University of Tasmania
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A comparative study of performance and interpretation of the late Beethoven string quartets

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posted on 2023-05-26, 21:47 authored by Hyland, SJ
The expansion of the recording industry has brought with it the production of multiple recordings of certain works by prominent composers, which might lead to the conclusion that a great variety of interpretations of a given work are possible. A study of recorded performances of the late Beethoven string quartets, covering a period from the early days of the recording industry to recent times, suggests however, that interpretations by earlier ensembles show greater diversity than those of quartets of the last three decades. The last six string quartets by Beethoven (0p.127 in Eb major, Op.130 in Bb major, Op.131 in C# minor, Op.132 in A minor, Op.133 in Bb major and Op.135 in F major) are of particular interest in a study of interpretation because of their innovative and intricate forms, which would seem to provide ample opportunity for variety of interpretation. This study examines four performances of each of these works, including recordings by nine ensembles. These ensembles are, in chronological order: Flonzaley Quartet, Busch Quartet, Pascal Quartet; Budapest Quartet, Hungarian Quartet, Smetana Quartet, Paganini Quartet, Fine Arts Quartet, and Amadeus Quartet. The research involved an examination of each recording, taking into consideration twelve aspects of performance interpretation. These various aspects fall into four main categories: technical proficiency, stylistic devices, tempo and interpretation of notation. The study of technical proficiency deals with standard of intonation, rhythmic accuracy, and precision of ensemble playing. The two stylistic devices discussed are vibrato and portamento. The comparison of tempo differences considers the basic tempo of each section or movement, the range covered by unindicated changes of tempo and the frequency of their occurrence, the amount of rubato within a given tempo, and unmarked ritardando or accelerando at the ends of movements or sections. The study of differences in interpretation of various notational indications deals specifically with length of staccato notes, articulation of phrasing slurs, and certain dynamic markings. The results of the research reveal that in most of the above mentioned performance variables, the interpretations by ensembles from earlier this century show greater diversity, while still following the composer's instructions in the score, than do those of quartets of recent decades, indicating a tendency towards standardization of interpretation.


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Copyright 1984 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (M. Mus.)--University of Tasmania, 1988. Includes discography and bibliography

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