Defining the String Quartet II: Beethoven

This course aims to enhance your understanding and appreciation of Ludwig van Beethoven’s music by exploring a genre at the very core of his development as a composer: the string quartet. Evenly distributed among the periods into which his life and work are customarily divided, his 16 quartets offer a broadly representative record of his changing musical language. The six quartets of the first period follow closely in the footsteps of Beethoven's teacher Haydn, the acknowledged “father" of the genre; the five quartets of the middle period significantly expand musical form as well as the range of dramatic expression; the remaining five quartets, written in the composer's idiosyncratic "late style," take the genre to unheard-of levels of innovation.

Taught by music historian and Stanford Professor Stephen Hinton in collaboration with the university's ensemble-in-residence, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, you’ll be given a critical overview of Beethoven’s quartets and their reception history. Using a mix of lectures, discussions and copious demonstrations, Professor Hinton will focus in detail on three complete quartets: one early, one middle, and one late. As a special course feature, you’ll view live performances by the SLSQ recorded in Stanford's Bing Concert Hall.

You Will Learn

  • About Beethoven’s transformative achievements in the realm of the string quartet
  • Strategies for describing, analyzing, and interpreting Beethoven’s music
  • How Beethoven’s compositions evolved during his career and how they have been viewed throughout history

Who Should Enroll?

Defining the String Quartet II is designed to appeal to participants from different musical backgrounds, regardless of your musical literacy. You do not need the ability to read music, although we do occasionally supply musical notation for those who can. You can choose to pursue a Statement of Accomplishment at one of two levels: Basic or Advanced. Each of the graded activities in the course is worth a certain number of points. You will be eligible for a “Basic” Statement of Accomplishment if you earn at least a third of the total possible points. You will be eligible for an “Advanced” Statement of Accomplishment if you earn at least two-thirds of the total possible points.


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Online, self-paced, EdX
Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences