Elements of Form and Surprise inBeethoven’s
Late String Quartet No. 12, Op. 127, In E- lat Major
Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2005) Graduate Research Paper, Toward Degree of PhD in Composition
Page 2 of 26© 2005, 2011: Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.
An almost decade-long recess in Beethoven’s composing for string quartet was finallyover when his recently re-awakened interest in the genre was further reinforced by the offeringof a commission from Nicholas Galitzin, a Russian prince and a cellist in his own right.
was completed in February 1825 and was premiered in the following month in Vienna. This firstof Beethoven’s so-called five
– including the
– marks anunprecedented maturity and sophistication of technique and style in Beethoven’s quartet writing,and indeed, the hitherto history of the genre in general, a sophistication that is perhaps onlycomparable to his other four, which were composed soon afterwards. Beginning with thisquartet, aspects of form, harmony, tonal structure, textural design, thematic relations, andconsequently, performance technique and aural perception in quartet writing were radicallytransformed, and uncharted territories in musical expression were explored. The toweringachievements of Beethoven’s immediately preceding works, including the five late piano sonatas –
106 in Bb
) among them –
Symphony No. 9
, had prepared the composer’s creative powers enough to bring an entirely fresh air of imagination toquartet composition. Starting with
, performers and audiences alike were left with anunparalleled legacy of compositions for this ensemble, at which to ponder and marvel for decades and centuries to come.In the following discussion, structural design of this quartet will be examined fromseveral perspectives, and certain elements, which are believed to constitute the salient means of coherence, contrast or surprise in the entire work, will be explored. Here an obvious point should