Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Nationality: German
Baptized: December 17, 1770, Bonn Died: March 26, 1827, Vienna (age 56)

String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59, Razumovsky, No. 3, "Eroica"

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
10:15 I. Introduzione. Andante con moto - Allegro vivace
9:40 II. Andante con moto quasi allegretto
5:08 III. Menuetto grazioso
6:19 IV. Allegro molto
Duration: 31 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1806 (age 35-36)
Published: 1808, Vienna: Comptoir des Arts et de l'Industrie (age 37-38)
10 recordings, 31 videos
autoplay
10:16
Miró Quartet
I. Introduzione. Andante con moto - Allegro vivace
8:34
Miró Quartet
II. Andante con moto quasi allegretto
5:02
Miró Quartet
III. Menuetto grazioso
5:42
Miró Quartet
IV. Allegro molto
10:24
Juilliard String Quartet
I. Introduzione. Andante con moto - Allegro vivace
9:30
Juilliard String Quartet
II. Andante con moto quasi allegretto
5:25
Juilliard String Quartet
III. Menuetto grazioso
5:57
Juilliard String Quartet
IV. Allegro molto
10:09
Emerson String Quartet
I. Introduzione. Andante con moto - Allegro vivace
8:50
Emerson String Quartet
II. Andante con moto quasi allegretto
5:07
Emerson String Quartet
III. Menuetto grazioso
5:25
Emerson String Quartet
IV. Allegro molto
11:05
Guarneri Quartet
I. Introduzione. Andante con moto - Allegro vivace
11:06
Guarneri Quartet
II. Andante con moto quasi allegretto
5:29
Guarneri Quartet
III. Menuetto grazioso
5:27
Guarneri Quartet
IV. Allegro molto
10:42
Borodin Quartet
I. Introduzione. Andante con moto - Allegro vivace
9:51
Borodin Quartet
II. Andante con moto quasi allegretto
5:14
Borodin Quartet
III. Menuetto grazioso
6:37
Borodin Quartet
IV. Allegro molto
29:20
Quatuor Sine Nomine
10:38
Quan Yuan, et. al.
I. Introduzione. Andante con moto - Allegro vivace
10:18
Quan Yuan, et. al.
II. Andante con moto quasi allegretto
5:17
Quan Yuan, et. al.
III. Menuetto grazioso
7:43
Quan Yuan, et. al.
IV. Allegro molto
28:44
Pascal Quartet
8:16
Orion String Quartet
I. Introduzione. Andante con moto - Allegro vivace
9:45
Orion String Quartet
II. Andante con moto quasi allegretto
5:07
Orion String Quartet
III. Menuetto grazioso
7:17
Orion String Quartet
IV. Allegro molto
9:47
Alban Berg Quartet
II. Andante con moto quasi allegretto
From Kai Christiansen

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, Razumovsky, No. 3, 1806

Ludwig van BeethovenIn 1802, Beethoven directly confronted the severity of his hearing loss for the first time. In October, he penned the Heiligenstadt Testament, a heartbreaking confession of his struggles that mentions, but rejects, the option of suicide. Through an act of will, he transcended the most profound challenge one could imagine for his unique disposition. Shortly thereafter, Beethoven entered his so-called middle period, emerging as the heroic artist that revolutionized every musical genre he touched. The middle period is characterized by bold new works on a grand scale including the opera Fidelio, the Waldstein and Appassionata piano sonatas, and the Eroica (3rd) symphony. Between 1805 and 1806, Beethoven seized upon a commission by Count Razumovsky, channeling his newly restored life force into the supreme genre of chamber music to create perhaps the most revolutionary works of the his middle period: the epic set of three string quartets, Op. 59.

