Beethoven 1823


In 1823 it was Prince Galitzin who would mention the first string quartet that he had commissioned from Beethoven, for the last time in this year, namely in his letter to Beethoven of November 29, 1823.  On the one hand, he was very anxious to receive it while he, on the other hand, also knew that Beethoven's genius could not be forced.  Consequently, he merely asked Beethoven to think of him when his genius would take hold of him.  

From the relevant section of our Biographical Pages, and from our respective, in-depth creation histories to op. 124 and op. 125, we are, in general, familiar with Beethoven's occupation and life circumstances in late 1823 and early 1824.  

Perhaps it would also be interesting and relevant to take a brief look at Beethoven's correspondence up to the time when, in 1824, he would first mention the new string quartet, again: 

That Beethoven, in spite ass Beethoven of all of these activities, did not entirely forget the new string quartet that Prince Galitzin had commissioned from him [and for which he might already have had some ideas stored in his head] can be seen from his March 18, 124, letter to Schott in Mainz, with which he offered this work that he had not even begun, yet, to this publisher and with respect to which he would come to favorable terms with them, for a fee of 50 ducats.  [We will discuss this again in our summary of the publication history of op. 127]. 

The questions we should concentrate on now are the following: 

To arrive at answers to the first two questions, we can mainly consult Thayer-Forbes and Barry Cooper.   As TF reports,

"The main composition of the year 1824 was the Quartet in E-flat, Op. 127, the history of which is inevitably wound up with the history of Prince Galitzin's request to Beethoven for three string quartets.  The story is now taken up from where it was left off, at the end of the chapter for the year 1822.  First, the time schedule of composition.  Ideas for the work were probably in the composer's head when he offered a quartet to Peters in June, 1822.  The invitation from Galitzin in November, 1822 undoubtedly spurred the work forward, and in January, 1823, Beethoven agreed to write some string quartets.  Then the composition and performance of the Ninth Symphony delayed work until the summer of 1824.  The main work was done in the second half of 1824, and the beginning of 1825, and the work was first performed on March 6, 1825. . . . " [TF: 923-924].

Cooper [p. 301-302] also refers to Galitzin's commission and to the fact that this must have been "remarkably consistent" with Beethoven's own intentions, since already in June, 1822, he had offered a quartet to Peters in Leipzig and that the three quartets that Galitzin had commissioned were added to his list of planned compositions.  However, as Cooper further points out, no sketches to a first quartet from before 1824 have survived.

Solomon [p. 267] also briefly mentions that op. 127 "was largely composed during the second half of 1824, and was completed in the following year."

TF [p. 971] lists op. 127 as having been completed in 1825.

The time frame that we are able to establish within which Beethoven would work on op. 127 now allows us to take a look at the general circumstances of his life during this period.

TF [p. 913] reports that already during his preparation for the May 1824 concerts, Beethoven made plans for his summer sojourn and that Schindler helped him with that.  Grinzing, Heilidgenstadt, Penzing, Breitensee, Hietzing and Hetzendorf were the places he could choose from, and he ultimately rented accommodations from a landlord named Hörr in Penzing, for a fee of 180 florins.  Hörr was delighted to have such a famous tenant and got the rooms ready to suit the composer's needs. Beethoven moved in right after the last May concert.  As TF further reports: 

" . . . An old couple lived in the parterre, but otherwise he was the only tenant of the house.  But the house lay close to a footbridge over the little stream called the Wien-Fluss and people crossing it frequently stopped to gaze into his rooms.  He could have saved himself the annoyance by drawing the curtains, but instead he flew into a rage, quarrelled with his landlord, against whom he recorded his anger by scrawling "Schurke" [rogue, wretch, scoundrel, etc.] under his name on the receipt, and removing to Baden (Gutenbrunn)" [TF: 913].

As TF (p. 914) continues, Beethoven must already have been in Baden on May 27, since under that date, he wrote a letter to Steiner and that, once again, Beethoven paid rent for three lodgings.  TF writes that he stayed in Baden until November, 1824.  

During the summer, his nephew Karl is reported by TF [p. 917] as having visited him in Baden and that in a conversation book of that time, there is an entry according to which Karl told Beethoven of his actual "dream job'', namely that of a soldier.  Beethoven is also reported has having worried about Karl's studies.  On August 1, 1824, Beethoven wrote to his lawyer friend, Dr. Bach, that: 

Beethoven's Grandfather Louis van Beethoven

Beethoven 1823


  • I think that I might have a stroke some day, like my worthy grandfather whom I take after;

  • Karl is and remains the sole heir of all that I have and that may be found after my death.  However, since one must leave something to one's relatives, even when they are quite uncongenial, my brother is to receive my French piano from Paris.

He was also relieved that soon he would be able to pay back his debts with Steiner and the loan to the Brentanos in Frankfurt.  

As visitors in Baden, TF [p. 918], for September 1824, mentions Andreas and Nanette Streicher.  Streicher made suggestions for the improvement of Beethoven's financial situation, such as subscription concerts for the upcoming winter season and the publication of his collected works.  In this way, Beethoven was to earn 14,000 to 15,000 florins.  Streicher also suggested to publish a piano reduction of the Missa solemnis.  

According to TF  [p. 919-920], at the end of September, Beethoven had a visitor from London, J.A. Stumpff, whom he welcomed heartily.  This was not the Stumpff who had come in 1818 to tune the Broadwood piano, but the harp manufacturer  Stumpff who, after having been told by Beehoven that he revered Handel above all other composers, in late 1826, sent him the complete edition of Handel's works.  TF also reports that Carl Czerny visited Beethoven at Baden.  

In the last month of his stay in Baden, as TF [p. 921-922] reports, Beethoven again worried about Karl and the kind of friends he had, which also found reflection in one of the conversation books.  

At the beginning of November, as TF [p. 922] reports, Beethoven returned to Vienna and rented an apartment at 969 Johannisgasse, from a family named Kletschka.  Soon, he quarrelled with them and was told to leave, since he played his out-of-tune piano very loudly.  It is not clear, however, where he lived during the winter.  TF finds it improbable that Beethoven would have rented 2 apartments.  Perhaps, he moved into the Krugerstrasse apartment and later retuned to the Johannisgasse apartment.  Both Rellstab and Gerhard von Breuning report Beethoven as living in the Krugerstrasse, while on APril 25, Beethoven wrote to DR. Braunhofer from the Johannisgasse. 

As TF [p. 929] reports, on December 24, 1824, Charles Neate wrote to Beethoven, extending an invitation to him to tome to England, on behalf of the Philharmonic Society, and wrote that:

  • he was offered by them a fee of 300 guineas for conducting a concert and for bringing a new symphony and a new concerto with him;

  • Beethoven could also give a concert, himself and earn another 500 Pounds;

  • there were still other profitable opportunities that could earn him another 100 Pounds or more, so that he would bring home a lot of money. 

Neate told Beethoven that op. 125 had arrived and that its first rehearsal would be held on January 17, 1825, and that he hoped that Beethoven would come to conduct its first performance.  

As TF [p. 930] writes, Beethoven replied to Neate on January 15,  1825 and:

  • asked for another 100 guineas for travel expenses, since he would have to buy a coach and would need to take a travel companion with him;

  • asked for the name of the inn at which he would be staying in London;

  • wrote that he would bring along a new quartet [op. 127!];

  • gave some advice for the rehearsal of op. 125;

  • asked for a quick reply to his letter.

TF [p. 930] writes that Neate's February 1, 1825 reply conferred that: 

  • He had conveyed the content of Beethoven's reply to the Philharmonic Society;

  • he personally would give Beethoven the additional 100 Guineas;

  • he hoped that Beethoven could come.

As TF [p. 931] continues, Beethoven again pondered whether to take the journey or not and that his friends advised in favor of going, as did his nephew Karl.  His brother Johann added that the journey would also be good for Beethoven's health.  Schuppanzigh and the young Streicher were discussed as travel companions.  However, Beethoven's doubts won:  On March 19, 1825, he replied that he would come some other time, perhaps in the fall.  From then on, there would be no further mention of any London travel plans.   

Let us now turn to answering the next question, namely that of all circumstances and details regarding the first performances of op. 127.



With respect to these, TF [p. 937] reports that the story of the first performances of op. 127 and the events preceding and surrounding them were described in detail by Alfred Eber in Die Ersten Aufführungen von Beethovens Es-dur Quartett (Op. 127) im Frühling 1825 in DM, Bd. 9, No. 13 (1910), p. 42-63 and p. 90-106.  TF then summarizes them and first points out that in January 1825, Ignaz Schuppanzigh had started yet another subscription series and that he was keen on the possibility of his quartet ensemble's [consisting of himself, playing the first violin, Holz the second, Weiss the viola and Linke the cello] playing op. 127 for the first time in the opening concert.  In the conversation book of that time, he wrote:   

"If he (Beethoven) has a mind to hand me the quartet for a performance, that is, so I can make it known, there may be a big difference in my present subscription.


In E-flat


He allows me then to be the one to make it known?" [TF: 938].

To Schuppanzigh's joy, Beethoven said 'yes'.  To this, TF notes that Schuppanzigh might have assumed that the quartet was already completed, since, on January 20th, the following advertisement was printed in  Bäuerle's Theaterzeitung:

    "The famous musical artist Herr Schuppanzigh will continue his popular quartet performances but in the small Vereinssaal beim roten Igel.  The first concert is on Sunday, January 23; the most distinguished of the new musical works are: the new renowned double quartet by L. Spohr as introduction, a new quintet [sic!] by Ludw. van Beethoven (still in manuscript) and in conclusion by common request the most famous and popular Septet by the same artist" [TF: 938].

As TF continues, Schuppanzigh undoubtedly had this inserted into the paper so soon since he knew how quickly Beethoven could change his mind and that his fear was well-founded.  Urged by his brother Johann and by his nephew Karl, Beethoven promised the quartet to Linke for his benefit concert.  TF writes that the conflict was discussed, and Beethoven was talked into giving the quartet to Linke first and to then let Schuppanzigh play it as often as he liked.  Schuppanzigh was then invited for lunch to be told as much.  In the conversation book, Schuppanzigh wrote:  

"This affair with the quartet is accursed.


That doesn't matter; he can also give it to Linke.  His music can be heard more often than once.


I wouldn't say anything if it were not already in the newspaper.


I cannot call it off.


He makes nothing of it.


Linke has said nothing about it to me.  If he had spoken to me I would not have asked him for it.


I have said it myself to Linke and he hasn't said a word about it.

But he certainly hasn't promised him because that isn't his habit; he has perhaps given him a half-consent, still that is not yet a solemn promise.


I recall that Linke spoke to me of the quartet in A Minor which is supposed to be concertante for the cello.


It is no disadvantage for Linke if he gives it to him now too" [TF: 938-939].

    As TF [p. 939] continues, Schuppanzigh prevailed and talked Beethoven into giving him the quartet while Linke was promised the quartet in A-minor, which was then realized in the fall of 1825.    In the meantime, however, Linke was dissatisfied and blamed Schuppanzigh for the course of events.  As TF reports, in mid-January, op. 127 was not entirely ready yet, so that Schuppanzigh had to perform op. 95 at the concert instead of the new quartet.  

As TF writes, in January and February, Beethoven also discussed other concert plans for this spring at which some of his works should be performed, and in the context of which Schuppanzigh was to play an important role.   Karl, who always seemed to be against Schupannzigh, favored Piringer, the leader of the Concerts spirituels:  

 "Piringer demands nothing.--And you must give Schuppanzigh a third of the total of all those concerts" [TF: 939].

According to TF, Beethoven's circle also discussed concert program[s] and venues.  In the meantime, Schuppanzigh not only had to worry about rehearsals for the first concert [with op. 127] that would never be realized, but also about the delay in receiving from Beethoven the manuscript to op. 127 for the concert of March 6th: "How is the quartet getting on?" [TF: 939].


Ignaz Schuppanzigh


As TF stresses, no conversation books from this time to the time of the concert have survived that could tell us when Schuppanzigh might have received the parts to op. 127.  However, TF mentions a letter by Beethoven to the violinist in which he wrote that he could have the quartet from now on until the second Sunday.  Let us look at the original text of this letter in the Henle Gesamtausgabe:  

"Beethoven an Ignaz Schuppanzigh

                                                         [Wien, zwischen dem 21. und 26. Februar 1825][1]

Bester Mylord!

von heute an den 2ten Sonntag könnt ihr das quartett[2] aufführen, eher war es nicht mögl.[ich],[3] da ich zu sehr überhäuft bin mit anderm, welches nur ein Copist schreiben kann,[4] und überhaupt meine nicht glänzende Lage, welche mich nur das nöthigste ergreifen heischt, ist auch Schuld -- das quartett wird Unnerdessen vor langer Zeit nicht heraus kommen, u. bleibt ihm also hier in loco allein

    von den Akdademien hat er nichts hören lassen, u. so wird man auch nichts hören[5] --

Lebt wohl

    sobald meine Maschine fertig ist, wodurch ihr ganz gemächlich herauf in den 4ten Stock zu mir transportirt werden könnt, werde ich euch's zu wissen Machen[6] --

Al sginore Milord stimatissimo Nominato Scuppanzig grand uomo della citta da Vienna"

"Beethoven to Ignaz Schuppanzigh

                                                         [Vienna, between February 21 and 26, 1825][1]

Best Mylord!

from today to the 2nd Sunday you can perform the quartett[2], it was not possible, sooner[3], since I am burdened too much with other items that only a  copyist can write,[4] and, in general, my none too brilliant situation, which urges me to only deal with the most urgent matters, is at fault--in the meantime, the quartet will not be published for a long time, so that it remains here for him alone,  in loco

    of the  academies he did not convey anything, and therefore, one will not hear anything[5] --


    as soon as my machine will be finished, with which you can be transported quite easily up to the 4th floor, I will let you know[6] --

Al sginore Milord stimatissimo Nominato Scuppanzig grand uomo della citta da Vienna"

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter no. 1939, p. 31-32; Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [1]: according to the GA, this refers to the fact that op. 127 was first performed on Sunday, March 6, 1825; to [2]: refers to op. 127; to [3]: refers to the fact that Schuppanzigh had already announced the first performance of op. 127 for February 23, 1825; to [4]: refers to the fact that Beethoven was busy with correcting material for the Niederrheinische Music Festival that Ries directed; to [5]: refers to additional 'academy' plans of Beethoven during this time; to [6]: according to the GA, during this winter, Beethoven lived in the Johannisgasse on the 4th floor; details taken from p. 32]. 

Since the March 6th concert took place on a Sunday, according to TF, this could mean that the quartet was given to Schuppanzigh less than two weeks before.  In any case, in light of the events of the March 6th concert and in light of subsequent events it becomes clear that Schuppanzigh did not have enough time to thoroughly study and rehearse this difficult new work.  As TF stresses, Beethoven was very concerned with the success of the first performance of op. 127 and drafted a humorous document which he sent to the players.  It was written in another handwriting than Beethoven's, but signed by him, followed by the signatures in pencil of the musicians: 

"Best ones!

    Each one is herewith given his part and is bound by oath and indeed pledged on his honor to do his best, to distinguish himself and to vie each with the other in excellence.

Each one who takes part in the affair in question is to sign this sheet.

Schuppanzigh                                                                           Beethoven


Linke                                                                                             Schindler secretarius

The grand master's accursed violoncello.


The last, but only in signing" [TF: 940].

    As TF reports, the concert of March 6th was disappointing.  Neither players nor the audience had understood the music and the work did not succeed.   Schuppanzigh was made responsible for this turn of events, and his patience was certainly tested by Beethoven's admonishments of him, and probably also by the composer's resolution to have someone else direct the next performance of the new quartet.  Schuppanzigh, writes TF, defended himself as well as he could, but might have been particularly irritated by Beethoven's quoting his brother Johann's impression of the concert, thus the impression of a musical ignorant.   He, Schuppanzigh, wanted to play the work a second time, but also told Beethoven that he was not opposed to the quartet being given to  Böhm.  However, as TF continues,  Schuppanzigh protested against being blamed entirely for the lack of success of the first performance of the quartet.  TF admits that Schuppanzigh might very well have been capable of grasping the work's technical difficulties, but also stated that he might have had difficulties in understanding the spirit of the work; TF also states that the ensemble did not work very well together and that, due to this reason and due to the lack of proper rehearsal time, success could not be achieved.  Beethoven decided that Böhm was to lead the next performance, and that, although Schuppanzigh did not protest against that decision, he might have held a grudge against Beethoven for some time. 

  As TF explains, during Schuppanzigh's long years of absence from Vienna, Joseph Böhm had taken over the leadership of the quartet and that he described subsequent events as follows: 

" . . . The affair did not come off well.  Schuppanzigh, who played first violin, was wary from much rehearsing, there was no finish in the performance, the quartet did not appeal to him, he was not well disposed towards the performance and the quartet did not please.  Few were moved, it was a weak succes d'estime.

    When Beethoven learned of this--for he was not present at the performance--he became furious and let both performers and the public in for some harsh words.  Beethoven could have no peace until the disgrace was wiped off.  He sent for me first thing in the morning.--In his usual curt way, he said to me.  "You must play my quartet"--and the thing was settled.--Neither objections nor doubts could prevail; what Beethoven wanted had to take place, so I undertook the difficult task.--It was studied industriously and rehearsed frequently under Beethoven's own eyes:  I said eyes intentionally, for the unhappy man was so deaf that he could no longer hear the heavenly sound of his compositions.  And yet rehearsing in his presence was not easy.  With close attention his eyes followed the bows and therefore he was able to judge the smallest fluctuations in tempo or rhythm and correct them immediately.  At the close of the last movement of this quartet there occurred a meno vivace, which seemed to me to weaken the general effect.  At the rehearsal, therefore, I advised that the original tempo to be maintained, which was one, to the betterment of the effect. 

    Beethoven, crouched in a corner, heard nothing, but watched with strained attention.  After the last stroke of the bows he said, laconically, "Let it remain so, "went to the desks and crossed out the meno vivace in the four parts.  The quartet was performed finally and received with a real storm of applause.  Now Beethoven was satisfied" [TF: 940-941].

      Steiner who is reported by TF as having been present at one or more rehearsals of the quartet, was completely enthralled by op. 127 so that he offered him 60 ducats for it, a fact that Beethoven did not withhold from his publisher Schott in Mainz when he sent the manuscript to the latter.  TF further reports that Böhm performed the work with the players of the Schuppanzigh Quartet three times:  once for a small audience and twice, a few days later, for a larger audience at an evening concert on March 23, 1825.  After that,   Böhm asked Beethoven if he could borrow op. 127 for a benefit concert of his own, which, in TF's opinion, was certainly deserved.   TF then refers to the report of April 28th in Bäuerle's Theaterzeitung on Schuppanzigh's recital [the details of which we are already familiar with] and on Böhm's recital that follows here:  

" . . . then a steadfast patron of art and noble connoisseur brought about a new performance of this quartet by the above named man with the substitution for the first violin of Herr Prof. Böhm, since this group in the meantime had played the new quartet for a small group of art lovers with particular success.  This professor now performed the wonderful quartet, twice over on the same evening, for the same very numerous company of artists and connoisseurs in a way that left nothing to be desired, the misty veil disappeared and the splendid work of art radiated its dazzling glory.  Although Prof. Böhm had a lighter touch, yet this composition was heard from a master; if it was also imperfect yet it was so performed that one had to recognize an artist familiar with Beethoven's spirit; but he has provided a productive growth to his fame though the playing three times of this uncommonly difficult quartet.  Such artistic trials of strength are the greatest gain for the art especially if, as here, the loser himself doesn't yield' for every impartial person must confess that Herr Schuppanzigh could not play this composition better in so short a time, whether he should not or could not have postponed that performance is another question which may be answered by someone better informed, if he dares to do so" [TF: 941].

As TF summarizes, op. 127 was played once by Schuppanzigh, three times by Böhm and once more by the latter in his own benefit concert at the beginning of APril, and on April 15th and at the end of April by Joseph Mayseder who performed the work with his own musicians in a private circle in the house of Dembschers, a civil servant of the Austrian War Ministry.  By now, the quartet had earned an excellent reputation, so that Beethoven could turn to the composition of his next quartet, with ease.  



In order to embark on this, we should track back to some extent, namely to TF's reference of the correspondence between Beethoven and Prince Galitzin that we already discussed in our Commission page.  From it, we know that Galitzin's first dispatch of 50 gold ducats that was intended as payment for the 1st string quartet that he commissioned from Beethoven, was ultimately accredited to the Missa solemnis, for Galitzin's own subscription of a copy of it.  From our extensive Creation History to the Missa solemnis we also know that Beethoven's correspondence with Galitzin of 1824 first dealt with the St. Petersburg premiere of the great Mass.  With respect to this, TF [p. 925] refers to Prince Galitzin's report to Beethoven of April 8, 1824 and to Beethoven's reply of May 26, 1824.  

As TF [p. 927] continues, Galitzin replied to this letter on June 16, 1824, and discussed further details of the Missa solemnis subscription and in his next letter to Beethoven, he recommended to him that he should take advantage of the present favorable situation and travel.  As TF reports, Galitzin still wrote two more letter to Beethoven in 1824, of which only the second, namely that of December 5, 1824, has been preserved: 

"As regards the quartet, he announced that 50 ducats were being remitted to Count von Lebzeltern, Minister of Austria, for remittance to Beethoven, after a delay which was not of his own making, and that Beethoven could expect it soon.  This then was the second payment of 50 ducats and was specifically for the first quartet.  . . . [TF: 927].

However, let us also present relevant passages from the original letter: 

"Fürst Nikolaus Galitzin an Beethoven

                                                                                         [St. Petersbburg, 5. Dezember 1824]

Mon cher et digne Monsieur de Beethoven!

    Jai reçu votre derniére lettre[1] a mon retour d'un long voyage que j'ai fait dans l'interieur du pays, et depuis mon retour j'ai  été témoin d'une inondation qui a failli submerger tout Petersbourg.[2]  Tout cèla fait que j'ai tarde longtems à vous répondre, et j'en suis d'autant plus faché que ma réponse doit vous apporter un secours que je suis enchante de pouvoir vous transmettre mais qui'il n'a pas dependu de moi de vous faire parvenir plustot. -- Je remets  à M. Le Comte de Lebzeltern[3] ministre d'autriche la Somme de 50 # pour vous  étre remise, et vous l'aurez j'espére bientôt. -- . . . -- Je ne saurais vous exprimer combine j'attends avec impatience le premier des quatuors.[4] . . .

Agrées l'expression de mon bien sincère attachement

                                                                                               P. Nicolas Galitzin

S. Petersbourg 5 Decembre 1824"

"My dear and worthy Herr van Beethoven!

    I received your last letter upon my return from a long journey to the interior of the country, and after that, I was faced with the flood of the entire city of St. Petersburg.  All that resulted in my replying to you late, and I am annoyed at the fact that my reply can only bring you the help that I am glad to be able to give you, now.  However, it was not may fault that this can only happen so late.--I have transferred the sum of 50 ducats to the Austrian Minister, Count Lebzeltern, to be forwarded to you, and you should receive it, soon.-- . . . -- I can not convey to you the impatience with which I am awaiting your first quartet. . . . 

Please accept my expression of my sincere devotion to you. 

                                                                                            Prince Nicolas Galitzin

St. Petersburg, the 5th of December, 1824" 

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1907, p. 391-392; Original:  Vienna, Wiener Beethoven-Gesellsschaft; to [1]: refers to the GA statement that this letter has not been preserved and that it was probably written at the end of August, 1824, and that it probably contained an invitation to the subscription of the Missa solemnis in French; to [2]: refers to the flooding of the Neva river on November 18 and 19, 1824; to [3]: refers to Count Ludwig von Lebzeltern [1774-1854], who, from 1816 to the end of 1825, served as extraordinary emissary and Austrian Minister in St. Petersburg; to [4]: refers to op. 127; details taken from p. 392].

TF [p. 927] further reports that Beethoven sent the quartet to Prince Galitzin at the end of 8124.  With respect to this, it might be interesting to take a look at  the GA listing of Beethoven's letter to Galitzin of December 18, 1824:  

"Beethoven an Fürst NIkolaus Galiztin in St. Petersburg

                                                                                                [Wien, 18. Dezember 1824]

[Laut GA zeigt Beethoven an, dass in 14 Tagen das erste für den Fürsten komponierte Quartett, op. 127, übersandt wird[1].

"Beethoven to Prince Nicolas Galitzin in St. Petersburg

                                                                                                [Vienna, December 18, 1824]

[According to the GA, Beethoven indicated that he would send the quartet off within the next fourteen days[1].

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No.. 1913a, p. 398; Original: not known, derived from the description in Nohl II, p. 272; to [1]: GA reference to the fact that Beethoven only sent the quartet to Russia in March, 1825, detail taken from p. 398].  

Thus we learn from the GA quote that the quartet was only sent off to Russia in March, 1825, which corresponds with the delay of the completion of the manuscript[s], which also had an effect on the delay of the first performance of the work and its postponement until March 6, 1825.  

As TF [p. 927] further reports, Prince Galitzin confirmed receipt of the quartet with his letter to Beethoven of April 29, 1825, and that he wrote of having played the work, several times.  Let us take a look at the relevant passages from the original text: 

"Fürst Nikolaus Galitzin an Beethoven

                                                                                          [St. Petersburg, 29. April 1825]

  J'ai bien des remercimens a vous faire, digne Monsieur de Beethoven, pour le precieux envoi que vous m'avez fait du Sublime quatuor que je viens de recevoir.[1]  Je l'ai deja fair executer plusieurs fois et j'y reconnais tout le genie du maitre, et quand l'execution en sera plus parfaite, le charme sera encore bien plus grand. -- . . . "

"I have to express to you, worthy Herr van Beethoven, my gratitude for the valuable dispatch to me of the sublime quartet that I have received.  I have played it several times and recognized the entire genius of the master, and once the execution of it will become better, its charm will be even greater.--  . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 6, Letter No. 1962, p. 57-58; Original:  Vienna, Wiener Beethoven-Gesellschaft; to [1]: refers to op. 127, which Beethoven had sent to Galitzin in March, 1825.  According to the GA, he sent a copy of the parts that has not been preserved; detail taken from p. 57].

From Galitzin's reply we learn that he was able to play op. 127 for the first few times at about the same time at which some of the first performances of it took place in Vienna.  It is interesting to note that Prince Galitzin did not refer to any difficulties in the work but rather pointed out that, with more practice, its full charm would unfold.  



Here, we have to track back to some extent. With respect to Beethoven's early contacts with publishers regarding the possible marketing of a new string quartet, we refer you to our last page in this section on Beethoven's return to this compositional genre in the year 1822, in which we also discuss Prince Galitzin's commission:  

Beethoven's Return to this Compositional Genre,
Prince Galitzin's Commission of the Year 1822
and the Beethoven's Delays during 1823

From this we can see that in the year 1822, Beethoven carried on unsuccessful negotiations with the Leipzig publisher Carl Friedrich Peters. 

As one more preliminary 'aside' we can also refer to the fact that, according to the GA, in February 1824, Beethoven attempted to also market his new brain children, the Galitzin string quartets, in France:  

"Beethoven an Maurice Schlesinger in Paris

                                                                                       [Wien 25. Februar 1824][1]

Euer W[ohlgebohren]*

. . . Später erhalten Sie auch neue Quartetten doch müssen zuförderst diese[leben hervorge]bracht*[11] seyn. . . . "

"Beethoven to Maurice Schlesinger in Paris

                                                                                    [Vienna, February 25,1824][1]

Your W[ell-born]*

. . . Later, you will also receive new quartets however, these have to be given precedence in publication*[11] . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1782, p. 270-271; Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Bodmer Collection; to [11]: with respect to this, the GA refers to the fact that regarding the quartets, Emily Anderson had added "[completed?]", while this appears to refer to the Missa solemnis and the Ninth Symphony; details taken from p. 271].

However, with respect to the history of the actual publication of op. 127, we have to refer to Thayer-Forbes' reports from the years 1824 to 1826.  


Bernhard Schott,
Founder of
B. Schott & Sons in Mainz


With respect to this,  TF [p. 915] reports that the Mainz publisher Schott and Sons respectively the editor of the publishers periodical, Cäcilia, which was looking for a Vienna correspondent, had written to Beethoven and indicated that he would send him a copy of the magazine.  As TF writes, this must have been before March 10, 1824, since on this date, Beethoven replied as follows:  

 "Dear Sir!
I beg of you most respectfully to give my thanks to the E[ditoria]l S[taf]f of the C[äcili]a for their attention. As for my unimportant self, how gladly would I serve them, were it not that I feel the greater calling compelling me to make myself known to the world through composition. However, I have given instruction to discover a reliable correspondent for you (which is very difficult here because of partisan feeling). If I find something noteworthy about myself (but oh heavens how difficult that is), I will be glad to have it communicated through this person; and, if you specifically require it and my almost incessant affairs allow, I will also make a communication myself--
As for my works for which you have made request, I offer you the following, but your decision must not be long in the making--a new grand solemn mass with solo voices and chorus parts and full orchestra. Difficult as it is to speak of myself, I still consider it my greatest work; the honorarium would be 1000 fl. C.M.; a new grand symphony, which closes with a finale (like my fantasy with chorus but much bigger and more extended) with vocal parts for solos and chorus with words from Schiller's immortal famous song "An die Freude." The honorarium is 600 fl. C.M. A new quartet for 2 violins, viola and violoncello, the honorarium is 50 ducats in gold.--
These matters are presented in accordance with your wishes. As the result of this report, do not judge me as commercially-minded; but as a true artist I cannot disdain competition, through it rather I am in a firm position to work faithfully for my muse and am able to provide in a noble way for many other people--Your answer concerning the works indicated would have to be made very soon.
                          Yours very truly

                                                                            Beethoven" [TF: 915-916].

With respect to this letter, let us also take a look at the relevant passage in German:  

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                                     Vien am 10ten März 1824

Euer wohlgebohrn!

    . . .

    in ansehung von neuen Werken, welche sie von mir zu haben wünschten, trage ich ihnen folgende an, . . . ein neues Quartett für 2 Violin Bratsche u. Violonschell[6] das Honor. 50 # in Gold. --

   . . .

Euer wohlgebohrn Ergebenster


An die Verlags Handlung der Cecilia in Maynz abzugeben Im Verlage der Hof-Musik-Handlung B. Schott Soehne"

[" . . . with respect to new works that you wish to have from me, I offer you the following, . . . a new quartet for 2 violins viola and violoncello[6] the fee 50 # in gold. . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1787, p. 278-281; Original:  Mainz, Archive of B. Schott's Sons; to [6]: refers to the fact that in 1823 Beethoven had accepted a commission by Prince Nicolas Galitzin for three string quartets and that he, although he hoped to deliver the first quartet already in February or March 1823, he had not yet begun to compose it at the time of writing this letter; with respect to this, the GA refers to Sieghard Brandenburg, Die Quellen zur Entstehungsgeschichte von Beeethovens Streichquartett Es-Dur op. 127, in: BJb 10 (1983) p. 112-275; detail taken from p. 281].

As TF [p. 916] continues, the publisher immediately accepted Beethoven's quartet offer:  

"B. Schott's Söhne an Beethoven

                                                                                      Mainz den 24ten Mertz 1824.

Ew. Hochwohlgebohrn Herrn Kapellmeister!

    Dero verehrtes Schreiben vom 10ten dies[1] hatten wir der Redaction der Caecilia zur Einsicht zugestellt, und beeilen uns nun auch dasjenige zu erwiedern was einzig unser Intresse anbelangt.

    So gern wir auch alle die 3 uns gütigst offerirte Manus[c]ripten[2] behielten, so ist es uns dermalen doch nicht möglich, eine so starke Ausgabe auf einmal zu machen.  Wir beschränken daher unsern Wunsch, und ersuchen Ihnen uns das Manuscript des Quartet als Eigenthum allein zum Verlag zu übergeben, wir werden die verlangte 50 Ducaten in Gold umgehend nach Empfang übermachen, oder wenn durch ein dortiges HandlungsHauss den Betrag bey Absendung des Manuscripts so gleich auf uns wollen entnehmen lassen, so werden wir prompte Zahlung leisten, und wünschten jedoch recht bald in Besitz dieses Manuscripts zu kommen.

   . . . 

Mit wahrer Hochachtung und gänzlicher Ergebenheit zeichnen Ihre bereitwillige[n] Dr[3]

                                                                                     B. Schott Söhne

Sr Hochwohlgebohrn Herrn HofKapellmeister Ludwig van Beethoven in Wien"

"B. Schott's Sons to Beethoven

                                                                                         Mainz the 24th of March, 1824.

Esteemed Herr Kapellmeister!

    We have arranged for the editor of the Caecilia to read your esteemed letter of the 10th inst.[1] and are making haste to reply to that which concerns our interests.

    As much as we would like to take the 3 manuscripts kindly offered to us[2], at this time, it is not possible for us to incur such a steep expense all at once.  Therefore, we are limiting ourselves and ask you to let us have the manuscript of the quartet as our sole property for publication; immediately upon its receipt, we will dispatch the requested 50 ducats in gold, or, if a Viennese trading house would take out the amount at the time of the dispatch of the manuscript [to us], we will arrange for prompt payment and would wish to gain possession of the manuscript very soon.

   . . . 

   With true esteem and complete devotion we are signing as your willing Dr[3]

                                                                                    B. Schott Sons

To the Esteemed Herr CourtKapellmeister Ludwig van Beethoven in Vienna"

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1797, p. 291; Original:  Berlin, Staatsbiliothek; yo 1]: refers to Letter No. 1787; to [2]: refers to op. 123, op. 125 and a string quartet; to [3]: might read "Diener"; details taken from p. 291].

In their letter to Beethoven of April 10, 1824, the publishers re-addressed the issue of payment modes for and their interest in the new string quartet:

"B. Schott's Söhne an Beethoven

                                                                                  Mainz den 10ten april 1824

Ew. Wohlgebohrn

Herr Kapellmeister!

   Nachträglich unseres Schreibens vom 24ten vor[igen] Monath's[1] wollen wir Ihnen nur noch bemerken, dass die Sicherheit unserer offerirten Zahlungen von einem dortigen Banquier Ihnen geleistet werden soll, was wir gleich nach Zustimmung ihrer Seits bewerkstelligen wollen; Sollte gegen Vermuthung die gemachte terminen Ihnen zu lange währen, so belieben Sie uns nur einen anderen angemessenen Vorschlag zu machen, so werden wir uns auch dazu bequemen müssen, da wir dero gütiges Offerte ehren, und demselben mit allen unsern Kräften für den Verlag solcher Werke zu entsprechen, uns angelegen seyn lassen werden.

Wir sehen einer geneigten baldigen Zuschrift entgegen, und empfehlen uns mit aller Zuneigung und Hochachtung

                                                                                        B Schott S

Sr Wohlgebohrn Herrn Ludwig van Beethoven

HofKapellmeister in Wien"

"B. Schott's Sons to Beethoven

                                                                                       Mainz the 10th of April 1824

Esteemed Herr Kapellmeister:

    Following up on our letter of 24th last[1] we would like to note that the security for our offered payments shall be given to you by a local [Viennese] banker, which we are willing to arrange for immediately after your agreement; should, against our expectations, the set timing appear too long to you, you may merely wish to make another suggestion, which we will have to consider, since we are valuing your kind offer, and which we, as publishers of such works, want to be equal to as much as our resources allow us to.

We are looking forward to your kind, early reply and remain, with all of our affection and respect

                                                                                           B Schott S

To the Esteemed Herr Ludwig van Beethoven

CourtKapellmeister in Vienna"

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1809, p. 300; Original: Berlin, Staatsbibliothek; to [1]: refers to Letter No. 1797; detail taken from p. 300].

After both of these letters remained unanswered, according to TF [p. 916], Schott wrote to Beethoven again on April 19 and April 27, 1824: 

"B. Schott's Söhne an Beethoven

                                                                                        Mainz den 19ten april 1824

Sr. Wohlgebohrn

Herrn HofKapellmeister L. v. Beethoven in Wien

    Wir wollen die passende Gelegenheit nicht ungenuzt lassen, um unsere 2 Briefe vom 24 merz und 10ten april[1] zu erwähnen, welche Sie hoffentlich werden erhalten haben, und worauf wir ihrer gefälligen Antwort entgegen sehen. . . . "

"B. Schott's Sons to Beethoven

                                                                                          Mainz the 19th of April, 1824

To Herr CourtKapellmeister L. v. Beethoven in Vienna

    We do not want to miss the opportunity to mention our two letters of March 24 and April 10th, which you, hopefully, will have received and with respect to which we look forward to your kind reply. . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1813, p. 303-304; Original:  Berlin, Staatsbibliothek].

"B. Schott's Söhne an Beethoven

                                                                                         Mainz, den 27 April 1824

Ew. Wohlgebohrn Herrn Kapellmeister!

   . . .

   Auf unserer beyden Briefe vom 24 Mertz und 10ten april[2] wünschen wir sehnlichst eine Rückantwort.  Wenn Sie uns das Quartet[3] nur allein, um den verstandenen Preiss überlassen, so haben Sie doch sicher einen dortigen Handelsfreund, welcher die Übersendung des Manuskripts gegen Empfang des Betrags von uns hierher besorgen wird, und wir sind in baldiger Erwartung dieses Kunstwerk's, wenn sie desshalb uns keinen andern Antrag zur dortigen Zahlung machen wollen.

   . . . 

   Wir verharren mit aller Hochachtung Ihre ergenbenste Freunde und Verehrer

                                                                                               B. Schott Söhne

Sr Wohlgebohrn Herrn Lud. van Beethoven K.H. HofKapellmeister in Wien franco"

"B. Schott's Sons to Beethoven

                                                                                           Mainz, the 27th of April, 1824

To the Esteemed Herr Kapellmeister!

   . . .

   With respect to our two letters of 24 March and 10th of April, we are awaiting a reply with eagerness.  If you will leave the quartet[3] alone to us, for the agreed price, you will surely have a local business friend who will look after sending the manuscript to us in return for the receipt of the amount, and in early anticipation of this work of art, if you, with respect to it, do not wish to make us another offer for payment there.

   . . . 

   With all of our esteem, we remain your most devoted friends and admirers

                                                                                                B. Schott Sons

To the Esteemed Herr Lud. van Beethoven R.I. CourtKapellmeister in Vienna free" 

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1819, p. 309-310; Original:  Berlin, Staatsbibliothek; to [2]: refers to Letter No. 1797 and Letter No. 1809; to [3]: refers to op. 127, which was only completed in February 1824; information taken from p. 310]. 

As TF [p. 916] continues, Beethoven finally replied on May 20, 1824, in the midst of his preparations for the second concert of this month:  

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                                     [Wien, 20. Mai 1824]

Euer wohlgebohrn!

  Es war unmöglich, ihnen eher zu antworten, da ich zu überhäuft bin.[1]  ich diess<habe durch einen Geschäftsmann diesen beygefügten Brief schreiben lassen,[2] da ich wenig bewandert in d.g., wenn ihnen diese vorschläge recht sind, so schreiben sie mir aber sehr bald, denn <zwei> andere verleger[3] wünschen jeder eins von diesen werken, ich muss aber <sorgen>sagen, dass <mich>mir die so sehr angewachsene Korrespondenz mit dem in- u. Ausland wirklich beschwerlich wird, u. ich d.g. vereinfacht wünschte--

  wegen einem quartett kann ich ihnen noch <kein>nicht sicher zusagen,[4] diese beyden werke,[5] wenn sie mir baldigst antworten, könnte ich ihnen als denn noch sicher überlassen--

. . .

ihr Ergebenster


"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                                        [Vienna, May 20th, 1824]

Esteemed Sir!

   It was impossible for me to reply to you sooner, since I am burdened too much.[1]  I had a businessman write the attached letter,[2] since I am not well-versed in such things; if you agree to these propositions, write to me very soon, since two other publishers[3] are each trying to obtain one of these works; however, I have to say that correspondence within the country and abroad is really getting cumbersome to me an I wish to see it simplified--

   With respect to my quartet I can not promise it to you, for sure,[4] these two works,[5], if you will reply to me soon, I could let you have, for sure--

. . .

Your devoted


[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No.. 1835, p. 322-323; Original:  Mainz, Stadtbibliothek; to [1]: this refers to the fact that Beethoven had left four letters by the publisher unanswered [Letters No.. 1797 of March 24, 1824, No. 1809 of April 10, 1824, No. 1813 of April 19, 1824 and No. 1819 of April 27, 1824, since he was pre-occupied with the preparations for the two academy concerts of May 7 and May 23, 1824; to [2]: refers to Letter No. Nr. 1836; to [3]: refers to the fact that at this time, Beethoven was still negotiating with Maurice Schlesinger and Heinrich Albert Probst; to[4]: refers to op. 127, the composition of which was in the very early stages; to [5]: refers to op. 123 and op. 125; details taken from p. 323].

As we can see, Beethoven was not sure, yet, if and when he would be able to deliver the quartet [see also TF, p. 916].  From the next letter by the publishers to Beethoven of May 27, 1814, we learn that they were still interested in it: 

"B. Schott's Söhne an Beethoven

                                                                                         [Mainz, 27. Mai 1824]

[Laut GA erklärt sich der Verlag mit den am 20.5.1824 (Brief 1836) vorgeschlagenen Zahlungsmodalitäten für op. 123 und op. 125 einverstanden und bewirbt sich nochmals um das schon im März angebotene Streichquartett]."

"B. Schott's Sons to Beethoven

                                                                                          [Mainz, the 27th of May, 1824]

[According to the GA, the publishers agreed to the conditions set out in Beethoven's letter of May 20, 1824 [Letter No. 1836] regarding op. 123 and op. 125 and again expressed their interest in the quartet that Beethoven had offered them in March, 1824].

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtsausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1842, p. 330; Original: not known, content derived from Letter No. 1836 and Letter No. 1848; information taken from p. 330].  

