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From the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Played by the Vlach String Quartet: Josef Vlach (violin), Vaclav Snitil (violin), Josef Kodousek (viola), Viktor Moucka (cello)
Quartet in C major, Op. 59 No. 3
3.40 The Concert Interval
Denis Matthews discusses Beethoven and the String Quartet
Quartet in A minor, Op. 132
The first of nine public concerts promoted by the BBC Music Programme, devoted to the quartets and violin sonatas of Beethoven
November 5. Tatrai String Quartet
Beethoven Quartets in the Queen Elizabeth Hall
There is nothing like them in the history of music - a proposition which, I think, is true thrice over:
1. If you were a good musician who, for some unfortunate reason, had never been in touch with Beethoven's music, and if you heard one of the first (Op. 18) quartets together with one of the last (Op. 127-135), you would be unable to guess that they were by the same composer. True, you would hear affinities and ' influences'; but you would think that one composer has influenced another, much later one. The span of Beethoven's development is, in fact, unprecedented and has remained unequalled.
2. Mozart quite often repeated himself, Haydn rarely did. Beethoven would rather not have written a quartet than repeat himself in any respect - rhythmic, melodic, harmonic, textural, structural. Each work is a well-designed contrast to the last, even where the last lies many years back. As a result, the better you get to know the quartets, the more they become a single work - not because they are so similar, but because they are so logically different.
3. My third point is, strictly speaking, a secret. The metaphysical substance of the late quartets opens up a field of musical expression half-closed even to the greatest composers before and after Beethoven. Am I being vague? A secret isn't something which shouldn't be told, but something which can't. Except, of course, by the music itself, which can, perhaps. teach our age what religious experience is about.
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Feedback about Beethoven, BBC Radio 3, 15.00, 1 October 1967
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