Quartet № 11, opus 95 by LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN was completed in October 1810. This point also marks the end of the so-called „revolutionary“ period in the composer‘s musical output, which includes the Egmont Overture, written in the same year. The siege of Vienna by Napoleon‘s troops, the tfrench occupation, and the signing of the peace treaty were already a fact. The subtitle Quartetto Serioso probably stems from these historical developments. The key of tf minor – used rarely in the quartet genre – casts
a bridge to the Apassionata piano sonata, also in tf minor. All throughout his entire life, sonatas and string quar- tets remained the main experimental fields for the development of Beethoven’s harmonic and structural ideas. The amplitude of his style’s evolution can be traced from his first six quartets opus 18, written before 1800, to his last quartet opus 135, dating from 1826. In the early works of opus 18, which apparently tend to adhere to antecedent tradition, Beethoven nevertheless asserted his style in the intensive developments, in that he substituded the scherzo for the menuet and replaced the slow movements, and in the overall pathos of the tone. The following three quartets from Opus 59, dedicated to A. K. Razumovski and therefore entitled Russian, belong to his mature period (1806).
Quartet No. 11 was written at the end of the extremely prolific second period. Heroic ideas are reflected in its power, melodic passion, contrasts and bold key changes. The third movement, which features the indication serioso for the middle section, is repeatedly cited as an example of unusual for that time harmonic modulation, exemplifying the attempts of Beethoven to deconstruct traditional solutions.
After Quartet No. 11, Beethoven abandoned the genre for a twelve year period before producing his last quartet works – opuses 127, 130, 131, 132 and 135 (1822-1826). During that period he produced his crowning compositional achievements – the latter piano sonatas, the Ninth Symphony and the Missa Solemnis. Beethoven‘s late return to the quartet genre shows that it was precisely through that medium that Beethoven sought to expound the philosophical content and the complicated polyphony inherent to the music from his latter years.