130) in B♭ Major||1827||[ ]|||
|Op. 135||String Quartet in F Major||1827||[ ]|||
Audio examples from each movement of the three Op. 59 quartets are provided by the Digital Archive of the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, the city of Beethoven's birth.