Monday, January 11, 2016

Bach - The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, Nos. 7-12

The etudes of Chopin and other piano composers of the 19th century owe a great deal to J.S. Bach, for the 48 preludes and fugues of The Well Tempered Clavier are in many ways models for them. Bach's works are not only meant to instruct (as are etudes in the broadest sense of the term, usually by highlighting a specific area of keyboard technique) but to give enjoyment to the player.  Bach said as much himself on the title page of The Well Tempered Clavier Book I:

...for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study.

Many of the preludes of The Well Tempered Clavier are forerunners of the etudes of a later era, while the fugues are etudes of a specific kind themselves. No wonder that Chopin used Bach's music as a constant inspiration for composing as well as for warming up his hands (and mind) before playing the piano. 

Prelude and Fugue No. 7 in E-flat major BWV 852 -  The custom of pairing a prelude with a fugue began many years before Bach was active. The playing of an improvised prelude was twofold; to give the performer a chance to warm up his fingers and to set the home key of the fugue that was to come. Bach took this prelude playing tradition and enriched it. Prelude No. 7 of Book One is an excellent example of this, as it breaks the boundaries of tradition with a three-part form that includes a prelude, short fugue and a longer fugue.  The first section is in true prelude fashion and runs for ten measures:
This short section ends with a flourish and leads directly to the second section which consists of a short motive that is treated contrapuntally with numerous entrances until it dissolves into the third section, which is considered a fugue in itself.

Th 3-voice fugue proper is based on a short, perky two-measure subject that begins, circles around and ends on B-flat, the dominant of E-flat major, but the chord outlined in the figuration is E-flat major.:
The next two measures has the subject revolve around the note E-flat, which is the dominant note of A-flat major, which is in actuality the chord that the figuration outlines. Most of the material in this fugue is in keys closely related to the home key of E-flat, including  a short entry of the subject in C minor, the relative minor of the home key. The fugue ends with chromaticism and cadence.

Prelude In E-flat Minor, Fugue In D-sharp Minor No. 8 BWV 853 - Bach uses this prelude and fugue to show how the well-tempered keyboard can play in tune in keys containing many sharps or flats, something that was not possible with most other tunings. The prelude is in E-flat minor, a key that contains six flats:
The prelude begins with a bare E-flat minor triad. With rolled chords and modulations to B-flat minor and A-flat minor occur, and Bach's use of differing rhythms give this prelude a mood of reflection instead of sorrow. The mood brightens as the prelude ends in E-flat major.

The 3-voiced fugue is in D-sharp minor, a key with six sharps. The subject is about two and a half measures long, and it is truly the subject of this fugue as there is hardly much else going on besides the presentation and rehearing of the subject. Bach does create variety by varying the subject by inversion, augmentation and slight changes of rhythm.  
Prelude and Fugue No. 9 In E Major BWV 854 - The prelude is in a light polyphonic style and is short at only 24 measures:
After the opening section is played out, there is a central section of a slightly different character. The opening section returns and a short ending rounds out a prelude that has been described as pastoral.

The 3-voiced fugue has a terse subject of only a measure and a half in length:
Within a short span of time, Bach manages to state the subject many times and includes numerous episodes that do not contain the subject. This fugue creates a whirlwind effect that can be realized without playing it at an overly fast tempo.

Prelude and Fugue No. 10 In E Minor BWV 855 - This prelude is a reworking of a shorter prelude in the same key from The Notebook For Wilhelm Friedmann, a set of pieces for Bach's eldest son. It is in two parts, with the first part being an ornamented melody in the right hand accompanied by sixteenth notes in the left.

 This continues until roughly at the half way point the tempo increases to presto and the right hand changes to running sixteenth notes along with the left hand:
This presto section recalls a somewhat similar texture contained in the Prelude No. 2 In C Minor of Book I. The prelude continues in this way until the ending cadence in E major.

