String Quartet No. 13 (Beethoven)

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String Quartet
No. 13
Late string quartet by Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven op 130.jpg
Coversheet of Beethoven's Op. 130 as published in Berlin on 2 June 1827
Key B major
Dedication Nikolai Galitzin
Durationc. 45 min
DateMarch 1826
Performers Schuppanzigh Quartet

The String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Op. 130, by Ludwig van Beethoven was completed (in its final form) in November 1826. [1] The number traditionally assigned to it is based on the order of its publication; it is actually Beethoven's 14th quartet in order of composition. It was premiered (in its original form) in March 1826 by the Schuppanzigh Quartet and dedicated to Nikolai Galitzin on its publication in 1827.


Beethoven originally wrote the work in six movements, lasting 42–50 minutes, as follows:

  1. Adagio, ma non troppo – Allegro (B major)
  2. Presto (B minor)
  3. Andante con moto, ma non troppo. Poco scherzoso (D major)
  4. Alla danza tedesca. Allegro assai (G major)
  5. Cavatina. Adagio molto espressivo (E Major)
  6. Große Fuge (Grande Fugue op.133): Ouverture. Allegro – Meno mosso e moderato – Allegretto – Fuga. [Allegro] – Meno Mosso e moderato – Allegro molto e con brio – Allegro (B)

(Nomenclature: "danza tedesca" means "German dance", "Cavatina" a short and simple song, and "Große Fuge" means "Great Fugue" or "Grand Fugue".)

The work is unusual among quartets in having six movements. They follow the pattern of movements seen in the Ninth Symphony and occasionally elsewhere in Beethoven's work (opening, dance movement, slow movement, finale), except that the middle part of the cycle is repeated: opening, dance movement, slow movement, dance movement, slow movement, finale.

New finale

Negative reaction to the work's final movement at the first performance, and his publisher's urging, led Beethoven to write a substitute for the final movement, a contredanse much shorter and lighter than the enormous Große Fuge it replaced. This new finale was written in the autumn of 1826, during a relapse into severe illness, [2] and is the final complete piece of music Beethoven composed before his death in March, 1827. It is marked:

Finale: Allegro in B major

Beethoven never witnessed a performance of the quartet in its final form; it was premiered on 22 April 1827, nearly a month after his death.

The original finale was published separately under the title Große Fuge as opus 133. Modern performances sometimes follow the composer's original intentions, leaving out the substitute finale and concluding with the fugue. [3] Robert Simpson argues that Beethoven's intentions are best served by playing the quartet as a seven-movement work, with the Große Fuge followed by the replacement finale. [4]


The cavatina that serves as the fifth movement is generally considered the quartet's pinnacle. According to Michael Steinberg, it is "one of Beethoven’s most inward and wonderful slow movements." [5] Beethoven declared "that he had composed this cavatina truly in the tears of melancholy" and that "never had his own music made such an impression on him". [6]

Some commentators also rank very high the freshness, grace and sensitivity [7] of the third movement (Andante con moto, ma non troppo. Poco scherzando). It was Theodor Helm's favorite movement, [8] and Daniel Gregory Mason used four bars of this movement as the frontispiece of his study of Beethoven's quartets. [9]

In media

The Cavatina (performed by the Budapest String Quartet) is the final piece on the Voyager Golden Record, a phonograph record containing a broad sample of Earth's sounds, languages, and music sent into interstellar space in 1977 with the two unmanned Voyager probes. [10] It immediately follows after the gospel blues song " Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" by Blind Willie Johnson, a blind and a deaf musician side by side. Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in 2012; Voyager 2 followed suit in 2018.

The Cavatina also appears in "Love and War", an episode from the sixth season of M*A*S*H, in the background as Hawkeye has dinner with an aristocratic Korean woman.

See also


  1. ^ "beethtranscending".
  2. ^ Marliave, Joseph de (1961). Beethoven's quartets. Jean Escarra, Hilda Andrews. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN  0-486-20694-7. OCLC  337453.
  3. ^ Kahn, Robert (2010). Beethoven and the Grosse Fuge: Music, Meaning, and Beethoven's Most Difficult Work. Scarecrow Press. pp. 3–6. ISBN  978-1-4616-6405-5. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  4. ^ "Programme notes on the Beethoven string quartets – The Robert Simpson Society".
  5. ^ Michael Steinberg, in The Beethoven Quartet Companion, ed. Robert Winter and Robert Martin (University of California Press, 1994) p. 227-244
  6. ^ Violinist Holz, qoted in Jean and Brigitte Massin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Fayard, 1967, p. 718.
  7. ^ "what this andante loses in solemnity, it does more than recover in freshness and grace, and it yields to no music from the last period for sensibility."(Joseph Kerman, Les quatuors de Beethoven, French translation, Paris, Seuil, 1988, p. 380.
  8. ^ Theodor Helm, Beethovens Streichquarette, Leipzig, 1921, quoted by Joseph Kerman, Les quatuors de Beethoven, French translation, Paris, Seuil, 1988, p. 380 and 461.
  9. ^ Daniel Gregory Mason, The Quartets of Beethoven, New York, 1947, quoted by Joseph Kerman, Les quatuors de Beethoven, French translation, Paris, Seuil, 1988, pp. 380-381 and 461.
  10. ^ "Voyager – Music on the Golden Record".

External links