Philips - 1 LP - 6500 180 - (p) 1971
Philips - 3 CDs - 420 797-2 - (c) 1989

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

String Quartet No. 10 in E flat major, Op. 74 "Harp"
32' 34"
- Poco adagio - Allegro 10' 16"

- Adagio ma non troppo 10' 05"

- Presto - Pił presto quasi prestissimo - 5' 25"

- Allegretto con variazioni 6' 48"

String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95 "Serioso"
20' 22"
- Allegro con brio
4' 19"

- Allegretto ma non troppo - 6' 58"

- Allegro assai vivace ma serioso
4' 07"

- Larghetto espressivo - Allegretto agitato 4' 58"

- Paolo Borciani, Elisa Pegreffi, violino
- Piero Farulli, viola
- Franco Rossi, violoncello


Luogo e data di registrazione
La Salle des Remparts, La Tour-de-Peilz (Svizzera)
- 20-31 luglio 1971 - (Op. 74)
- 15-27 gennaio 1971 - (Op. 95)

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Engineer
Vittorio Negri | Tony Buczynski, Ko Witteveen

Prima Edizione LP
Philips | 6500 180 | 1 LP | (p) 1971

Prima Edizione CD
Philips | 420 797-2 | 3 CDs - 40' 29" - 58' 51" - 64' 35" - (2*, 5-8; 3°, 5-8) | (c) 1989 | ADD

L'edizione in CD contiene anche i Quartetti Op. 59 nn. 1, 2 e 3.

Towards the end of the first decade of the nineteenth century, a period that was especially productive for Beethoven (including as it did Symphonies Nos. 2 to 6, the Piano Concertos Nos. 2 to 5, The Violin Concerto, the Mass in C, and "Fidelio"), a new development set in, which manifestes itself particularly in the Quartets Op. 74 and Op. 95.
Despite the disparity in their opus numbers these works were written within a year. All the more surprising then is the difference in their characters. The Quartet in E flat is still very strongly linked with the past; engaging and unproblematic, it is a work of beauty and charm. The Quartet in F minor, on the other hand, looks forward in time, revealing already characteristics of the late quartets; austere, sober, and difficult, compressed and reduced to essentials, it nevertheless dispalys expressive power and spiritual intensity. In both works one senses a striving to relinquish the pedantic padding of academic forms, and a corresponding masking of key and the contours of themes and cadences, together with the quest for new tonal effects.
The Quartet in E flat, like the "Emperor" Piano Concerto, was completed in the autumn of 1809, while Beethoven was staying at Baden near Vienna. The opening of the first movement is highly reminiscent of the celebrated motif "Muss es sein?" ("Must it be?") from the late Quartet in F, Op. 135. after a brief, slow introduction an arpeggio theme leads into the Allegro proper, clearly anticipating the pizzicato passage which follows immediately and recurs repeatedly in the course of the movement being devised obviously as a special tonal effect. The scoring for the individual instruments in alternating half bars over a range of up to three octaves produces a remarkably plastic effect, and from this the work acquired its nickname of "Harp."
The second movement has a beatiful, fervent melody, and in addition a chorale-like accompaniment with episodic variations reminiscent of the adagios of the early symphonies. What is here evoked is the calm before the storm. Soon the Presto of the third movement, a furious scherzo, bursts upon us with unrestrained exuberance. A second, fugal section (Pił presto quasi prestissimo) is introduced fortissimo by the cello. The unusual recapitulation scheme of playing the first section three times and the second section twice provoked a query from the publisher. Beethoven insisted on his instructions; he had an unerring feeling for what was right. As a result one enjoys even the third repeat of the first section as it sweeps along.
The variations on a friendly allegretto theme which form the finale appear strikingly simple in the context of Beethoven's variation technique, which even at that time was fully mature. There is no change of key or tempo but simply changes in the sequence of forte and piano and the figuration.
If the Leipzig "Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung" of May 22, 1811 could observe that the quartet as a musical form coult not have the purpose of "honouring the dead or dipicting the feelings of those in despair, but should amuse the mind by the gentle, pleasure-giving play of phantasy," then it is hardly surprising that Beethoven's contemporaries should be deterred by a work like the Quartet in F minor, Op. 95. This he knew well enough. For six years he held this work back from publication - a work that heralded a new artistic direction.
The first bar of the quartet contains the germ of the complete first movement, a passage played in unison by all four instruments. Within the space of a few bars the fundamentally sober and abjective character of the whole work is revealed; the sudden and abrupt octave leaps of the first violin in a march-like rhythm are adhered to by the other instruments too. Here clearly delineated themes have given way to thematic material. By concealing the distinction between melodic and accompanying parts the movement is typical of Beethoven's middle period - one thinks emmediately of the famous "Appassionata Sonata." Contributing to the harshness of sound are recurrent stereoyped accompaniment figures, for instance the octave-leeaping semiquaver in the first violin. The tendency to imply rather than fully express manifests itself particularly in the final cadences of the movement: the cadences up  to that point have nothing of the same immediacy.
In a most original manner the second movement begins with a simple descending phrase only four bars long, presented like a programme by the solo cello. The movement's individual character is sustained by the Baroque-like fugato, introduced later by the viola, in which the polyphonic interweaving forms a striking contrast to the stereotyped figures of the first movement. The third movement ought really to be a scherzo. And indeed scherzo-like material is one way or another introduced, as far as the fundamentally serious and occasionally gloomy mood of the work allows. Bu the movement is aching and passionate instead of joyous and gay, in accordance with the marking Allegro assai vivace ma serioso. The strange trio has a uniformly flowing accompaniment by the first violin, against which the other instruments, in leisurely fashion, play episodes like parts of an old chorale, broken up by intervals of several bars in which only the upper accompaniment is heard.
In the finale, however, the first violin reappears in its usual leading role and in other respects too the movement is highly conventional. Although at the first hearing the work may seem rather forbidding, it is without doubt a significant step in the development toward Beethoven's much misunderstood late works.
The period from wich it dates marked a turning-point in both his life and music. In 1809 Vienna trembled in the caos resulting from the entry of the French. Another factor was Beethoven's personal destiny ("the daemon in my ears") which he lamented to his friend Wegeler in a letter of May 2, 1810: "Oh life is so beautiful, but for me it is for ever poisoned." And Therese Malfatti is said to have turned down at this tima a proposal of marriage from him. His statement in aletter to Therese. "I am living a very lonely, quiet life," surely finds its musical expression in the intensely introverted Op. 95.
A perceptible inclination to polyphonic style is quite certainly connected in some way with his contrapuntal studies for tuition of the Archduke Rudolph at that time. Finally, changed cirmustances affecting his material standard of living ought not to be understimated. An annual salary guaranteed for life by three princes relieved Beethoven of the need "to write for bread," while at the same time providing him with a clear path to new goals
Dr. Hans Schmidt