CHAPTER III
THE LAST QUARTETS
(Op. 127; Op. 130 (133); Op. 131; Op. 132; Op. 135.)

THE composition of the five quartets, Op. 127, 130, 131, 132, 135, and the fugue of Op. 133, occupied the last three years of Beethoven's life. Setting aside, for what he hoped would be only a short time, all the other ideas in his mind--overtures, oratorios, and symphonies, &c.--the Master devoted himself entirely to the quartets, beginning work on them in the summer of 1824, and finishing them in November 1826, hardly four months before his death. They grew to maturity in the midst of all the sufferings of mind and body that made these last three years one long agony: ill, poverty-stricken, and alone, he found in these intensely moving Adagios and pain-racked Allegros an outlet for his anguish of hope and distress, often, as Schindler tells us, weeping as he wrote. . . . The five works are intimately linked with the daily existence of one of the greatest and most desolate figures in history, during the saddest period of his life; they are in every respect 'the last revelations of his spirit', inspiring the listener to an admiration mingled with infinite pity and awe. . . .

Fourteen years had elapsed since the series of quartets of Op. 59 (Nos. 1-3), 74, and 95, years in which Beethoven at once touched the pinnacle of his glory and plumbed the depths of desolation.

Success came first. Master of his mature genius, at the height of his most brilliant phase, he composed the magnificent trio in B flat, Op. 97, dedicated to the Archduke Rudolph, and the VIIth and VIIIth symphonies, where the full force of his 'concentrated,

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