Philips - 1 LP - 839 795 - (p) 1969
Philips - 4 CDs - 426 050-2 - (c) 1989

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op. 130
42' 50"
- Adagio ma non troppo - Allegro 14' 00"

- Presto 2' 07"

- Andante con moto, ma non troppo. Poco scherzando 7' 09"

- Alla danza tedesca (Allegro assai) 3' 10"

- Cavatina (Adagio molto espressivo) 7' 09"

"Grosse Fuge", Op. 133 (String Quartet in B flat major) - Overture (Allegro) - Meno mosso e moderato - Allegro - Fuga

18' 52"

- Finale 9' 15"

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


Luogo e data di registrazione
Théâtre Vevey, Vevey (Svizzera) - 11-19 aprile 1969

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Engineer
Vittorio Negri | Willem van Leewev (Op. 130), Tny Buczynski (Op. 133)

Prima Edizione LP
Philips | 839 795 | 1 LP | (p) 1969

Prima Edizione CD
Philips | 426 050-2 | 4 CDs - 63' 45" - 62' 00" - 42' 22" - 47' 10" - (2*, 1-6, 7) | (c) 1989 | ADD


In spite of its opus number Beethoven’s B flat quartet Op. 130, written in 1825, followed Op. 127 and op. 132 as the third of his last five and greatest string quartets. The three together were written to fulfill a commission in 1822 by the Russian patron af the arts, Prince Nicolas Galitsin, but they were by no means intended as a set and Op. 130 is much better regarded as the centrepiece of a triptych made up of Op. 132, Op. 130, and Op. 131 in that order.
Everthing points to their artistic unity. They have a close thematic relationship as a result of Beethoven’s obsession, at that time, with the four upper notes of the minor scale in almost “serial” experiments. We find them, for instance, rearranged round the interval of a sixth as both the opening thematic germ cell of Op. 132 and the opening motto of Op. 130’s original finale, the “Grosse Fuge”, and together they pervade the subject of the opening fugue of Op. 131.
Those who regard this as coincidence have other coincidences to explain – the “ABC” sequence of quartet key signatures (A minor, B flat, and C sharp minor) and the fact that the quartets contain respectively five, six, and seven movements. In addition the sketches for Op. 132 and Op. 130 are inextricably mixed and there is evidence that the “Alla danza tedesca” of op. 130 was originally conceived as part of Op. 132.
The original sixth movement of op. 130, as we have already mentioned, was the “Grosse Fuge” and in this form the quartet was first performed in March 21, 1826 by the Rasumovsky Quartet under Ignaz Schuppanzigh.
However, this mammoth finale, with its immense technical difficulties, made a quartet of unprecedented lenght and imposed an immense strain on the executants in live performance. As a result Beethoven, at the earnest request of his publisher Artaria and on the advice of some of his close friends, agreed to write a subistitute finale and to publish the “Grosse Fuge” separately as Op. 133. The substitute finale, written in November 1826, was in fact Beethoven’s last complete composition.
In this recording the “Grosse Fuge” has been restored to its rightful place as the finale, with lighter substitute added so that those who wish to play this version may still do so. The reasons are simple. In the late nineteenth century, the last quartets, particularly Op. 130 in its original form, came to be regarded as almost superhuman works, full of mystical significance which were somohow beyond mortal comprehension. Fortunately those days are gone. Beethoven agreed to the change for very human reasons – because Artaria made it well worth his while financially. It is also worth noting that Schuppanzigh was against any change and that the technical aesthetic demands of the “Grosse Fuge” did not stop Op. 130’s première from being a great success – so much so that the second and fourth movement’s had to be repeated.

Note for score readers
The basic score used in this recorded performance by the Quartetto Italiano, was the Universqal Edition (based on the first edition of the original version). Jowever, in the first violin part of the substituted finale, at bars 98 and 99 (the poco ritardando after tghe double-bar of the exposition) the F sharp of the Peters edition has been preferred to the F natural Universal.
First movement: There are three short but important themes. First is an introductory Adagio theme (with a prominent rising sixth) stated immediately. They main theme (Allegro) is made up of two simple rhythmic elements – a short drumming motif and a semiquaver figure which forms a cascading accompaniment. The Allegro subject bursts impulsively in on the introduction and is checked for a reappearance of the Adagio theme before the exposition proper begins. The semiquaver figure “escorts” the second subject which emerges eventually in G flat and is, in fact, constructed from the Adagio theme beginning with the rising sixth. After the exposition thedramatic dialogue of Adagio and Allegro is resumed taking the main thematic elements through the keys of G flat, F sharp minor, D flat, and D major. The two Allegro subject are featured in the brief, quiet development against a rocking rhythm derived from the Adagio. In the recapitulation the second subject appears in D flat before settling into the tonic. The Adagio/Allegro alternation returns in the coda and we are left with echoes of the main theme.
Second movement: A simple scherzo and trio which scurry by like Alice’s White Rabbit.
The scherzo worries along in B flat minor and the agitation increases in the trio despite a move to the tonic major.
Third movement: A gracious Andante in D flat employing sonata form without a formal development. The main theme in D flat is presented by the viola and taken up by the first violin. A brief pizzicato suffices to take us to the equally gracious second subject in A flat. The main theme reappears briefly in canon on the violins in C major before Beethoven develops from previous material a rocking little codetta theme in A flat which helps to lead back eventually to the main theme for the recapitulation. When we reach the long coda, with an upward flourish on the first violin, we find it is one of Beethoven’s terminal “developments” which ends finally with the codetta theme.
Fourth movement: Inscribed “Alla danza tedesca” (in the style of a German dance) this G major movement is in ternary form. The waltz-like main theme is in two sections each repeated. Then follows the central section which modulates to C major and E minor. The main theme then reappears but instead of being repeated is continued in ornamented variation on the first violin. It then becomes fragmented in a conversational coda.
Fifth movement: Of the second slow movement, a Cavatina in E flat, Beethoven said he had never written a melody that moved him on much. The overall structure is again ternary but within that these is a miraculous flowering and unfolding of the melody in which a sixth again plays an important role. Imperceptibly what amounts to a new melody emerges with all the characteristics of the original. The unfolding continues until we find ourselves in C flat, in which the variant theme breaks down in sobbing fragments before the theme returns in its original form in the tonic.
Original sixth movement (“Grosse Fuge” Op. 133): This overwhelming finale is basically an instrumental drama merging fugue and variation form in which there is reconciliation of the basic contrast of two fugal subjects. One of those is an all-pervading eight-note motto theme built on a rising sixth with antecedents not only in the first movement but also in Op. 132.
Beethoven begins with an “Overtura” to introduce the motto briefly in the four main guises i twill take in the main sections of the movement. They are in reverse order of appearance so that the last returns immediately as the secondary subject in an awesome double fugue against a powerful, jaggedly rhuthmic princilap subject. We move to G flat for Section 2 (Meno mosso e moderato). Here the motto is more firmly felt against the flowing semiquavers of the principal subject. In section 3 (Allegro molto e con brio) the motto entery in E flat in a skittish 6/8, only to give way to a jaunty, cheerful tune, whose rhythm is subtly maintained in the fugue that follows in A flat. The motto is now the principal subject on the cello (in the augmented form with a final trill that began the “Overtura”) and the other is simply based on an inversion of the first three notes (with the sixth falling). Emphasis shifts to the motto’s trill while the sixth figure expands into contnuously bustling quavers. The motto soon emerges again, telescoped this time, while the quavers give birth to a short leaping octave figure. The music halts trembling on the trill before moving to E flat. The leaping motive related to the motto then vies with a variant of the first fugue’s main subject. The condensed motto and its inversion then dramatically enter in A flat to take up the fight. They prevail and as the music broadens we find outselves back in a Meno mosso recalling the second fugue. Trembling chords lead back to the cheerful con brio in E flat and this in turn leads back to the serene and gentle reconciliation of the motto (pizzicato) and its fugal rival. All seems over but Beethoven now recalls briefly before the final bars the characters in the drama – the first fugue subjects, the Meno mosso subject, the augmentd motto which opened the movement, the motto opening of the con brio and finally the trilling tailpiece.
Substitute sixth movement (Nov. 1826): The cheerful, bucolic main theme, opening initially in C minor seems intent on evading as much as possible its home key of B flat. The long bridge takes us regularly to F major and builds up high expectations, but only a vestigial little second subject derived from the main theme emerges. We move to the codetta with melodic unison in the inner parts, and all seems over. Then, when the development seems to have started we move into A flat and find a broad new theme all the more splendid for its unexpectedness. From it emerges a four-note motif (with a rising sixth) reminiscent of the “Grosse Fuge” motto and this soars on the violins as we move into the development proper. In the recapitulation the new theme is recalled in E flat before settling into the tonic. The main theme then returns yet again to lead into the coda.
A. David Hogarth