The String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3 has acquired the nickname Eroica because of its glorious, triumphant finale. Initially, it was the most well received of the three quartets and probably remains the most frequently performed. It is one of the most radiant works Beethoven ever composed. Its beginning is as noteworthy as its ending, no doubt one of several places in which the Razumovsky quartets confounded its first listeners. Like Mozart's Dissonance quartet (also in C major), a work that Beethoven greatly admired, it begins in obscurity: a brooding series of diminished chords whose destination grows ever more obscure as the outer voices, treble and bass, progressively diverge in a wedge shape. Any sense of motion fairly disintegrates. A clipped two-chord progression glances off C and stops, followed by a slow windup of tentative meanderings that finally, like a slingshot, launches full force into the blazing confirmation of C major. Once underway, the first movement revels in the harmonic play of a sonata that glorifies the home key. Fully engaged in the bliss of wavelike harmonic motion, one barely notices that Beethoven makes such wonderful music without a single distinctive theme. The entire movement features only a prominent two-note motive (that first, glancing step) and the "simple" flowing lines of scales and arpeggiated chords. These musical lines spread and weave across the span of four independent instruments to become elegant, mellifluous ribbons of light, simple motions turned to golden honey. This quality pervades most of the quartet.

The second movement is the cool point of contrast in the quartet, a delicate, ponderous movement veiled with melancholy. It is another sonata movement but with a curious form: the development section is relatively unpronounced and smoothly merged between the exposition and the recapitulation, the later reprising the themes in reverse order. The effect is that of a rondo where the gentle hope of a second theme surfaces between waves of mysterious sorrow. The third movement is not the wild scherzo so associated with Beethoven, but rather, a Menuetto marked Grazioso. Moderate and suave, it shares a noteworthy trait with the first movement: rather than distinctive themes, it returns to washes of essential motion, gentle scales in the minuet that sharpen into heroic arpeggios in the trio. Both middle movements have a relaxed quality so different than the middle movements of the other two Razumovsky quartets; they seem poised and reserved if not curiously hesitant. The Menuetto even fails to properly conclude. An unresolved bridge-like coda connects it seamlessly to the finale, an interim passage wherein the minuet's clear major tonality clouds into the minor, pauses on the dominant, and waits with baited breath.

The finale is one of Beethoven's grandest conceptions. Much like the function of the dissonant beginning in the first movement, the minuet's coda provides a dark tension out of which the bright energy of the last movement emerges like the sun. The first violin establishes a light, driving motion that is perpetually sustained. Its long undulating theme is taken up by each of the other instruments in turn, thickening the texture with the apparent beginning of a mighty fugue. But as in many great contrapuntal wonders of the Classical era, the fugue (technically a canon) is really a short lived fugato, a primary theme whose character is the evocation of a fugue, a theme of brilliant distinction within a tapestry of contrasting material that fills the space between fugal episodes like gold surrounds the setting of a few precious gems. The fugato briefly recurs with a new urgency in the development and then crowns the recapitulation, elongated with a crystal clear countersubject for a conclusion of truly heroic impact. The waves of shining ribbons swell and distinctly diverge, the treble rising, the base dropping: here Beethoven completes a mighty symmetry across the whole quartet by reprising the opening wedge of dissonance transformed with resolute harmony, a brilliant cadential coda in C major.

All three of the Razumovsky quartets are conceived on larger scale that even the most noteworthy of their predecessors from any composer. Beethoven's genius enabled him to do this while, at the same time, strengthening a sense of unity across the greater expanse. Op. 59, No. 1 is famous as the first quartet to omit the repeat of exposition: a false start immediately diverts into an enormous development section with the paradoxical effect of tightening the entire movement into a single gesture. Two of the quartets fuse their last movements together without a break in the music, a further technique of joining separate parts into a larger, unified whole. There are symmetries separated by vast distances such as the beginning and end of the third quartet. It can be argued that there are even specific harmonic relationships between the end of one quartet and the beginning of the next. Many have suggested that Beethoven conceived of the three separate Razumovsky quartets as a unified whole. The vast first movement of Op. 59, No. 1 is not fully balanced until one reaches its magnificent counterpart in the finale of Op. 59, No. 3. Perhaps the three quartets function like a gigantic three movement work with a broad and complex first movement in F major, a tense contrasting movement in e minor, and a bright, exultant finale in C major. A performance of the complete set in a single concert gives this very impression. With the proper preparation for its context within this larger setting, the third quartet acquires a further triumphal radiance. The distinguished scholar Leonard Ratner suggests that all of Beethoven's quartets may even form a kind of mega-work, a single great narrative that stands apart from all other music in history.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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