Tuesday, August 17, 2010

8/17 String Quartet Op.59/1 "Razumovsky"

String Quartet No.7, Opus 59, No. 1, Movement 1

In order to make up for a lack of posts on Beethoven string quartet analyses on this blog I'm going to post another.  This, the 1st movement of String Quartet 7, Opus 59 No. 1 (for Count Razumovsky), was my first "favorite" string quartet of B's.  It starts with the melody in the cello, which gives it a very "modern" feel to it, almost orchestral.  And just like the "Waldstein" piano sonata, it has a driving 8th-note figure right from the start, and proceeds through a head-spinning series of motivic gyrations.  Here I will outline the structure somewhat.  I find "signposts" make listening to Beethoven's quartets a bit easier to follow.

Exposition Phase:
  • A1 - (ms. 1-19 Theme A part 1) Main theme, 2nd inversion tonic
  • A2 - (ms. 19-29, Theme A part 2) Decisive tonic arrives (F), derived from main theme
  • T1 - (ms. 30-47, Transition part 1) Legato figures signal change
  • T2 - (ms. 48-59, Transition part 2) Going to V of V
  • B1 - (ms. 60-70, Theme B part 1) Sub theme in dominant (C)
  • B2 - (ms. 71-84, Theme B part 2) Triplets
  • B3 - (ms. 85-90, Theme B part 3) Attacking half-note block chords
  • C - (ms. 91-102, Theme C) Contains elements of main theme and sub theme
Development Phase:
  • D - (ms. 103-111) Variation of main theme
  • E - (ms. 112-125) Modulate to Bb
  • F - (ms. 126-143) More modulating using dim 7th harmonies
  • G - (ms. 144-151) Modulating half note chords
  • H - (ms. 152-184) Motivic variations
  • I - (ms. 185-221) Fugato in Ebm - Fm
  • J - (ms. 222-242) Transition back to recap with triplets
Recapitulation Phase:
  • K - (A2) (ms. 242-279, Theme A part 2) Recap starts with first derivation, not A1.
  • T1 - (ms. 279-294, Transition part 1)
  • T2 - (ms. 295-306, Transition part 2)
  • B1 - (ms. 307-331, Theme B part 1) denser texture than expo
  • B3 - (ms. 332-337, Theme B part 3)
  • C - (ms. 338-367, Theme C) Forceful restatement of main theme in variation
  • Coda:    (ms. 368-400) Pitch register explodes to 5 octaves

Notice that in the recap K, the A1/A2 themes are reversed.  Or you could say the recap starts with A1 and skips A2, either way it's pretty witty and wacky.  Follow this amazingly unpredictable yet completely organic journey below as performed by the Emerson String Quartet:

Alternate Youtube Link

The above structure is somewhat cribbed from Lewis Lockwood's analysis in Inside Beethoven's Quartets: History, Performance, Interpretation. A bit pricey but it comes with a bonus CD. Lockwood interviews the Juilliard Qrtt about B's quartets.


  1. This qtet has also been one of my favorites from the beginning of my Beethoven journey (c 1997). I hope you get around to the second movement here sometime---it's pretty witty/wacky too! The one-note opening theme is fun to play on automobile horn! I like Quartetto Italiano on all 3 Raz. qtets.

  2. I think the next quartet I'm posting about is the allegro finale to Opus 131, sometime next week. It really sounds like it was written just last year. My main B quartet is the Takacs but the Budapest 1950's set is superb, too.

    I think I hear the automobile horn 59.1.2 motif all the time :)

  3. Hey---yes! I like the old Budapest qtet best of all on one particular movement, Raz #3 andante. Weird and bleak. Like going into a strange landscape of boulders and thorn-bushes.

    There are so many movements, or short sections of movements, of his that sound positively contemporary and will for a long time.