Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)
Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 16 (1796)
Beethoven attempted to establish his reputation as a composer after settling in Vienna in 1792 with a series of pieces for wind instruments, among which was the Quintet for Piano and Winds, Op. 16 These works enabled him to demonstrate his skill in the traditional modes of chamber music without broaching the genre of the string quartet still dominated by Joseph Haydn. The Op. 16 quintet took its inspiration from Mozart’s exquisite Quintet for Piano and Winds (K. 452). Beethoven began his quintet in Berlin and completed the score later that year in Vienna. The piece was first given at a concert on April 6, 1797 at the Palace of Prince Joseph von Schwarzenberg.
Although the version of Op. 16 for piano and winds is one of Beethoven’s most sonorous creations, the original scoring limited the music’s suitability for a market providing income for composer and publisher. Thus, Beethoven arranged the work for the popular and salable piano quartet issued at the same time as the original wind version. The musical substance was unaltered and the piano part was unchanged.
The work opens with a slow, stately introduction recalling the old baroque form of the French overture. Its sweeping figurations and full scoring announces the piano’s primary role in the following music, appropriating the principal theme of the main body of the movement — “a sleek triple-meter melody made from a quick upward leap and a gently descending phrase.” The strings play this melodic material before bolder piano scales and arpeggios lead to the subsidiary subject, a lovely flowing strain in even note values. The development section with some piano figurations leads to the main theme.”
Program note by Richard E. Rodda
貝多芬 (1770 – 1827)