Op. 50 (1787)
Op. 50 (1787)
Dedicated to Friedrich Wilhelm II and known as the “Prussian” quartets, these difficult works were clearly designed for connoisseurs. Their sale and early publication history involved complex, evidently devious negotiations with the publishers Artaria in Vienna and William Forster in London. A distinctive first-movement trait involves a new kind of relationship between meter and surface rhythm (a fast alla breve with much triplet figuration), which fosters fluid rhythmic momentum and broad melodic trajectories. Dance movements are notable for their metrical dissonances and thematic connections between minuet and trio. Learned polyphony is emphasized most notably in the fugal finale of Op. 50/4. Other finales display elaborate sonata forms, several of which have multiple, rondo-like recurrences of primary-theme material. Possibly a musical response to Mozart's recently completed “Dedication” quartets, Op. 50 rivals Mozart's contemporaneous works in promoting the quartet's ascendancy as an aristocrat among instrumental genres.
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