String Quartet No.8 in E minor, Op.59, No.2 ('Rasumovsky' 2)
Recorded live at the Taos School of Music, July 22, 2007
Alexandra Osborne, violin; Wojciech Kardewicz, violin; Elizabeth Kuefler, viola; Bronwyn Banerdt, cello
Beethoven began drafting the score of the first of the Opus 59 quartets on May 26, 1806, although there is evidence that he started to sketch them in the fall of 1804; by November 1806, all three were complete. Because Rasumovsky was to have exclusive rights to the pieces for a year, their publication was delayed until January 1808. Beethoven sold the rights to not only the Bureau des Arts et d'Industrie in Vienna, but also to Clementi and Co. in London. As a tribute to Rasumovsky's heritage, Beethoven planned to use Russian folk themes in each of the three quartets, but did so only in the finale of the first and the slow movement of the second. All three are in four movements, the third augmented by a slow introduction to the first movement.
The opening of the first movement of the String Quartet in E minor is actually more evocative of the Symphony No. 3 than it is the beginning of Op. 59/1. Two widely spaced chords introduce the piece, which immediately begins a presentation of the theme. However, the movement lacks the expansiveness of its two siblings, creating a very tight, nervous atmosphere and calling for a traditional repeat of the development section. The prominence of the Neapolitan, both the pitch F natural and the harmony of F major, creates a palpable pathos. The large coda takes a path as harmonically adventurous as the development section.
Carl Czerny (1791-1857), a former student of Beethoven, noted that the composer was inspired to write the slow movement of Op. 59/2, in E major, while contemplating a starry sky. The chorale-like opening of the movement looks forward to the Heiliger Dankgesang, Op. 132. The recapitulation of the hymn-like theme features an active cello line and a second violin part that sails above the first violin's melody.
As in the first movement, the E minor scherzo emphasizes the Neapolitan F major. The Russian theme appears in the E major Trio, where it is given extensive contrapuntal treatment, appearing first in the viola, followed by the second violin, cello, and lastly, first violin.
The finale again flirts with F major, this time primarily through C major (the dominant of F), which is found throughout the first 50 measures. Marked Presto, it is generally light and jovial, featuring a carefree main theme, rather atypical of the composer's style at this time. The second subject leads to a development section, after which the themes reappear to suggest a Rondo. Overall, this movement has much charm and rather parallels in spirit the finale in the previous quartet. This one, however, seems to fit in better with the character of its preceding three movements.
Mily Balakirev's Arrangement of the 2nd movement for solo piano:
Balakirev Centenary Celebrations Concert, Nicholas Walker - Pianist
Mr. Walker also performed the piano arrangement of the Op.130 Cavatina..
Finally. the 1st movement in a guitar arrangement (Oregon Guitar Quartet):