Beethoven’s three Op. 59 String Quartets have been revolutionary.
Written in 1806, six years after the composer’s preliminary Op. 18 set, the so-called “Razumovsky” Quartets have been extra advanced, expansive in scale, and emotionally dramatic than something beforehand conceived within the style. Earlier chamber works have been written for the leisure of aristocratic novice musicians. With this music, the string quartet moved decisively into the live performance corridor. Commissioned by Depend Andreas Razumovsky, the Russian ambassador to Vienna, the Op. 59 trilogy was written for one of many first skilled string quartets, led by the violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh.
This radical new music left preliminary audiences bewildered. In accordance with one assessment from 1807, “Three new, very lengthy and troublesome Beethoven string quartets…are attracting the eye of all connoisseurs. The conception is profound and the development glorious, however they don’t seem to be simply comprehended.” Beethoven’s scholar, Carl Czerny, reported that musicians discovered String Quartet No. 7 so incomprehensible that they laughed out loud, assuming the composer was enjoying an elaborate joke. “Certainly you don’t take into account this music?” the violinist Felix Radicati reportedly stated, to which Beethoven responded, “Not for you, however for a later age.”
That is the epic, revelatory music of Beethoven’s “heroic” center interval. John Dalley, the longtime second violinist of the Guarneri Quartet, describes the symphonic nature of this music:
Within the Razumovsky Quartets the entire sonority of the string quartet undergoes a change. The 4 components are extra almost equal in prominence; the decrease voices have extra resonance. The melodies have a extra sustained cantilena high quality. There’s extra of a ‘concerted’ sound – one may say a real string quartet sound – fuller and richer than ever earlier than.
From the opening bars of String Quartet No. 7, Op. 59, No 1, we’re drawn right into a elegant musical dialog. The primary motion begins with a sunny theme within the cello which is picked up by the primary violin. The theme, which appears easy at first, grows, builds in pressure, and heightens our sense of expectation. Defiantly, it resists decision till it reaches a triumphant pinnacle which establishes the house key of F main. Quickly, open intervals which are evocative of searching horns recommend the pastoral majesty of nature. (F main can also be the important thing of the bucolic Pastoral Symphony). The top of the exposition veers off right into a false “repeat.” Because the opening bars return, we assume that the standard repeat of the exposition is underway. Then, with out warning, we’re hurled into the exhilarating turbulence of a growth part so expansive that it provides rise to a fugue. An irrepressible technique of growth continues, even because the music reaches the recapitulation. (Take heed to the best way the primary violin line emerges jubilantly from the propelling rhythmic motor and skips as much as start its assertion of the theme at 6:30, solely to maneuver in a radically new path). Within the coda, the looking out opening theme finds serene, blissful repose.
The second motion is a unusual synthesis of sonata kind and scherzo. Beethoven’s marking, sempre scherzando interprets as “all the time joking”. It begins with a fifteen-note-long “melody” on a single B-flat within the cello. (In response, the cellist of the Schuppanzigh Quartet reportedly picked up Beethoven’s rating, threw it on the bottom, and stomped on it at one of many first readings)! Because the motion continues, the jokes get crazier. Rhythmic video games obscure all sense of the downbeat. Playful, vigorous strains are traded from one voice to a different. Wild, unpredictable outbursts suggests a sort of rugged good humor which is each terrifying and exhilarating. The ultimate bars descend into laughter with a collection of “improper” notes.
The third motion anticipates the quiet mysticism of Beethoven’s late quartets. It’s music stuffed with solemnity, deep introspection, and melancholy. On the final web page of his sketches for this motion, Beethoven wrote the cryptic phrase, “A weeping willow or acacia tree on my brother’s grave.” There was hypothesis that it is a masonic reference. The primary notes develop from an austere open fifth, a sound which returns us to the world of historic chant. Concurrently lovely and haunting, this music appears like a cosmic elegy. At moments, it resembles the funeral march from the Eroica Symphony. The ultimate bars drift off right into a quietly shimmering cadenza within the first violin. A sudden lightness of spirit takes maintain. The Adagio by no means formally ends. As an alternative, it crossfades straight into the ultimate motion.
Paying homage to Razumovsky, the ultimate motion is constructed on a Russian folksong, “Ah, Whether or not It’s My Luck, Such Luck” (Akh! talan li moi, talan takoi). Initially a lament, Beethoven transforms this melody into an exuberant and joyful assertion. Within the last moments, the theme drifts off into the final word dreamy repose earlier than galloping to an exhilarating conclusion.
Featured Picture: “Weeping Willow” (1918), Claude Monet