A rare example of a 2-voiced fugue, it begins with a subject that consists of two bars of running, chromatic sixteenth notes and ends with two eighth notes:
The nature of the subject and the two-voice structure hints that this needs to be played at a brisk tempo. The end of this fugue happen s quite suddenly, and is in E major.

Prelude and Fugue No. 11 In F Major BWV 856 - In the style of a two part invention, the opening parts for each hand reverse throughout this short prelude:
The 3-voiced fugue moves at a steady, somewhat rapid pace as the regular rhythmic pattern  of the subject makes it easy to follow with its many entrances.

Prelude and Fugue No. 12 In F Minor BWV 857 - The musical interpretation of Bach's music can be a problem, or an opportunity, as one sees things. This prelude is a case in point:
The quarter notes held in the right hand can be thought of as a melody and the sixteenth notes of the right hand an accompaniment, or the reverse can be done. and the bass notes can also be brought out as an integral part of the melodic content. Such are just a few of the possibilities within Bach's music. Whichever interpretation is decided upon will dictate the tempo of this prelude to a large extent.

The 4-voice fugue has subject of three measures:
The irregularity of a three-measure subject is glossed over somewhat by the answer of the subject in a much different rhythm of eighth and sixteenth notes. This makes the subject appear to be an ethereally slow one that gives a clue to the proper tempo of the fugue overall. This is the halfway point of Book I, and gives credence to the thought that Bach wrote the work as progressing in difficulty. Compare this prelude and fugue to the first one in C major, and it seems obvious. This fugue is complex, with different counter subjects and episodes with the subject and its slow pace weaving in and out of the musical texture.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Arensky - String Quartet No. 2 In A Minor, Op. 35

The music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky came to be a tremendous influence on Russian composers, but that wasn't always the case. Many of the more nationalistic composers within Russia regarded Tchaikovsky as too westernized in his compositional aesthetic. But Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer through and through who helped to integrate Russian music with the music of Europe. One of the younger Russian composers that held Tchaikovsky in high regard was Anton Arensky.

Arensky became a teacher at the Moscow Conservatory in 1882 and then met Tchaikovsky, who became a friend and mentor. After Tchaikovsky's death in 1893, Arensky wrote his String Quartet No. 2 In A Minor and dedicated it to the memory of his deceased friend.

This string quartet is unique in the literature, for instead of writing the work for the standard two violins, viola and cello, Arensky uses one violin, one viola and two cellos. This resulted in an increase in the depth of the sonority, something that Arensky used to convey the sadness over the death of Tchaikovsky. It is in 3 movements:

I. Moderato - The opening of the work makes good use of the second cello as a theme is played by muted strings that sound like a Russian Orthodox funeral chant. This theme is briefly extended before a second, gentler theme is played. The developmenet section has both themes elaborated on with many instances of slowing and then increasing the tempo which pushs and pulls the music. The recapitualtion works through the themes again in different keys until the openinig chant returns and the music fades away.

II. Variations On A Theme Of Tchaikovsky - The theme for this set of seven variations is taken from Tchaikovsky's 16 Songs For Children, Opus 54, No. 5 'Legend' :
Arensky retains the original key of E minor and the 8-bar tune is played by the violin. The seven variations run from slow and calm to rapid and scherzo-like with a few variations venturing quite far from the original. The mood turns somber once again as the second movement ends with a coda in quiet music remeniscent of the opening of the quartet.

III. Finale : Andante sustanuto. Allegro moderato - The third movement begins with a short introduction that keeps within the somber mood of the end of the second and first movements. This mood is broken by a Russian folksong played by the viola and used by Mussorgsky in his opera Boris Godounov and by Beethoven in his Rasumovsky Quartet Opus 59, No. 2:
The beginning theme of the movement returns briefly until the second theme whisks it away in a flurry of virtuosity as the short finale ends.

Herzogenberg - Piano Quintet In C Major, Opus 17

Heinrich von Herzogenberg's first major musical influence was Robert Schumann, but he soon became a disciple of the New Music of Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt. When Herzogenberg undertook a thorough study of the music of J.S. Bach, his musical aesthetic changed again as he turned to the classical tradition and the music of Johannes Brahms.

In 1866 Herzogenberg married Elisabet von Stockhausen, a former piano student of Brahms. Brahms remained fond of Elisabet and she tried to get him to give some words of encouragement to her husband regarding his compositions. But the irascible Brahms gave little encouragement. Despite that, Herzogenberg went on to write a good quantity of music in all varieties of music except opera.

Herzogenberg and his wife carried on a 20 year correspondence with Brahms which makes for interesting reading concerning musical life in the last quarter of the 19th century.  Though Herzogenberg was a champion of Brahms' music, he was a very much original composer. The Piano Quintet In C Major, Opus 17 was written in 1876 and shows Herzogenberg's skill with sonata form as well as chamber ensemble composition. It is in 4 movements:

I. Allegro moderato -  The piano begins the first movement with a short introduction:
This introduction contains material that is referenced throughout the first movement. After this initial introduction, the strings take up fragments of the introduction until the piano repeats the material in a different tonality. All of the instruments expand the material.  Secondary themes and fragments of themes are interspersed between repeats of the main theme. The development section concerns itself with the main theme which is treated fugally in a short lead up to the recapitulation. Herzogenberg shows considerable skill in keeping everything moving in a way that makes musical sense to the ear. The main theme builds until the end of the movement.

II. Adagio -  The second movement begins in F major with a short introduction from the piano. The first theme is gently flowing in the strings and accompanied by the piano. A secondary theme is in the minor and leads back to a repeat of the initial theme.

III. Allegro - The third movement is an accented scherzo in G major.  The second theme is lighter in character but does contain some moments of  accented, off the beat music. The first theme is repeated.

IV. Presto - The final movement begins in A minor, and like the previous movements the piano is the dominating presence. The strings add color and variety to the music as a lively theme keeps moving steadily throughout. There are fragments of other themes heard sandwiched between the driving main theme, including a reference to the main theme of the second movement. After this is heard, the music builds to a driving conclusion with the initial theme of the movement in the home key of C major.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Schubert - Piano Trio No. 2 In E-flat Major D.929

The list of works that were published in Franz Schubert's lifetime ran to about 100 opus numbers, with most of them being lieder. it wasn't until many years after his death in 1828 that the full compass of his compositions became clear. When the Austrian musicologist Otto Erich Deutsch published his catalogue of Schubert's collected works, his numbering system went as high as 998.

Schubert was most well known in his lifetime for his songs and a few larger works. Most of his works were not played or heard by Schubert in his lifetime, but the Piano Trio No. 2 In E-flat Major was an exception as it was played at a private engagement party in January of 1828 for one of his friends shortly after its composition in November of 1827.  The work was also published before Schubert's death in November of 1828.

The 2nd Piano Trio is like other of the last works of Schubert in that it is expanded in length. This is true no matter the genre of a particular late work. The Symphony In C Major lasts an hour, the Piano Sonata No. 21 In B-flat Major 40 minutes, as well as the 1st Piano Trio (which was written at about the same time as the 2nd Piano Trio) which lasts about 40 minutes. This lengthening of playing time is due at least in part to Schubert's remarkable gift of melody. He drew from an inexhaustible store of themes and melodies and used them in his later works where they were used in a musical texture that resulted in a longer time needed to work through all of his compositional expertise with them.

The 2nd Piano Trio is in 4 movements:

I. Allegro - The first movement begins with all three instruments stating a theme that outlines the E-flat major triad:

This first theme is elaborated on until a short section leads to the second theme. Musicologists differ as to the number of themes in the exposition, with some saying as many as six. Whether these themes are truly independent themes or not, there does seem to be a relationship between them. The exposition is repeated, which adds to the length of the movement but with such a wealth of thematic material, a repeat is most welcome. The development section modulates into keys far and wide but Schubert keeps everything coherent with the return of themes. The recapitulation continues the weaving of themes and Schubert ties up all the loose ends as the movement ends with a final flourish followed by a more quiet final statement.

II. Andante con moto - The quiet ending of the first movement leads perfectly to the second movement where the piano begins in C minor and the cello joins with a melancholy tune:

According to one of Schubert's friends, this theme is based on  a Swedish folk song that Schubert heard, the title of which is 'Se solen sjunker' (The sun is down). The second theme is of a more gentle character for contrast, but this theme reaches two climaxes that makes the ear question its true gentleness. These two themes alternate until the funeral march-like opening theme ends the movement.

III. Scherzando. Allegro moderato - The theme of this movement begins in the piano and is imitated by the violin and cello. The trio is a more robust country dance that includes a reference to one of the themes of the first movement.

IV. Allegro moderato - A movement that has elements of both sonata form and rondo form as three themes are played. A development section is introduced by the return of the primary theme of the second movement in an altered guise that foreshadows the embracing of cyclic form by Berlioz and Liszt.  It is played again by the cello with accompaniment by piano and pizzicato violin. The other three themes of the movement continue to be varied as the music moves to the end of the movement. The second movement theme enters one last time but remains in its minor key form but briefly until it shifts into the major mode. The music ends in a final short statement of the opening theme of the movement.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bach - The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, Nos. 1-6

In the world of art and artists, The Well-Tempered Clavier of Johann Sebastian Bach occupies a lofty position of influence.  The work consists of two volumes, each containing 24 preludes and fugues written in all the major and minor keys.  Bach wrote a preface to the work that reveals he meant it to be used by students as well as an amusement for the already skilled keyboard player -
The Well-Tempered Clavier, or Preludes and Fugues through all the tones and semitones both as regards the tertia major or Ut Re Mi and as concerns the tertia minor or Re Mi Fa. For the Use and Profit of the Musical Youth Desirous of Learning as well as for the Pastime of those Already Skilled in this Study drawn up and written by Johann Sebastian Bach. p.t. Capellmeister to His Serene Highness the Prince of Anhalt-Cöthen, etc. and Director of His Chamber Music. Anno 1722.
What Bach meant exactly by his use of the term well-tempered is still being discussed almost 300 hundred years after it was written. The tuning of keyboard instruments was far from standardized in Bach's time. There were various methods and tuning systems in use that attempted to make it possible to play in tune in all the keys, which was not possible if the instrument was tuned exactly to pitch. For example, the key of C major has no sharps or flats, so if there was any change of key within a piece of music, it could only modulate to closely related keys. The further away from the home key, the more dissonant the sound became. Closely related keys for C major would be F major (one flat), G major (one sharp) A minor (no sharps or flats).

That's a very simplistic example, but the point is that whatever Bach's exact tuning method, his goal was to give examples of pieces that would be in tune on the keyboard in all the major and minor keys. The Well-Tempered Clavier had to wait until 1801 for its first publication, but there were hand written copies circulating among musicians during the 50 years between Bach's death and publication. Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven were profoundly influenced by The Well-Tempered Clavier as well as many other musicians.

The first six preludes and fugues of Book One -

Prelude and Fugue No. 1 In C Major BWV 846 -   The pedagogical nature of The Well-Tempered Clavier begins with the C major prelude which is comprised entirely of arpeggiated chords.
With the absence of any kind of theme, this prelude is an example of how a constant pattern of music can be made beautiful by shifting harmonic content. This is the simplest of preludes, but that doesn't mean that it is easy to play. This prelude is one of Bach's most well-known and many a piano student has played it.

The 4-voiced fugue flows along with many repetitions of the subject (the theme that begins a fugue and that returns in different keys and voices throughout it) or the answer (the repeat of the subject in a different key).  There are no episodes (a short section that does not contain either subject or answer) in this fugue, a feature that makes it a little easier to understand aurally, but not any easier to play.

Prelude and Fugue No. 2 In C Minor BWV 847 -  The beginning of this prelude was originally written in a notebook for Bach's oldest son Wilhelm Friedmann, with Bach adding material to the end of the original. The pastoral feeling of the first prelude is not to be heard in this agitated and tense prelude of running sixteenth notes in both hands.
A sense of dramatic tension builds over 24 measures until single line arpeggios play a section that ends on a low G in the bass. Bach then marks the next section with a rarity in any of the pieces of The Well-Tempered Clavier, a tempo designation. The tempo changes to presto (which gives an indication of what the tempo of the previous 24 measures should be) as the hands return to the running sixteenth notes of the beginning.  Then there is a one-measure cadenza and another tempo change, this time to adagio. The tempo changes yet again to allegro as the prelude winds down chromatically until it ends in C major.

A 3-voiced fugue follows with the subject played in the soprano register of the keyboard. The fugue develops and includes six episodes where the subject is not heard. A striking feature of this fugue occurs in the 28th measure. The three voices are occupied with the summing up of the fugue, all three voices are halted abruptly with the insertion of an eighth rest:

The voices then continue to move to the end of the fugue in C major.

Prelude and Fugue No. 3 In C-sharp Major BWV 848 - With all the notes in the C-sharp major scale being raised a semitone, the key signature of seven sharps must have been rather daunting to many musicians in Bach's time. C-sharp major was thought of as being more of a theoretically possible key than a practical one. But Bach continues his chromatic climb through the keys with this prelude that has a two-part structure, at least what on the surface appears to be a two part structure. The right hand plays a motive that is drenched in C-sharp major while the left hand plays a simple accompaniment. This motive is seven measures long, and after two measures of transition, the motive is taken up by the left hand in G-sharp major while the right hand takes up the simple accompaniment. Bach modulates through many of the sharp keys, major and minor in this prelude and creates interest and contrast. The magic of the piece occurs in the 87th measure as the two lines converge and transform into a section that has a syncopated feel to it. The music proceeds to arpeggios and the final cadence.

The 3-voiced fugue that follows begins with the two-measure subject. This subject is heard numerous times along with other counter-subjects (a secondary motive that is played in counterpoint with the subject) and episodes. Bach uses all of these in creating interest, tension, and resolution in all of the pieces in The Well-Tempered Clavier. How he uses them makes each of them a work of art.

Prelude and Fugue No. 4 In C-sharp Minor BWV 849 - Many editions of The Well-Tempered Clavier had tempo indications added by editors. Bach's use of them was very limited. He tended to use them when there was a marked contrast within a prelude that he wanted to make sure the player did not miss (as in the C minor prelude). The nature of music in Bach's time was such that a piece of music revealed the tempo it should be performed at when the player studied it. This interpretive skill was taught by Bach and other teachers, so tempo indications were not necessary within the style of the times. This prelude is an obvious example of a piece that contains the secret of the proper tempo within the music itself. Time signatures also gave a further clue to the tempo of a piece, and this prelude has a time signature of 6/4, which is a variant of two beats in a measure. Thus the tempo should not be too slow, but in a moderately slow tempo and a calmness of mood.

The 5-voiced fugue that follows is one of the most complex ones within The Well-Tempered Clavier. The subject consists of only 4 notes:
This subject appears in the fugue 29 times, according to  musicologists. Combine that with Bach's imagination, uses of episodes and counter-subjects, this piece would be amazing enough. But consider that this piece is also considered a triple fugue. That is, a fugue with three distinct subjects! This fugue is like an intricate, decorative knot with different colors and textures of thread woven through it, but Bach is a master weaver of notes instead of thread. I don't pretend to understand all of the intricate workings going on, but a good listener attuned to the art of music doesn't need a limitless understanding of the technical machinations of the art of fugue. Bach helps our ears, if they are keen enough, to make sense out of it all whether we can explain it or not.

