Ludwig van Beethoven

String Quartet No. 3 in D major, Op. 18/3

    Description by John Palmer

    Before turning to the composition of string quartets, Beethoven devoted his first years in Vienna to mastering the genres popular in that city: piano sonatas, string trios, duo sonatas for piano and violin or cello, and short songs and opera arias. No doubt Beethoven's apparent trepidation when approaching the string quartet medium was a result of the immense shadow cast by Haydn, whose Opp. 71 and 73 were composed in 1793, the year Beethoven began to study with the older master. Haydn published his six "Erdödy" Quartets, Op. 76, in 1797, and his two quartets of Opus 77 in 1799. To prepare himself for his eventual foray into the genre, Beethoven studied the works of others. In particular, he copied Haydn's Opus 20/1 in 1793-1794, and Mozart's K. 387 and 464 while he was beginning work on Op. 18 The quartets were published 1801 in Vienna, in two sets of three by Mollo & Co. They were not written in their published order, but rather Nos. 3, 1, 2, 5, 4, and 6.

    The number of quartets comprising his Opus 18 is but one of Beethoven's nods to tradition, for sets usually included six works. Also, in Nos. 2 and 5, Beethoven seems to confront his predecessors directly, and as a result, moves to another level of composition. In his Opus 18 quartets we find Beethoven both mastering the styles of his predecessors and forging into new territory. For instance, the independence of the four parts is much greater than in the works of his predecessors, which may be attributable to the fact that Beethoven developed his skills during a time freed from the hitherto ubiquitous basso continuo. Despite the numerous recent models, and despite the fact that the String Quartets, Op. 18, are clearly a product of their time, they could not have been written by any composer other than Beethoven. Dedicated to Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz, the six quartets of Op. 18 constitute Beethoven's most ambitious project of his early Vienna years.

    The quartet in D major (No. 3) was the first composed. Its opening, with nearly all of the motion in the first violin supported by sustained harmonies, resembles the beginning of Haydn's Quartet, Op. 50/6, also in D major. The first movement begins with an emphasis on the dominant-seventh chord, while the second theme group flirts with the minor dominant, allowing an unusual excursion into C major. The rest of the quartet comprises a conventional movement pattern, but the Presto finale is a sonata, not a rondo. Although it is not labeled as such, the third movement is a minuet, albeit with some unusual, forward-looking touches. For example, the return of the minuet after the trio is not the standard da capo repeat, but is completely written out, with additional repetitions of and variations on the original material.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro
    2. Andante con moto
    3. Allegro
    4. Presto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Audite AUD 21454
    2018 Coro COR 16164
    2018 Harmonia Mundi HMM 902400
    2017 Audite AUD 92688
    2017 Supraphon SU 42212
    2016 Alpha ALPHA 262
    2016 ABC Classics
    2016 Avie AV 2348
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795982
    2015 Thorofon CTH 2614
    2015 Centaur Records CRC 33783379
    2015 Harmonia Mundi HMC 90220708
    2014 ATMA Classique ACD 22491
    2014 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT 344
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMU 80764148
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Vivat VIVAT 103
    2013 Myrios Classics MYR 009
    2013 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT 321
    2013 Audite AUDITE 21424
    2012 Warner Classics 694515
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 Ysaye Records YSR 510
    2011 Parnassus Records PACD96048/9
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Virgin Classics
    2011 Warner Classics
    2011 Virgin Classics 5099907083426
    2011 Bridge BRIDGE 9342AB
    2010 Foghorn / Foghorn Classics 2005
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Foghorn 1996
    2010 Sony Classical 7776782
    2009 Nimbus 6105
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Pan Classics 10205
    2008 Warner Classics 2564694713
    2008 Corona Classics 0002742CCC
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93525
    2007 Cascade Records 2200
    2007 Sony Classical Essential Classics 88697120542
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93323
    2007 Naïve E 8902
    2007 Camerata Records 28111
    2007 Harmonia Mundi 907436.37
    2007 EMI Classics 87739
    2007 EMI Classics 3777672
    2007 Gramola GRAM 98826
    2006 Arte Nova 636370
    2006 Biddulph Recordings 80221
    2006 Warner Classics 4621962
    2006 Chandos 10381
    2006 Teldec
    2006 ASV / Sanctuary 801
    2006 Teldec
    2006 NCA 60139
    2005 EMI Classics 73798/8
    2005 Dutton Vocalion 9752
    2005 EMI
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 54587
    2005 Vanguard 1655
    2005 Praga 350013
    2004 Decca
    2004 EMI Classics
    2004 Brilliant 92387
    2003 Chandos 10009
    2003 Telarc Distribution 80382
    2002 Challenge Classics CC72009
    2002 Sony Music Distribution 87889
    2002 Hungaroton 41004
    2002 MDG 3070856
    2002 Capriccio Records 67007
    2001 Naïve 4871
    2001 Boheme Music 9156
    2001 Praga 250158
    2001 Music & Arts 1084
    2001 ASV/Living Era 1111
    2000 Supraphon 3490
    2000 Calliope 3633/9
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 463143
    1999 Calliope 9633
    1999 Arte Nova 63637
    1999 Strings 99311
    1999 Brilliant 99093
    1999 Hyperion 55021/8
    1999 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 7243573606
    1999 Calliope 9633/9
    1999 Philips 426046
    1998 Praga 256005
    1997 Point Classics 267010
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453 760-2GCB3
    1997 Arte Nova 39103
    1997 Channel Classics 6094
    1997 Telarc Distribution 80475
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 66408
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon
    1996 Philips 454 062-2PB10
    1996 Everest EVC905152
    1996 Naxos 550559
    1995 Berlin Classics 0090522
    1995 Intercord Klassische Diskothek 820530
    1995 Intercord Klassische Diskothek 885911
    1995 Harmonia Mundi 911540.41
    1995 Orfeo 361941
    1994 Delos 3039
    1994 Delos 3036
    1993 Praga 254009
    1993 ASV 305
    1993 Sony Music Distribution 52531
    1993 Teldec 76457
    1993 Teldec 91494
    1993 RCA Victor 61284
    1991 Harmonia Mundi 1901224
    1990 CBS Records 37868
    1990 RCA 60456
    1987 Valois 4402
    Chandos 10553
    Cascade Records 2250
    EMI Music Distribution 47127
    E1 Distribution 7682
    Smithsonian Collection of Reco 320
    Amado Classics 03036
    Sony Music Distribution 53711
    Sony Music Distribution 53708
    Sony Music Distribution 53710
    Sony Music Distribution 53709
    Platz 560
    Brilliant 93525/36
    Brilliant Classics 93323/2
    Brilliant 92387/27
    Hyperion 66402
    Warner Music
    Brilliant 99120
    RCA Victor 902661621
    ABC Classics 4763541
    Musical Heritage Society 10903
    ABC Classics 4763542
    Smithsonian Collection of Reco 322
    EMI Music Distribution 47126