From Tom Huizenga’s latest post at NPR Music, Beethoven’s String Quartet of Transcendence:
In the spring of 1825, when Beethoven was 54, he became terribly sick. He was in bed for a month and he wrote to his doctor, “I am not feeling well … I am in great pain.” The doctor put Beethoven on a strict regimen, warning, “No wine, no coffee, no spices of any kind.” The doctor also advised Beethoven to get away from the city to where he could find fresh air and “natural milk.”
Beethoven followed his doctor’s orders and moved to the Baden region in May. He eventually recovered, but his illness scared him — at one point, he thought he would die.
Throughout his sickness, Beethoven worked on a new string quartet, his Op. 132 in A minor. It would last almost twice as long as his First Symphony. The music begins ominously with four dark, uncertain notes, then travels through paths of pain and suffering, eventually triumphing in sunlight.
The post has great audio of the performance of Op. 132 by the Emerson Quartet — Eugene Drucker, violin; Philip Setzer, violin; Lawrence Dutton, viola; and David Finckel, cello — from earlier this week performing in the rotunda of the Telfair Academy at the Savannah Music Festival.