Prelude and Fugue no. 5 In D Major BWV 850 -  Running sixteenth notes in the right hand are accompanied by a bass line of a repeating eighth note-eighth rest figure. The 2nd and 4th bass line eighth note can give the impression of combining with the fifth and thirteenth note in the right hand to make a two-note chord:
The music continues until it reaches the last line of the prelude. After a rapidly arpeggiated chord, the right hand plays a cadenza that increases the tension and leads to two large chords. The tension is finally releases with the final cadence and tonic chord.

The 4-voiced fugue that follows is in the French Overture style with a subject that is just a little over a measure long:
The impression given by the subject as well as Bach's treatment of the other components of the fugue suggest a stately tempo.

Prelude and Fugue No. 6 In D Minor BWV 851 -  Another prelude that is developed by harmonic means rather than melodic. There are snatches of motives that come through, but it is the harmonic shifting that gives this piece its drive. It sounds like a dramatic gigue to my ear as the relentless right hand continues right into a chromatic section that provides the final cadence in D major.
  The 4-voiced fugue has a subject that is two measures long. This subject is repeated many times throughout, and Bach manipulates this subject by inverting it, that is the notes of the subject go in the opposite direction as the original. When the notes go down in the original, they would go up an equal distance in the inversion. That is a very simplistic explanation and not exactly accurate in all cases, but it does give the listener a general idea of one of the many ways Bach created variety and interest within a fugue:


Subject D Minor Fugue


Inversion of Subject
In the next to the last measure of the fugue, dotted half note D's are held while thirds in contrary motion lead to the ending in D major.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Haydn - Piano Trio In G Major, No. 39 'Gypsy' Hob.XV:25

Near the end of  Haydn's second trip to London in 1795, he composed three piano trios. Piano Trio No. 39 In G Major was the 2nd one of this set which was dedicated to Rebecca Schroeter, a widow that lived in London. Haydn had met her on his first trip to London when she requested music lessons from him.

Despite Rebecca being twenty years younger, she soon fell in love with Haydn, as she had previously done with Johann Schroeter, a German composer and pianist that she married 16 years before. There were numerous letters back and forth between the two and Haydn had dinner with her at every opportunity. There was no possibility of marriage between the two as Haydn was already married (in what traditionally has been considered an unhappy one) and divorce was not allowed by the church.

Haydn wrote 45 piano trios in his life. His first trio was written in 1760, the beginning of the Classical era of music that saw the obsolescence of the basso continuo in favor of separate parts for specific instruments. Even with that, the piano dominates as the titles reflect with the piano being the first instrument mentioned: trios for piano, violin and cello. The violin accompanies and on occasion has the melody trusted to it while the cello mainly reinforces the bass line.

But this doesn't mean Haydn's piano trios are fluff. The early ones are simpler in texture and are more like serenades, but Haydn's imagination and skill is used to good effect, especially in the later piano trios. Piano Trio No. 39 is in 3 movements:

Rebecca Schroeter
I. Andante -  The first movement is not in sonata form, but rather a set of variations on a simple theme that is stated by the piano and violin while the cello doubles the bass. The variations alternate
between major and minor modes. The andante tempo is held throughout, but the shorter note values of the final variations give the illusion of a faster pace.

II. Poco adagio, cantabile -  The gentle second movement is in E major. After the initial statement of the theme by the piano, the violin gets the spotlight in the middle section as the piano and cello accompany.

