Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

Music of Friends, Music for Posterity: The String Quartet After Beethoven

Course Number


Study Group Leader (SGL)

Jared Redmond


This course will take place virtually on Zoom. Participation requires a device (ideally a computer or tablet, rather than a cell phone) with a camera and microphone in good working order and basic familiarity with using Zoom and accessing email.

5-Week Course

April 2 - May 7. No Class April 23.


In the late-18th to early-19th centuries, the string quartet could be described as a “music of friends.” In aristocratic mansions and private homes, players enjoyed string quartet music communally, composing and reading new scores together in a social setting. With the 16 Beethoven quartets, the genre experienced a transformation into music for “professionals” and for a “public.” Not to be merely played and enjoyed, the late Beethoven quartets are music for posterity. Often perplexing and philosophical, they are meant to be practiced, puzzled over, and “performed.”

This course examines the influence of Beethoven’s quartets on a century of music that followed. How do great Romantic masters like Alexander Borodin and the young Claude Debussy respond to Beethoven’s legacy? How do modernist composers like Alban Berg and Dmitri Shostakovich carry on Beethoven’s dual example of formal experimentation and emotional confession in their own quartets? Do Beethoven’s innovations find footing in later generations? Or do some composers reject his model for the quartet, preferring to return to a Classical, Hadyn-esque ideal? This course will examine quartet masterworks from the late-19th to early-20th centuries, seeking to illuminate diverse trends in post-Beethoven music. We will see the immense power of Beethoven quartets play out in subsequent generations, as other great artists try their own hand at the “music of friends.”

*Note: This course contains some amount of score reading in the lecture slides and readings. Though anyone without musical training is welcome to participate, musical background will certainly help with course readings and discussion.

Group Leadership Style

Roughly the same amount of lecture and discussion.

Course Materials

As in my previous courses, all readings and listening assignments will be provided by email, usually in the form of PDF attachments and YouTube links. 

Preparation Time

2~3 hrs / week maximum. This will be mostly listening time, with one or two short readings per week.


Jared Redmond is a composer and pianist. Holding a PhD in Music Composition and Theory from Brandeis University, he has taught music at MIT, Hanyang University, and Seoul National University in South Korea, where he currently lives. His appetites for classical music are omnivorous, but he is especially devoted to contemporary music, the music of the late 19th - early 20th century, and to discussion of stylistic and technical influence among music of the canonical masters. He has led many courses for BOLLI, on topics including Russian Music, post-WWII music, music and architecture, classical music and politics, and musical Romanticism.