CHAPTER II
THE QUARTETS OF THE SECOND PERIOD
(Op. 59, Nos. 1-3; Op. 74; Op. 95.)

NOWHERE in the whole series of sonatas and symphonies does there exist so striking a contrast as between the quartets of Op. 18 and those Of Op. 59. The sonatas and symphonies, distributed evenly throughout Beethoven's life of creative work, form, as it were, landmarks showing the sure progression of the artist towards a freer, more spacious, more perfect medium of expression, and passing from one to another one can quite easily follow the phases of this growth. With the quartets it is far from being the case. Between the sixth and the seventh the continuity breaks abruptly and without warning.

One finds in this interval of six years one work only for strings, the Op. 29 quintet, written in 1802, a beautiful work, but belonging to Beethoven's early period. Indeed, without going so far as T. Helm, who calls this only a reflection of the quartet in F (Op. 18, No. 1),1 one can say that for all its originality this quintet is really a continuation of the manner of Op. 18, with an extended range of treatment.2

The first six quartets are the work of a young composer in the full enthusiasm of youth, eager to imitate the models he loves and admires; those to come are the work of an acknowledged master already famous for many triumphs,3 of a great spirit strengthened and purified by the experience of a life of struggle and suffering. After having constrained the full tide of his

____________________
1
T. Helm, Beethoven's Streichquartette, p. 39.
2
See note at end of chapter, p. 193.
3
The principal works are: the first three symphonies; the Op. 20 septet and the Op. 29 quintet; three piano concertos (including the Op. 37, in C minor); thirteen piano sonatas, among which were the Op. 26, containing the 'marche funèbre', the C♯ minor Op. 27, No. 2, Op. 53, and Op. 57 (the Appassionnata), &c.; six sonatas for violin and piano, among others those dedicated to the Emperor Alexander,

-51-

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