While the Beethoven string quartets are to chamber music what the plays of Shakespeare are to drama, even seasoned concertgoers will welcome guidance with these personal and sometimes enigmatic works. This collection offers Beethoven lovers both detailed notes on the listening experience of each quartet and a stimulating range of more general perspectives: Who has the quartets' audience been? How were the quartets performed before the era of sound recordings? What is the relationship between 'classical' and 'romantic' in the quartets? How was their reception affected by social and economic history? What sorts of interpretive decisions are made by performers today? The companion brings together a matchless group of Beethoven experts. Joseph Kerman is perhaps the world's most renowned Beethoven scholar. Robert Winter, an authority on sketches for the late quartets, has created interactive programs regarded as milestones in multimedia publishing. Maynard Solomon has written an acclaimed biography of Beethoven. Leon Botstein is the conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra as well as a distinguished social historian and college president. Robert Martin writes from his experience as cellist of the "Sequoia Quartet". And the book is anchored by the program notes of Michael Steinberg, who has served as Artistic Advisor of the San Francisco Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra.