View Poll Results: Hmm...

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  • String Quartets

    22 43.14%
  • Piano Sonatas

    19 37.25%
  • Leave me out of this!

    10 19.61%
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Thread: Beethoven's String Quartets vs Piano Sonatas

  1. #1
    Senior Member Livly_Station's Avatar
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    Default Beethoven's String Quartets vs Piano Sonatas

    On your left, 32 piano sonatas. On your right, 16 string quartets.

    The dispute looks almost unfair considering one is twice the size of the other, but it's arguable that Beethoven really made each quartet vital, whereas not all sonatas are masterpieces -- but, still, there are many gems and wonders among them. Really tough!

    At the end of the day, which one of the two is your favorite collection?

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    I'll take the piano sonatas. If the "hammerklavier" sonata was not in the mix, I'd switch to the string quartets.

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    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Thats like choosing between your left leg and right leg - both are essential.

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    Senior Member Livly_Station's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malx View Post
    Thats like choosing between your left leg and right leg - both are essential.
    Well, that's not quite the question here. It's not for you to decide which leg to amputate, but rather to tell me if you kick the ball with the left or with the right leg.

  7. #5
    Senior Member Livly_Station's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
    I'll take the piano sonatas. If the "hammerklavier" sonata was not in the mix, I'd switch to the string quartets.
    His greatest work, in your opinion?

    I'm torn here because I think my favorite pieces by Beethoven are actually some of the late quartets (13 and 15 mostly, but also 12 and 14), and some of the middle ones are not far behind (especially 7 and 10). But then again, it's hard because the quantity of sonatas do matter, since many of them have an unique personality even if individually they don't reach the same heights as the best ones, not to mention the masterpieces like the last 5 and some of the middle ones that are almost as good as the best quartets.
    Last edited by Livly_Station; Oct-08-2021 at 05:16.

  8. #6
    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    String Quartets by quite a long way. There are some Piano Sonatas which are (of course, very nice, but...) hardly earth-shattering masterpieces, whilst "even" the Op.18 Quartets are wonders for their time.

    And while I am never ever going to be dismissive of the late Sonatas, however superb the last few Sonatas are (especially Op.111 in my humble opinion), they are not quite on the same exalted level as the late Quartets (especially Opp.130-133).

    Obviously this is comparing the incompare-able, and merely a personal opinion.....

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    Quartets by a small but clear margin. The quantity of the sonatas does matter and a really enjoyed listening to all sonatas in a bunch of different recordings a few weeks ago.
    I probably listen less to the quartets in "everyday listening". But of 16 (or 18, if one counts op.133 and the op.14/1 arrangement) the only one I consider rather weak is the c minor (and even this has one or two pretty good movements). Whereas there are some slight works and others I could do without among the piano sonatas, not that I would want to, of course. It seems pretty clear that the piano sonata was the field where Beethoven was daring and experimental and this included some rough spots and relative failures as well as at least the early sonatinas op.49 mainly published for commercial reasons. So we get more variety but also more works not among Beethoven's best. The sonatas are also skewed towards early(ish) pieces, 20 of them were written until 1802 (that is up to the 2nd symphony).

    String quartet were the "smallest of large scale works" and Beethoven would take pains to publish only very accomplished pieces.

  10. #8
    Moderator Art Rock's Avatar
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    String quartets by a large margin. Mainly because I like the genre much more than solo piano works ( and for the piano I prefer shorter romantic pieces rather than sonatas).

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    Senior Member Dan Ante's Avatar
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    St Quartets because that is my favorite genre but the sonatas are super and I do like a change now and then.
    "Understeer is when you hit the wall with the front of the car, oversteer is when you hit the wall with the rear of the car.

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  14. #10
    Senior Member jegreenwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Ante View Post
    St Quartets because that is my favorite genre but the sonatas are super and I do like a change now and then.
    Second that. Also Art Rock’s post.

  15. #11
    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Livly_Station View Post
    Well, that's not quite the question here. It's not for you to decide which leg to amputate, but rather to tell me if you kick the ball with the left or with the right leg.
    To use your analogy - I'm two footed.
    Right now I am in a quartet listening zone in general, but in previous times I have listened more to piano sonatas - I really can't chose one above the other.

  16. #12
    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Livly_Station View Post
    His greatest work, in your opinion?
    The "hammerklavier" sonata is my favorite Beethoven along with symphony 9 and the op. 5 cello sonatas (only from Coin/Cohen).

  17. #13
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    I won't vote since both cycles are among my favorite sets, and there is absolutely no reason to choose between them.

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  19. #14
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    Given a choice, I would choose the string quartets, mainly weighted by the late quartets. But I would put the piano sonatas at the top of any list of composers' piano sonatas.

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    The tougher/closer one for me would be Violin sonatas vs. Cello sonatas vs. Piano trios.

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