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Beethoven's Theatrical Quartets
Opp. 59, 74 and 95


Part of Music in Context

  • Date Published: February 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316639597

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About the Authors
  • Beethoven's middle-period quartets, Opp. 59, 74 and 95, are pieces that engage deeply with the aesthetic ideas of their time. In the first full contextual study of these works, Nancy November celebrates their uniqueness, exploring their reception history and early performance. In detailed analyses, she explores ways in which the quartets have both reflected and shaped the very idea of chamber music and offers a new historical understanding of the works' physical, visual, social and ideological aspects. In the process, November provides a fresh critique of three key paradigms in current Beethoven studies: the focus on his late period; the emphasis on 'heroic' style in discussions of the middle period; and the idea of string quartets as 'pure', 'autonomous' artworks, cut off from social moorings. Importantly, this study shows that the quartets encompass a new lyric and theatrical impetus, which is an essential part of their unique, explorative character.

    • Provides a new analysis of Beethoven's middle-period string quartets in context
    • Delves deeply into the aesthetic ideas of the period to provide a wide-ranging reassessment of canonic repertoire
    • Illustrated with numerous music examples to promote multivalent musical analyses
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The book, which considers Beethoven's string quartets of the middle period through numerous lenses, not only fills a previously existing gap in research, but also breaks new ground in terms of presentation and methods: questions of aesthetics, performance practice and analysis are all covered, as well as the reception history and narrative poetics of the string quartets. This bringing together of multiple perspectives leads to significant gains in knowledge.' Bernhard Appel, Director, Beethoven-Archiv and Beethoven-Haus Publishers, Bonn

    'Nancy November's study of Beethoven's 'middle' quartets offers many important and original perspectives. Each of the five central chapters is organized around a different general topic, providing welcome breadth to the whole. Her readings of these canonical chamber works in terms of Beethoven's consuming interest in theatrical music will engage both listeners and scholars.' James Webster, Cornell University, New York

    'This book catapults the scholarship on the middle-period quartets into the twenty-first century. It is a must-read for Beethoven scholars and should be of significant interest to students of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century music and culture.' Mark Ferraguto, Notes: The Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316639597
    • length: 298 pages
    • dimensions: 243 x 170 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • contains: 9 b/w illus. 1 table 94 music examples
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Setting the scene: theories, practices, and the early nineteenth-century string quartet
    2. Curtain up: performing the middle-period quartets in Beethoven's time
    3. 'Not generally comprehensible': Op. 59 No. 1 and the drama of becoming
    4. 'With much feeling': song, sensibility, and rhapsody in Op. 59 No. 2
    5. 'Helden-Quartett': genre, innovation, and 'heroic' voices in Op. 59 No. 3
    6. Freudvoll und leidvoll: songful impetus and dualistic voice in the 'Harp' Quartet
    7. 'The quick-witted brevity of the genuine dramatist': Op. 95 and the idea of the fragment
    8. A tale of heroic emancipation? Reception narratives for the middle-period string quartets.

  • Author

    Nancy November, University of Auckland
    Nancy November lectures in musicology at the University of Auckland. Her research and teaching interests centre on the music of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Her recent publications include essays on the early performance of Beethoven's string quartets and their performance history in the recording age. She has also published aesthetic and analytical studies of Haydn's music, considering contexts of musical melancholy (Eighteenth-Century Music, 2007), the use of register in his string quartets (Music Analysis, 2008) and conceptions of 'voice' in his early string quartets (Music and Letters, 2008). Her edition of Adalbert Gyrowetz's String Quartets Op. 29 is forthcoming, and an edition of six sextets by Paul Wranitzky was published in 2012. Her awards include an Edison Fellowship from the British Library, an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, and a Marsden grant from the New Zealand Royal Society. She is currently editing a three-volume set of fifteen string quartets by Beethoven's contemporary Emmanuel Aloys Förster.

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