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


Beethoven's Late Period (1819-1827)

Music Beyond Space and Time

RealAudio 3.0 28.8

Bill McGlaughlin's Narrative
Beethoven's Late Period
Late Quartets

Music to Browse by: Late Quartets
Played by the Emerson String Quartet
Quartet in E flat major, Op. 127 - Maestoso-Allegro
Quartet in a minor, Op. 132 - Assai sostenuto - Allegro
Quartet in B flat major, Op. 130 - Presto
Grosse Fuge, Op. 133
Quartet in F major, Op. 135 - Lento aassai, cantante e tranquillo


AFTER THE TREMENDOUS OUTPOURING of work during the first dozen years of the nineteenth century, Beethoven entered a period of lower productivity, from 1812 to about 1818 or 1819. There are a number of reasonable explanations. To begin with, no one could have continued the composition of masterpieces at such a rate; he may have just needed a break.

 

RealAudio 3.0 28.8
Listen to an anecdote about Op. 132
By Quartet member Eugene Drucker and Bill McGlaughlin

This was also the time of the Congress of Vienna; Europe was exhausted with the fervor and excesses of revolution and Napoleon's devastating campaigns. In Austria in particular, this was a period of conservatism and artistic retreat to the Biedermeier style, a sort of mid 19th Century Ozzie and Harriet wonderland, which posited family values as a defense against free-thinking radicals.

 

RealAudio 3.0 28.8
Listen to an anecdote about Quartet in Bb, Op. 130
By Quartet member Philip Setzer and Bill McGlaughlin

In addition, Beethoven was wrestling with his own family problems. His brother had died, leaving Beethoven as the ward of an unruly nephew. Beethoven, a life-long bachelor who lived at some 64 addresses during his years in Vienna, was hardly the ideal mentor for a rebellious teenager.

 

RealAudio 3.0 28.8
Listen to an anecdote about the Scherzo of the Bb Quartet, Op. 30
By Quartet member Eugene Drucker and Bill McGlaughlin

More importantly, I believe that it was in the period 1810-1830 that composers realized that the stakes had gone up. Compositions were becoming much longer and more complicated. Consider that Eroica is twice the length of any symphony of Haydn or Mozart. We can see the change in a simple statistic: Haydn wrote 104 symphonies, Mozart, 41. Beethoven and Schubert made nine. The emotional and harmonic language had become much richer. What was being dared in the music had changed. The rules had changed, and someone needed to invent new rules.

 

RealAudio 3.0 28.8
Listen to an anecdote about the Grosse Fuge
By Quartet member Philip Setzer and Bill McGlaughlin

There were two someones: Beethoven and Schubert. In the next decade, the kids who'd been born around 1810 would carry the process further: Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, Wagner, Verdi. The composer who inspired them and whose shadow they would eventually labor to escape was the late-period Beethoven.

 

RealAudio 3.0 28.8
Listen to an anecdote about motives in the Grosse Fuge
By Quartet member Eugene Drucker

Beethoven's years of reflection and questioning bore fruit and beginning with the Hammerklavier Sonata in 1818 we see a stream of masterpieces that will continue through to the end of his life in 1827 - the final three piano sonatas, the Missa Solemnis, the Diabelli Variations, the Ninth Symphony, and the incomparable late quartets. This is Beethoven at his most profound, a prophet, speaking to the ages.

RealAudio 3.0 28.8
Listen to an anecdote about the late quartets
By Quartet members Philip Setzer and Lawrence Dutton


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

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