Beethoven String Quartet in F, Op.59 no.1
Between the time he wrote his early opus 18 quartets and the time when he wrote his opus 59 set, Beethoven's style had considerably changed. He had entered his "Heroic" period with the creation of his Third Symphony ("Eroica"); the music of this style period is characterized by a broadened scale, emotional fire, and bold originality. The opus 59 quartets (nicknamed the "Razumovsky" quartets for thier dedicatee, Count Razumovsky) fit into the mold of Beethoven's new style, and revolutionized the string quartet in the process.
This quartet in F, for example, was such a departure from tradition that when Count Razumovsky's players first tried it out they swore that Beethoven was playing a joke on them. The second movement in particular gave rise to charges of "crazy music". A London pianist confronted Beethoven, asking "Surely you do not consider these works to be music?" to which the composer replied, "Oh, they are not for you, but for a later age."
Indeed, Beethoven's music seems to constantly strive towards the
future. His opus 74 and opus 95 quartets continued to redefine
tradition; these two set the stage for the late quartets, which
were so revolutionary in style and form that their true successors
are said to be found all the way in the Modern Period, in the quartets of
Béla Bartók. In
fact, all the quartets written during the Romantic Period take off from the
Razumovsky set rather than from the late quartets.
Hear the Entire Piece
Movement 1 | Movement 2 | Movements 3-4
Recorded: in the TJHSST Auditorium on June 6, July 21, and July 27-28, 1999
Violins: Meejung Jang, 1st; Emily Schelstrate (mvmts. 2-4), Moses Lei (mvmt. 1), 2nd;
Viola: Jeffrey Klein;
Cello: Stephanie Lai;
In creating this quartet, Beethoven found old forms to be too restricting to meet his artistic vision... so he redefined them. While the first movement of the quartet is still in the traditional sonata form, it is a greatly expanded sonata form with a longer, unrepeated exposition and weightier development. This longer movement is actually characteristic of the entire opus 59 set. Each individual quartet lasts for forty minutes or so, whereas previous quartets usually ran half as long.
The second movement begins by introducing its first theme: the simple rythmic variation of a single note. Beethoven will later use this motif to create new melodies and harmonies in this movement. This is a good reinforcement for a statement later to be made by Mozart always gives first the complete theme, and then dissects it into smaller fragments; Beethoven shows his originality by beginning with these fragmentary motifs and using them to build up structure of increasing loftiness and power."
One theme that runs through all of Beethoven's "heroic" works is
unity. We see a unity in this piece in the way that the third and fourth movements
are joined without break. This effectively gives the last movement
the force of a recapitulation, and brings a sense of oneness to the
entire piece as a whole. You could even say that the three
Razumovsky quartets are unified in that #1 has the character of a
first movement, #2 a second and
#3 a last. The three quartets
are also linked in that each contains a movement in "Russian
style", which Beethoven wrote for the pleasure of Count Razumovsky,
the Russian ambassador to Austria.
Here's what others have had to say about this piece... Press
if you want to add to this discussion.
Other links of interest: