Mortality & Meaning of Beethoven’s Late Quartet, Op. 132 – the music that inspired T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets

by Masumi Per Rostad

mortality-and-meaningAfter more than ten years and several hundred performances, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132, remains fresh and hauntingly beautiful to me. I am still fascinated by its construction and still get choked up in the timeless, prayerful third movement. From the anxiously searching and manic first theme to the heroically possessed final coda, it is a piece that only becomes more intriguing with time.
Beethoven was at the end of his life when he wrote the A minor quartet, also known as the Heiliger Dankgesang quartet, one of his several late quartets. It was composed in 1825, just two years before Beethoven’s death. By then, he had finished with his concertos, symphonies, and piano sonatas and chose to focus solely on writing for a string quartet. With his 16 string quartets, Beethoven forged the backbone of the repertoire. At the beginning of his career, he composed with classical unity in the ensemble; in the middle period he exploded the quartet form to symphonic diversity and scope. In his final works, he had both extremes at his command and seemed free to just work out his musical ideas in their purest form.

Read the complete article
Listen to the Belcea Quartet  play Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No.15 in A minor, Op.132.
Another early reminder that we’ll be reading and discussing T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets in our February and March sessions. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for details.  Please bring your own favourite excerpts, interpretations and comments for discussion about these challenging poems.


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