Время создания: 1798-1800 гг.
Посв. князю Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz, 1798
1. Allegro con brio
2. Adagio affetuoso
3. Scherzo Allegro molto
The first movement of op. 18, No. 1 is Beethoven's first study in motivic saturation. Opening with a unison outburst that anticipates the later String Quartet in F Minor, op. 95, the turning motive of the first measures appears repeatedly throughout the sonata-form movement. The D-minor second movement, marked "Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato," is remarkable for several reasons. There are few minor-key slow movements in mature Haydn and Mozart, and the movement is in sonata form, with a brief but dense development section. Also, Beethoven introduces new material in the recapitulation and coda. Marks among Beethoven's sketches suggest the movement was inspired by the vault scene in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
Although the whole Op. 18 set of string quartets was dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz, a loyal and enthusiastic patron of Beethoven's, an earlier version of the Op. 18, No. 1 quartet existed and was dedicated to Beethoven's friend, Karl Amenda. Amenda was a theologian and violinist who made Beethoven's acquaintance in Vienna. Apparently, Beethoven was unhappy with his first version of the quartet and wrote Amenda a letter requesting that the piece not be shown to or played by anyone. He added that he had a lot to learn about quartet writing and had finished a new version of the piece.
The No. 1 quartet exists in four movements, the first of which is an Allegro con brio. Although there are parts that are quick and spirited, they are mixed with many lyrical qualities as well. The opening motive, centering in on the pitch of F with a melodic turn, is an important one, as it returns in various ways throughout the movement. The music takes on a more fiery character in the development where the key turns to minor before working itself back into the opening motive and its various inventive (and sometimes surprising) manifestations to bring the movement to a close.
Beethoven's sketches show that he composed the second movement, an Adagio, with the intention to depict the tomb scene from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Beethoven's markings for the movement read Adagio affetuoso ed appassionato, and this emotion comes to the fore immediately with the opening violin melody which sings out over a pulse of moving triplets in the other instruments. The melody returns again in the cello and is developed in a bittersweet manner, moving for a time from the minor key into major. There is a stormy development before the melody returns, this time over a much more agitated accompaniment. Beethoven's use of silence between high-tension chords is original and has great dramatic appeal.
The third movement is a clever and playful Scherzo whose uneven phrase structures and boisterous accents provide a feeling of surprise and jocularity. In the trio section the first violin is kept busy with numerous brilliant passages.
The final movement is a pleasant Allegro that, similarly to the first movement, develops the opening motive in many creative ways. This motive, which is introduced by the violin, is built on a sequence of fast-moving triplets, the effect of which is especially virtuosic.
(All Music Guide)