Listening Log

  • Piece: String Quartet No.3 in C Major “The Emperor”

  • Composer: Franz Joseph Haydn
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello)
  • Date of composition: 1786 – 1797
  • Performed by: Tokyo String Quartet
  • Listened to: 07.01.2020

Within the first movement I found the frequent character changes of the same theme especially interesting. As already mentioned in my learning log, the whole composition seems to be just based on the thematic repertoire from the first five bars. Within the development Haydn also creates an Irish- folksong-like part, which I found very amusing and refreshingly different than the normal classical music style.

The second movement, originally written for the Austrian Emporer Francis II was based on a personal anthem, also written by Haydn with lyrics from Lorent Leopold Haschka. The movement consists entirely of one theme, which is varied in several ways. This theme later became Germany’s National anthem.

The third movement in C-major, traditionally a minuet, is quite cantabile with rebellious rhythms and a thoughtful trio in a-minor. It creates a good contrast for the following finale.

The last movement is opened with three rugged c – minor chords. Nervous sounding triads underlay the development of a double theme, which is put aside for a short time by a joyful side – theme in major. The stormy triads stay almost until the end, where the key finally modulates to C- major.


  • Piece: Quartett G-Dur, op. 76 Nr. 1

  • Composer: Franz Joseph Haydn
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello)
  • Date of composition: 1796 – 1797
  • Performed by: Aurielle Quartet
  • Listened to: 08.01.2020

The strings create a strong start, which gets the audiences’ attention by playing three strong chords. This is followed by a simple dance – like sequence, where the instruments join in one after another. The phrase leads to a continuous question – answer motifs. During the Development as well as the Recapitulation Haydn seems to be trying several different counterpoint exercises on the main theme.

The second movement starts with deep long notes followed by a similarly played high pitched part. The music leads into an expressive dialog between the first violin and the violoncello accompanied by repetitive quavers whilst slowly moving into a minor key. The increasing tension reaches its peak point in two oppressive passages filled with staccatos which seem like a breathless stammering. The ending stays thoughtfully questioning.

The third movement is a minuet, reminding me more of a scherzo from the early Romantic era with its incredibly fast pace. The middle section just focusses on one theme which is presented in variations, often altering between major and minor.

“Allegro ma non troppo” is the title of the last movement, which starts with a sullen theme in G- minor, which only slowly transfers into G-major. The fast triads seem to give the piece its’ character. I personally didn’t like the way in which he developed the march-character of the movement, but otherwise it seemed really strong and forceful to me.,_Hob.III:75_(Haydn,_Joseph)


  • Piece: String Quartet op. 76 no. 2 “Quint – Quartet”

  • Composer: Franz Joseph Haydn
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello)
  • Date of composition: 1796 – 97
  • Performed by: Giovane Quartetto Italiano
  • Listened to: 08.01.2020

The quartet gets its’ name from the main motif of the first movement, which I almost entirely made of falling fifths. Having started the piece in d-minor, the key slowly modulates to major after the end of the first theme. During the development the music moves back to the falling fifth – theme. I found the transition back to the recapitulation particularly interesting, as Haydn creates a short Spanish melody produced by the first violin. A passage follows, where the first violin suddenly seems to become aggressive, which stops after just a few bars and is immediately leading to the first theme again.

Onto the harsh minor ending of the first movement follows the lovely melody of the second movement “Andante o pio tosto Alegretto”. The first violin produces a soft melody accompanied by pizzicato from all the other voices. The movement is generally fastly paced, more “Allegretto” rather than “Andante”.

The third movement “Menuetto, Allegro”, starts with the strings playing a canon initially in octaves. The whole movement is in a minor key again. The canon leads onto the stamped quavers of the trio, which reach its climax in a solo.

“Vivace assai” is the name of the finale, which initially continues to stay in a minor key. The movement starts with an eastern-sounding dance-like theme in d – minor, which’s’ single phrases are sometimes interrupted by odd sounding high pitched notes from the first violin. The piece ends in d-major.,_Hob.III:76_(Haydn,_Joseph)


  • Piece: String Quartet No. 4

  • Composer: Bela Bartok
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello)
  • Date of composition: 1928
  • Date of first performance: 1929
  • Performed by: Jerusalem Quartet
  • Listened to: 09.01.2020

As already mentioned in my learning log under Research Point 5.1, the five movements of the piece have an “arch” structure, meaning, that the first and last, as well as the second and fourth movement (out of five) are similar to one another. The third movement is thematically independent from the others. Rather than using the diatonic system Bartok mainly used chromatic or whole – tone scales.

The first movement involves several clusters and has generally a strong, unsettling character. Even though it is, with a duration of around 6 minutes one of the longest movements, the character and mood stays the same throughout, and small phrases seem to repeat themselves.

The fast paced, mostly disharmonic notes of the second movement slightly reminded me of Nikolai Rimski Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”. Trills and vibrato are often used to decorate the rushed piece. Furthermore, the strings produce a mixture of long, very short and even percussive – similar sounds.

The third movement starts with some really soft, light notes. The cello start playing a warm, slow homophonic melody, accompanied by the light notes from the beginning, which seem to float on top of the melody. After the cello, one of the higher voices starts echoing the previously played melody and starts a “conversation” with the cello, which seems to become more disharmonic towards the end.

In order to resemble the second movement, the fourth movement has a fast pace again. It is played pizzicato throughout and has a stressed, almost aggressive character.

The fifth is in a certain way very similar to the first movement, involving several cluster chords. It nonetheless seems much more structured. It has a very foreign, Egyptian sounding character with one of the violins reminding me of a flute rather than a string instrument.,_Sz.91_(Bart%C3%B3k,_B%C3%A9la)


  • Piece: String Quartet No. 14 in G major, K. 387

  • Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello)
  • Date of composition: 1782
  • Performed by: Jerusalem Quartet
  • Listened to: 10.01.2020

The string quartets I’ve listened to so far all had short, recognisable themes at the beginning to develop the sonata form. I was surprised by the length of the themes from the first movement of the piece. Even though the themes are quite different, they are not easy to remember, the easiest way for me to keep them apart was the different rhythms rather than the notes. The mood is generally bright and even though it’s rather rapidly paced, the individual sounds produced by the instruments seemed relaxed.

The following two movements are quite calm and easy to listen too, whereas the finale was in sonata form again. It seemed to be very complex, with a mixture of polyphone and homophone parts. As one short motif could be heard almost throughout the whole movement, I assume that Mozart even wrote it in form of a fugue.

I generally enjoyed listening to the piece. I found that the first and last movement where particularly interesting in terms of their structural balance, although one had to concentrate a bit more whilst listening to them.,_K.387_(Mozart,_Wolfgang_Amadeus)


  • Piece: String Quartet No.19 in C major, K. 465

  • Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello)
  • Date of composition: 1785
  • Performed by: Quatuor Ebene
  • Listened to: 10.02.2020

The first minute sounds as if it was written two centuries later, it also is the reason why the string quartet is also named “dissonance – quartet”. The slow intro involved several dissonances, which was very uncommon for Mozart or even the Classical era. After a general rest a cheery quick melody can be heard, which indicates the start of the first subject of the movement. (In sonata form)

The second movement had a warm character and reminded me of a song rather than a string quartet. Mozart only worked with two themes presented at the beginning as well. The third movement starts with a cheery minuet, reminding of the first movement but then leads into a C-minor trio.

The fourth movement is in sonata form again, although instead of staying in one key, Mozart switched to a minor key at the beginning of the second part.

I was hugely surprised by the modern (20th century) sounding disharmonic intervals at the beginning of the piece. Mozart seemed to be ahead of his time by including chromatic as well as whole tone scales. I especially enjoyed the moment, when all the tension was lifted with C-major chord starting the first subject area.

  • Piece: String Quartet No.15 in D – minor

  • Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello)
  • Date of composition: 1783
  • Performed by: Emerson String Quartet
  • Listened to: 11.01.2020

The theme of the first movement is played by the first violin. Sometimes sounding like a hypnotic waltz, the tonality often changed from the key of the piece, d – minor, to its major relative “F”. After a gloomy start in minor, the second subject area starts with a brighter melody, but still seems to get hints of the dark mood from the beginning through the accompaniment.

The second movement “Andante” starts in a slow pace with a lovey melody which contains a longing character. It starts in F – major but slowly moves back to the original minor key. Several short motifs seem to repeat themselves. The following movement creates a strong contrast by introducing a very direct, strong minor theme. Between some legato parts the initial fast paced dotted rhythm repeats itself several times. A short major part by the first violin accompanied by the other strings playing pizzicato notes is put in the middle of the movement. This middle part seems to take the tension of the previous strong minor part. At the end the first theme can be heard again.