III. Rondo a l'Ongarese: Presto - After two gentler movements, the finale begins in a breakneck presto tempo.  Haydn was the first composer to use music based on Hungarian tunes in his compositions, something that became something of a fad a few decades later. These tunes aren't so much Hungarian but were derived from itinerant Gypsy musicians who were prevalent in Hungary. Haydn would have come in contact with these Gypsy musicians during his tenure as Music Director at Eszterháza Castle where Gypsy musicians often played. This is some of Haydn's most recognizable music and has been transcribed for other combinations as well as solo piano. The movement is a heavily accented, fierce Gypsy dance that shifts from major to minor that is over in a flash.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Beethoven - String Quartet No. 5 In A Major, Opus 18, No. 5

The beginnings of the string quartet, a standard ensemble in classical music that consists of two violins, viola, and cello, are difficult to determine. Some musicologists think the genre originated with the trio sonata of the Baroque era. Despite being called a trio sonata, many times more than three instruments played. The name 'trio' designates the number of voices and not necessarily the number of instruments. Indeed,  J.S. Bach wrote trio sonatas for solo organ where the three different parts were distributed between the hands and feet.

But the basic trio sonata was usually written for two solo melodic instruments and bass continuo, three parts and instruments. In many cases, there would also be in the ensemble a bass instrument such as cello or bassoon that played the single notes of the continuo part, along with the continuo played on an instrument capable of harmony such as a keyboard or lute, and the two melodic solo instruments. Musical styles changed and the practice of basso continuo was considered old fashioned so composers wrote out their music for specific numbers of instruments, with the string quartet becoming a standard ensemble.

Early instances of works for 4 string instruments with no continuo were the sonate e quattro of the
Italian composer Allesandro Scarlatti, written in the early 18th century. From these early examples as well as others written by various composers, Joseph Haydn added his imagination and skill to form a standard that was popular with amateur musicians. Mozart was inspired by Haydn and added his genius to the form as well. It was the standards in artistry set by Haydn and Mozart in string quartet writing that inspired Beethoven to write his own string quartets.

Prince Lobkowitz
Beethoven's Opus 18 consisted of 6 string quartets that were commissioned by his patron Prince Joseph von Lobkowitz and were written  between 1798 and 1800. Beethoven purposefully issued his first string quartets in a set of six to emulate Haydn's practice of doing the same. Beethoven was an ambitious young composer and may have wanted to invite comparison of his quartets with those of Haydn. Beethoven took his role as the new kid on the block very seriously, and he considered the premiere of his string quartets as a right of passage.

The String Quartet No. 5 In A Major of the set was intentionally modeled on a quartet by Mozart (K.464) that was in the same key and followed the same general outline. It is in 4 movements:

I. Allegro - The first theme is a light tune that is contrasted by a second group of themes that delves into the minor and is punctuated by motives that follow one another in counterpoint. There is a summing up before the exposition is repeated. The development section begins with a variant of one of the motives of the second theme group until the first theme is then dealt with. Beethoven seamlessly leads into the recapitulation. A short coda ends the well constructed and tuneful first movement.

II. Menuetto - A graceful minuet has a bit of individuality thrown in by the way of dark minor rumblings towards the end of the first statement.  The trio throws the ear a curve by accenting the third beat in the measure.

III. Andante cantabile - Mozart's example of a set of variations is also followed by Beethoven in the third movement, but the music is all Beethoven. The theme is a simple one in D major that rises and falls, with not much to recommend it as the basis for a set of variations:
The first variation begins with the solo cello and the other instruments enter in contrapuntal fashion.
The second variation has the first violin play an elaborate version of the theme while the other instruments offer a simple accompaniment.
The third variation has the second violin chatter a simple accompaniment while the other instruments comment on the theme.
The fourth variation is a contemplative variation on the theme that is high lighted by passages in the minor.
The fifth variation picks up the pace as the cello oompahs the bass line while the viola and second violin play a rhythmic variant of the theme. The first violin plays trills above them, and joins them a few times.
A coda continues to comment upon the theme in a slower pace until the music rises to a forte. After a brief pause, the first violin slowly plays the theme, the other have their final say, and the music ends pianissimo.

IV. Allegro - The final movement begins with a theme that finds the instruments chasing each other until the second theme group begins in a more hushed tone. The development takes up the first theme and takes it afield in key and mood. Parts of the secondary theme group are interjected until the recapitulation begins. A coda deals with themes once more before the music ends very softly and rather suddenly.

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