Saint Paul Sunday from American Public Media Beethoven: The Emerson Expedition 

Beethoven's Early Period (1792 - 1802)

A New and Striking Voice

RealAudio 3.0 28.8

Bill McGlaughlin's Narrative
Beethoven's Early Period

Music to Browse by: Early Quartets
Played by the Emerson String Quartet
Quartet in F major, Op. 18, No. 1 (1798)
Quartet in A major, Op. 18, No. 5 - Menuetto (1800)
Quartet in B flat major, Op. 18, No. 6 - La Malinconia: Adagio-Allegretto quasi Allegro (1800)

WHILE BEETHOVEN HAD COMPOSED a body of work in his youth in Bonn, nothing was published until the mid 1790s after he'd been studying for a period with Joseph Haydn. In those early years in Vienna Beethoven composed in a number of different forms. Some of them rather small, like piano sonatas and chamber music, some of them big, like the first two piano concerti. Finally, by his 27th year he felt confident enough to turn his hand to the supreme test of a composer's powers, the string quartet. This is music of the connoisseurs.

"This one will make quite a lot
of noise in the world."
- Mozart

See Beethoven's Early Life
for a discussion of the influences that shaped
Beethoven's early compositions.

In the 1790's, the string quartet was still a new form, created by Haydn only thirty years before and raised to an even higher level by Mozart in the 1780s. To make the competition even stiffer for Beethoven, Haydn, his own teacher, was at the time still writing masterful quartets. This was a formidable task which occupied Beethoven two and a half years. The results were worth the wait: the six quartets which were published as Opus 18.


RealAudio 3.0 28.8
Listen to an anecdote
About Op. 18, No. 1
By Quartet member Philip Setzer.

In them, we hear immediately the influence of Josef Haydn and Mozart. This is music of the Eighteenth Century, of the Age of Enlightenment. But it's on the cusp, too, of a whole new age. The age of romanticism and revolution, and we hear in these quartets a new and striking voice. We hear Beethoven.

- Bill McGlaughlin


Beethoven's Upbringing and Early Life
Beethoven's Middle Period
Beethoven's Late Period

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