The last movement involves several variations on a sad melody. The strings worked in a similar way to a classical choir piece, as most of the notes are starting at the same time. One could have even the impression, that Mozart gave the instruments time to “breathe”.

From all the string quartets I’ve listened to, this one is my personal favourite. I personally wouldn’t have thought by only listening to it, that it was written by Mozart, as his music is usually brighter.


  • Piece: String Quartet No. 5 in A – major

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello)
  • Date of composition: 1799
  • Performed by: Jerusalem String Quartet
  • Listened to: 11.01.2020

Unlike the quartets from the second half of Beethoven’s life (below) this one still has the traditional 4 movements and are theme-wise still very inspired by Haydn’s quartets.

Even though the piece is in major, the character of the first movement is rather serious sounding. New phrases are often opened by three chords in a dotted rhythm played by all the voices. I especially enjoyed the homophone, unfortunately very short parts, where the violoncello plays a warm theme in the main voice, accompanied by the other three voices. Where the first movement was a mixture of homophone and polyphone parts, the second movement was entirely single voiced. Nevertheless, the main melody alternated between the four instruments. In between the soft melody phrases are repetitive parts, which start in piano and become much louder quickly, at the loudest part they suddenly stop and the calm main motif start again. The vivid theme from the third movement gave a refreshing start. The whole movement is mainly led by the first violin, although sometimes the other voices take over the main melody as well.  Towards the end of the movement the voices suddenly become very loud and start to play a cheery dance – like theme, which ends as suddenly as it started.,_Op.18_No.5_(Beethoven,_Ludwig_van)

  • Piece: String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp Minor, Op.131

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello)
  • Date of composition: 1826
  • Performed by: Quatuor Ebene
  • Listened to: 12.01.2020

Unlike the normal form of the string quartet with four movements, this one has 7 movements.

The piece starts with a simple short motif introduced by the first violin, all the other instruments slowly join in afterwards, one at a time. The slow polyphone sound has a longing character. Due to the dynamics moving up and down as well as the syncopation, the first movement is in a constant flow and generally very relaxing to listen to.  The third movement is with just 50 seconds the shortest movement I’ve come along to listening to string quartets so far. The fourth movement includes several contrasting themes. One has a very cheery dance-like character, a melody altering between the voices accompanied by steady staccato notes. Out of the whole piece I enjoyed this short part in particular. Nevertheless, the rest of the movement seemed to be all the same, not leading to a certain point and just moving forward steadily. Even though the last few movements were more contrasting, they didn’t include anything outstanding. The transition from the sixth movement to the last isn’t noticeable at all.

Especially the first and the third movement have a romantic sounding character rather than a classical. I overall didn’t enjoy this string quartet as much, which was rather surprising, as I see Beethoven as one of my favourite composers. The second and the fourth movement seemed rather monotonous after a while.,_Op.131_(Beethoven,_Ludwig_van)

  • Piece: String Quartet No.16 in F major

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello)
  • Date of composition: 1826
  • Performed by: Wiener Philharmoniker
  • Listened to: 13.01.2020

The first and the second movement seemed, similar to the previous piece, rather monotonous again, which slightly disappointed me. Nevertheless, one can hear a, typically for Beethoven, stormy character in the second half of the second movement. The third movement creates with its slow homophone character a huge contrast to the moody, chaotic ending of the second movement. Out of the whole piece, I would count this as my favourite movement, as it’s got a calm clear melody throughout. It was very relaxing to listen to. The last movement introduces the slow melody from the previous one again, but then starts with a long sequence of sometimes slightly disharmonic chords.,_Op.131_(Beethoven,_Ludwig_van)

  • Piece: Helicopter Quartet

  • Composer: Karlheinz Stockhausen
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello) and helicopters
  • Date of composition: 1992-1994
  • Date of first performance: 1996
  • Performed by: Arditti Quartet
  • Listened to: 15.01.2020

At the beginning one can hear the starting engines of helicopters. The first note can be heard by the cello. All the other voices join in all playing the same note repetitively in a dissonant chord which is similar to the “chord” the helicopters are making. Becoming faster and higher pitched they seem to imitate the helicopters and “take off” as well.

