Monday, January 26th

by musicclipoftheday

string quartet festival (day one)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), String Quartet No. 14 (Op. 131, C-sharp minor), 1826

Alban Berg Quartet, live, Vienna, 1989

***

Végh Quartet, recording, 1952

***

Budapest String Quartet, recording, 1951

**********

lagniappe

musical thoughts

Opus 131 . . . is routinely described as Beethoven’s greatest achievement, even as the greatest work ever written. Stravinsky called it ‘perfect, inevitable, inalterable.’ It is a cosmic stream of consciousness in seven sharply contrasted movements, its free-associating structure giving the impression, in the best performances, of a collective improvisation. At the same time, it is underpinned by a developmental logic that surpasses in obsessiveness anything that came before. The first four notes of the otherworldly fugue with which the piece begins undergo continual permutations, some obvious and some subtle to the point of being conspiratorial. Whereas the Fifth Symphony hammers at its four-note motto in ways that any child can perceive, Opus 131 requires a lifetime of contemplation. (Schubert asked to hear it a few days before he died.)

—Alex Ross, “Deus Ex Musica,” New Yorker, 10/20/14