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About this Piece

Beethoven wrote his six string quartets, Op. 18, during the years 1798-1800, with Quartet No. 2 actually composed as the third in the series. Of all these quartets, this is the one that most looks to the immediate past, to the models of Haydn for its manner and character. It would have been difficult at that time for a young composer not to be influenced by the older master who had himself produced 14 string quartets of surpassing excellence during the 1790s. Still, Beethoven managed to maintain his own style in the face of such a strong influence.

Because of the opening melodic curve given to the first violin and the ensuing two-bar phrases at the beginning of the first movement, early string quartet players nicknamed the quartet "Komplimentierungsquartett" or "quartet of bows and curtseys." Although these gestures evoke the humor and practice of Haydn, the amount of Beethoven’s contrasting material differs from the economy in Haydn’s expositions. Interestingly, this Quartet gives one of the first examples of the interrelationship of materials among movements, most notably between the theme of the last movement and its analog in a bridge theme in the first movement. In this way, it foreshadows the underlying integration of materials in the String Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131.

— Steve Lacoste