Время создания: 1798-1800 гг.
Посв. князю Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz, 1798
1. Allegro con brio
2. Adagio ma non troppo
3. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
4. La Malinconia. Adagio - Allegretto quasi Allegro
Beethoven's reinterpretation of movement roles is at its most substantial and forward-looking in the last of the op. 18 set. It is tempting to consider No. 6 as a work in five movements, but it becomes clear that "La Malinconia," the slow chromatic labyrinth preceding the Allegretto quasi Allegro finale, is actually part of the finale. "La Malinconia" twice insinuates itself into the lightweight Allegretto, and the point seems to be the great contrast between the two atmospheres, not any kind of thematic relationship. Such sudden changes in mood may depict the nature of melancholy.
This was the last of the group of six quartets in the Op. 18 set. While that might appear obvious in perusing the headnote, in actuality the numbers in this collection do not necessarily correspond to their order of composition since Beethoven reordered all six works after finishing them in 1800. The third actually appears to have been composed first. The reason the composer changed the order was apparently due to the character of the quartets: the first three generally adhere to traditional forms, while the latter group are fairly unorthodox and varied in style. But there may have been another reason he arranged them so: the last three all contain substantial references to the past, the Fourth and Fifth showing deference to Mozart and the Sixth appearing as a patchwork of compositions out of Beethoven's own past. Still, both groups of quartets are worthwhile, and the Sixth especially, in its second and fourth movements, offers glimpses of the mature Beethoven.
The first movement is marked Allegro con brio, and while it hardly introduces anything innovative, it does present some musical merrymaking. The joyful main theme contains that already characteristic Beethovenian urgency. The second theme is less driven and takes on an almost stately character at the outset, but eventually turns effervescent and manic. The material is repeated, after which the development section ensues. Here, the music becomes a little more serious, even tense. There is a clever little joke that occurs in the latter part, when the music unexpectedly stops dead, suddenly capturing the attention of the listener. After the development concludes, the main material is heard again and the movement ends.
The second movement is an Adagio of great beauty and simplicity. Yet, as was so often the case with this composer, his simplicity has a sophistication. It comes across as pure music, clothed in instrumentation that is perfectly appropriate for its innocent character. The alternate melody is also simple and lovely. The main theme returns and there follows a brief coda. While this is the least sensational movement in the work, it may be the most effective.
The Scherzo ensues. Marked Allegro, it is a busy, talkative movement, full of joy and humor, and it presents such a contrast to the Adagio that one feels its playfulness and humor more strongly. The finale, subtitled "La Malinconia" and marked Adagio at the outset and later Allegretto quasi allegro, presents probably the most complex music in the work. It begins with a dark, slow introduction, quite unlike anything else in the quartet. The mood is mysterious and intense throughout the first third of the movement. When the Allegretto section begins, Beethoven does not take listeners back to the backward-looking delight of the first movement, but rather to a more modern sound of joy. The character of the themes is decidedly less rooted in the language of Mozart and Haydn here, more foretelling of Beethoven's own style to come. All six quartets from the Op. 18 set were dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz and were first published in Vienna in 1801.
(All Music Guide)