Once they’ve reached their peak-point, the instruments start to play more than one note at once, introducing a little, still disharmonic descending and ascending melody. Suddenly one can hear human voices counting to seven in German, which I was really surprised about. The second time one can hear the voices, they only count up to five. For the third time they count to 13, it seems as if the numbers a half sung half spoken. I found it interesting that more focus was put on the consonants rather than the vowels; the “s” in “Eins” (one) or the “r” in “vier” (four) are pulled over several bars. These long consonants may again try to replicate the hard sounding noises helicopters are making. Similar to the beginning. Whilst the helicopters land, the instruments become slower and lower pitched as well trying to be unison with the helicopters.

Comparing this piece with one from the classical era, it was interesting to see what other sounds can be produced through instruments. At rare points it was even difficult to distinguish between the helicopter noises and the string sounds. As already mentioned, I was hugely surprised by the counting parts and the way of its pronunciation. Even though I find the idea of the whole quartet very creative and found it interesting to listen to the first half of the piece, after a while the constant rattling and disharmonic notes of the instruments felt heavy and pressuring.

  • Piece: Different Trains

  • Composer: Steve Reich
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello) and recording tape
  • Date of composition: 1988
  • Performed by: Kronos Quartet
  • Listened to: 20.01.2020

A more detailed analysis of the piece can be found under research point 5.4.

l enjoyed the sound of the first movement and the way in which the instruments are used to reflect the steam engine. Nevertheless, after having listened to a few minutes of the second movement “During the war” I had to pause and take a break as I found the created atmosphere too overwhelming and intensive. This was probably especially emphasized by the siren sound in the background. Even though I found it difficult to listen to the piece, the way in which Reich put his experiences and feelings into music is terribly impressive.

  • Piece: Piano Quintet in F Major, Op. 34

  • Composer: Johannes Brahms
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello) and piano
  • Date of composition: 1864
  • Date of first performance:1866
  • Performed by: Quartetto Italiano
  • Listened to: 21.01.2020

Throughout the calm atmosphere of the first movement the string voices seemed like human voices, often having to “breathe”, following a clear melody. I generally had the impression, that some parts were similar to a Romantic aria. One main theme can be heard several times, which always comes in form of a climax, following a gripping row of harmonies.

The second half of the second movement reminded me of a lullaby. The third movement had a very Baroque, Bach-like sounding character, in contrast to the previous two movements it has a very stormy theme. After a slow introduction of the last movement, a quick dance-like minor theme can be heard, which’s character was similar to that of a modern soundtrack.

Throughout the whole piece I never had the intention, that the strings and the piano where working in an often used question-answer motif. On the contrary the sounds always seemed to encourage each other. With its contrasting stormy character, I would count the third movement as the one I enjoyed most listening to.


  • Piece: String Quartet No. 1

  • Composer: Mauricio Kagel
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello)
  • Date of composition: 1965-1967
  • Performed by: Arditti Quartet
  • Listened to: 23.01.2020

Unlike the previous string quartets, I’ve listened to, this one only contained one movement which lasts for eleven minutes. The produced sounds at the beginning seem to be a mixture of any noise a string instruments can make without using the bow in the normal way. Pizzicato as well as shrill sounds, which appear when a string is pushed too hard can be heard often in no particular pattern. As I unfortunately wasn’t able to find a score for the piece, it was difficult to find one too.

By just listening to it, it seemed rather chaotic and had a slightly peculiar character. Some parts could have been from a horror movie.


  • Piece: Symphony No. 5 in C-minor

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beehoven
  • Instruments: Orchestra: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, conrabassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, strings.
  • Date of composition: 1807-1808
  • Date of first performance: 1808
  • Performed by: Wiener Philharmoniker
  • Listened to: 25.01.2020

The first theme, is probably one of the most well-known ones throughout musical history. It only includes four notes, whereas notes 1, 2 and 3,4 have the same interval, therefor one could also say that it even contains just one interval. Beethoven managed to create a whole Symphony out of these four notes.

Even though the first movement has a strong theme and easily recognisable, I enjoyed it more listening to the several contrasting themes presented in the second movement.

  • Piece: String Quartet Op. 18; No. 1 in F – major

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Instruments: String quartet (2 violins, viola, violoncello)
  • Date of composition: 1799
  • Performed by: Jerusalem Quartet
  • Listened to: 30.01.2020

A vivid piece with memorable themes. Especially easy to keep in mind was the very first theme, as he entire first movement seems to be just made out of this one theme and variations of it.  The character is generally kept quiet and calm apart from the first movement. I especially enjoyed the changes between light and dark motifs in the second movement, where the melody seemed to be jumping from one voice to the next.