String Quartet No. 1, Mvts. 2 and 3
Instrumentation: Quartet Instruments: Bass Clarinet, Clarinet
3 Clarinets and Bass Clarinet
Dedicated to Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz, String Quartet No. 1 in F Major, Op. 18, No. 1, was finished on June 25, 1799 with some revisions thereafter. Beethoven initially felt it to be a work in progress and commented that he had not yet “learned to write quartets properly.” Despite his perfectionism, only minor changes were made after the premier performance. The Adagio is impassioned, tragic, and dark. Karl Amenda, Beethoven’s violinist friend, revealed that the composer contemplated the tomb scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet when composing this operatic second movement. Toward the end of the movement, the rhythms of the solo voices become faster and, as such, become more severe. The Scherzo third movement closely resembles the playful quality found in Haydn’s quartets and is most closely aligned with the harmonic structures of the first movement.
A clarinetist approaching this work faces many of the same challenges of his string-playing colleagues including: interpretation, note length, tempi, dynamics, and all other musical decisions. To further complicate matters, clarinetists must also discuss and agree upon breathing strategies and alternative fingerings. While this work is orchestrated for three B-flat soprano clarinets and a B-flat bass clarinet with a low C extension, it may be performed by a larger clarinet-choir as well. Throughout the original work, there are places where a string player performs double or even triple stops and those notes have been included in this transcription for two reasons: the first is to provide options to the players performing in a quartet to add a slight variance in color, the second is to further enhance the harmony when the work is performed by more than four clarinetists. It is remarkable to observe the subtle variances in flexibility and tone when performed by a four-person ensemble as opposed to a larger group. This edition does not vary from the original in key or, to the extent possible, range with the exception of a few octaves that have been transposed to better promote facility on the clarinet.