Beethoven as Colourist: Another Look at his String Quartet Arrangement of the Piano Sonata, Op. 14 No. 1
Most earlier commentary on Beethoven's arrangement of Op. 14 No. 1 as a string quartet has focused on whether it could originally have been conceived for piano or for strings.1 In this paper, on the other hand, I propose to review certain aspects of the finished work in its two guises, and to suggest some of the ways in which Beethoven's version of the work for string quartet reveals his first mature grasp of idiomatic quartet writing in the period just following his completion and publication of the Op. 18 quartets. The underlying topic is that of Beethoven's approach to the medium of the quartet at this time; to what degree its specific properties of sonority, blending, and timbre opened up to him a range of possibilities that differed sharply from those of the pianoforte, and enabled him to employ quartet tone- colour effectively as an indispensable compositional element.
That Beethoven's arrangement was far from mechanical is clear from his celebrated letter to Breitkopf & Härtel of 13 July 1802:____________________