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MUS 198 — Beethoven's String Quartets

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus course
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Oct 10—Dec 5
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Oct 23
Unit: 1
Tuition: $345
Instructor(s): Stephen Hinton, St. Lawrence String Quartet
Limit: 100
Status: Open
Please Note: No class on October 31, November 21, and November 28
On-campus course
7:00—8:50 pm
Oct 10—Dec 5
6 weeks
Drop By
Oct 23
1 Unit
Stephen Hinton, St. Lawrence String Quartet
Please Note: No class on October 31, November 21, and November 28
Beethoven’s compositions for string quartet enjoy a reputation as one of the crowning achievements in the history of Western classical music. They display, to quote Joseph Kerman’s magisterial survey The Beethoven Quartets (1967), “a technical mastery, depth of thought, and intensity of musical inspiration unsurpassed by any other composer.” Combining introductory lectures, live musical performance and in-class discussion, this course will offer an in-depth exploration of Beethoven’s quartets in the broader context of his life and work. The course’s structure will mirror the conventional division of the composer’s oeuvre into three distinct periods or styles, with a particular focus on three individual compositions, Opus 18, No. 4, Opus 59, No. 3, and Opus 131. In addition to representing one of the periods in Beethoven’s oeuvre (early, middle, late), each of these works will receive a complete performance in class.

Although Beethoven’s “three periods” are commonplace in the vast secondary literature on the composer, they have not gone unquestioned as a critical construct, and with good reason. Even so, if they are justified anywhere in Beethoven’s oeuvre, it is with the study of his string quartets. The aim of the course is thus threefold: (1) to define in broad and general terms Beethoven’s three periods; (2) to examine in detail the three selected works, with due consideration paid to how each exemplifies the period to which it belongs; and (3) to give students the chance to experience Beethoven’s string quartets in an intimate, chamber-music setting.

The course will be co-taught by Stephen Hinton (course director) and the St. Lawrence String Quartet, whose members will play an active role in analyzing and demonstrating the music in question.

Stephen Hinton, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Music, and Professor, by courtesy, of German Studies, Stanford

Stephen Hinton was chair of the Stanford Department of Music from 1997 through 2004; he has also served as Senior Associate Dean for Humanities and Arts and as Denning Family Director of the Stanford Arts Institute. He has published widely on the history of music in the German-speaking lands. His recent comprehensive study, Weill’s Musical Theater: Stages of Reform, was published in 2012. He has taught several Continuing Studies courses together with the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Hinton received a PhD in musicology from the University of Birmingham (UK).

St. Lawrence String Quartet, Performance Group

Established in 1989, the St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ) has developed an undisputed reputation as a world-class chamber ensemble. The quartet performs over 120 concerts annually worldwide and calls Stanford home, where the group is ensemble-in-residence. The SLSQ continues to build its reputation for imaginative and spontaneous music-making through an energetic commitment to the established quartet literature and the championing of new works by such composers as John Adams, Osvaldo Golijov, and Jonathan Berger. The SLSQ’s recordings have been honored with a German Critics Award, Canada’s JUNO Award (for its recording of Schumann’s 1st and 3rd quartets), and two Grammy nominations (for its Yiddishbbuk CD).

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.