String Quartets Nos. 1–6, Op. 18 (Beethoven)

Ludwig van Beethoven's Op. 18, published in 1801 by T. Mollo et Comp in Vienna in two books of three quartets each,[1] consisted of his first six string quartets. They were composed between 1798 and 1800 to fulfill a commission for Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowitz, who was the employer of Beethoven's friend, the violinist Karl Amenda. They are thought to demonstrate his total mastery of the classical string quartet as developed by Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.[2] The order of publication (numbering within the opus) does not correspond to the order of composition. Beethoven composed these quartets in the sequence 3, 1, 2, 5, 4, 6. See:

Beethoven in a letter to Hofmeister in Leipzig (April 8, 1802) refers to the Mollo edition of nos. 4-6 as filled with errors - "has again let us say filled with faults and errata, great and small"[3] and Kerman[1] makes a similar comment, leaving one to conclude that the poor Mollo edition of nos. 4-6 - which incited at least strong private protests from the composer - may also at the same time be the best existing primary source for those three works, unless manuscripts or sketches for them have been discovered. This applies only to quartets 4, 5 and 6; the situation for the first quartet in F, especially, is different, since an entire earlier version is preserved, has been published and even recorded.[4] While the overall set is less critically acclaimed than the "Razumovsky" quartets and the late quartets,[5] the first quartet has been a perennially admired piece.[6]


  1. ^ a b Kerman, Joseph (1967). The Beethoven Quartets. New York: Knopf.
  2. ^ "Beethoven's String Quartets". All about Beethoven. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  3. ^ Beethoven's Letters, p. 28, at Google Books. (1926 edition, Dent/Shedlock/Kalischer editing/translating.) "again" means, as Kerman corroborates in his discussion of the quartets, that this is a reference to the 2nd book - nos. 4-6 - not necessarily all 6 quartets, despite the editors' footnote in this edition of his letters.
  4. ^ However, the early version of quartet no.1 - an autograph-copy sent to, and kept by, Karl Amenda before the composer gave the quartet a thorough overhaul - is little-known and has been recorded, as of July 2014, less than a half-dozen times.
  5. ^ Kinderman, William (2010). The String Quartets of Beethoven. University of Illinois Press. p. 13. ISBN 0252091620.
  6. ^ Kerman, Joseph (1979). The Beethoven Quartets. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 30. ISBN 0393009092.

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