The six string quartets which make up his Op. 18 were composed in Beethoven’s late twenties, and consequently imbued with less of the youthful enthusiasm and optimism one might expect of a composer’s first explorations of a new form.
That’s somewhat tempered here by the Quartets being presented in chronological rather than numerical order, starting with the relatively light, gay tone of “String Quartet No. 3” instead of “String Quartet No. 1”, with its moving Adagio inspired by Romeo and Juliet.
Here, the latter movement’s tragedy sometimes strikes the players completely silent, in stark contrast to the whirling dance of the ensuing Scherzo – the sort of dramatic switch of emphasis that would become second nature in Beethoven’s complex later Quartets. The Jerusalem Quartet are keenly attentive here to such shifts of temperament.
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