As TF [p. 916] further writes, on July 3, 1824, Beethoven finally promised the quartet to these publishers and hoped that he would be able to deliver it within six weeks:  

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                                             Vien am 3ten Jul.[1824][1]

                                               P P

   Es war mir unmöglich ihnen eher auf ihr leztes vom 27ten May[2] zu schreiben, auch jezt nur das nöthigste: ich bin bereit ihnen auch das quartett zu schicken u. zwar um das honorar von 50 #, wie ich es ihnen auch schon früher angesezt habe,[4] das quartett erhalten <koennen> Sie ganz sicher binnen 6 wochen,[5] wo ich ihnen anzeigen werde, wann sie mir das Honorar dafür übermachen können; -- . . . "

"Beethoven to Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                                            Vienna, the 3rd of Jul.[1824][1]

                                               P P

   It was impossible for me to reply to you sooner to your last of May 27th[2], now also only the most important:  I am also willing to send you the quartet, namely for the honorarium of 50 #, as I had already set out earlier[4] you will be able to receive the quartet certainly within six weeks[5], at which time I will let you know when you can send the honorarium for it;-- . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1848, p. 336-337; Original:  Mainz, Stadtbibliothek; to [1]: refers to the fact that the year can be derived from the registration note and from the content of the letter; to [2]: refers to Letter No. 1842, which has not been preserved; to [3]: refers to op. 127; to [4]: refers to Letter No. 1787 of March 10,1824; to [5]: GA-reference to the fact that the manuscript for op. 127 only went to Mainz in mid-April, 1825; details taken from p. 336-337].

TF [p. 916] comments that " . . . With an answer from Schott on July 19, the business was concluded . . .":

"B. Schott's Söhne an Beethoven

                                                                                      Mainz den 19ten Juli 1824

Herrn Lud. v. Beethoven Wohlg[eboren] in Wien

Hochgeehrtester Herr Kapellmeister!

    . . .

Da wir gemäeß ihrer zusage, auch auf das Violin Quartett nun als unser Eig[en]thum sicher zählen können,[4] so freute es uns um so mehr, dass wir solches auch in der Zeit von Sechs Wochen empfangen werden, und Sie können Sich versichert halten, daß nach dem von Ihnen bestimment Zahlungstermin solches durch die Herrn Fries & Co. eben so pünktlich geleistet werden soll. . . . "

"B. Schott's Sons to Beethoven

                                                                                        Mainz the 19th of July 1824

To the Esteemed Herr Lud. v. Beethoven in Vienna

Highly Esteemed Herr Kapellmeister!

   . . .

Since we, according to your agreement, also can consider the violin quartet as our property, for sure,[4] we are delighted all the more that we will receive the same within a period of six weeks, and you can rest assured that we will also adhere to your payment stipulations through Messrs. Fries & Co equally promptly. . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1852, p. 339-340; Original: Berlin, Staatsbibliothek; to [4]: refers to Letter No. 1848; details taken from p. 340].

With respect to his dealings with these publishers, TF still notes that they were very much to Beethoven's satisfaction and that he was very impressed by their business methods.  However, the year 1824 passed and the publishers were still waiting for the manuscripts, while Beethoven had to provide explanations for the delay.  Here the correspondence of the remainder of 1824:  

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                        Baden naechst Vien am 17ten Septemb. 1824

Euer wohlgebohrn!

. . . auch das quartett erhalten sie sicher bis hälf[t]e Oktob.[6] . . . "

"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                       Baden near Vienna on the 17th of Septemb. 1824

Esteemed Sir!

. . . also the quartet you will certainly receive by mid Octob.[6] . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1881, p. 368-369; Original:  Mainz, Staatsbibliothek; to [6]: refers to op. 127 and to the fact that the manuscript only went to Mainz in April, 1825; information taken form p. 369].

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                             Vien am 16ten Novemb 1824

Euer Wohlgebohrn!

. . . bis Ende dieses Monaths folgt auch das quartett,[3] . . . "

"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                               Vienna the 16th of Novemb 1824

Esteemed Sir!

. . . by the end of this month, the quartet[3] will also follow, . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1897, p. 383; Original:  Ira F. Brilliant, Phoenix, Arizona [with respect to this it should be noted that Ira F. Brilliant passed away in the fall of 2006]; to [3]: refers to the fact that the manuscript for op. 127 only went to Mainz in April, 1825; details taken form p. 383].

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                               [Wien, etwa 23. November 1824][1]

Euer wohlgebohrn!

. . . Sowohl wegen dem Quartett als wegen den beiden anderen Werken sorgen Sie sich nicht, bis die ersten Täge des andere Monaths wird alles abgegeben werden. . . . "

"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                                [Vienna, approximately Nov. 23, 1824][1]

Esteemed Sir!

. . . Do not worry with respect to my quartet and the other two works, by the first days of the other month, everything will have been submitted. . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1901, p. 386-387; Original:  Mainz, Stadtbibliothek; to [1]: refers to the fact that the date can be derived from the content of the letter; information taken from p. 387].

"Fries & Co. an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                               Wien den 27 Novb 1824

Herren B. Schott Söhne in Mainz

Wir empfiengen seiner Zeit Ihr Werthes vom 12 August mit dem umgeänderten Wechsel fuer f. 500 -O.[1] v. Beethoven.

Dieser Compositeur hat uns bis heute noch immer Nichts für Sie übergeben,[2] und wir haben ihn desshalb aufgefordert uns eine Erklärung zu geben.

. . .

Sobald wir eine bestimmte Antwort von Herrn v. Beethoven haven werden, theilen wir sie ihnen mit; Inzwischen zeichen wir ergebenst

                                                                                            Fries & co"

"Fries & Co. to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                                 Vienna, the 27th of November, 1824

To B. Schott Sons in Mainz

Some time ago, we received your esteemed [letter] of August 12 with the altered draft for f. 500-0.[1] v. Beethoven.

To this day, this composer has not handed over anything for you to us,[2] and therefore, we have asked us to give us an explanation.

. . .

As soon as we will have a definite answer from Herr v. Beethoven, we will let you know; In the meantime, we are signing as your most devoted

                                                                                            Fries & Co"

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No.1902, p. 388; Original:  Mainz, Archives of B. Schott's Sons; to [1]: refers to the business abbreviation "O" for "order, ordre"; to [2]: refers to the fact that the publisher had been waiting for the manuscripts for op. 123, op. 125 and op. 127 for a long time; information taken from p. 388].

"B. Schott's Söhne an Beethoven

                                                                               [Mainz, 30. November 1824]

[Laut GA drängt der Verlag auf die Ablieferung der Stichvorlagen zu op. 123, op. 125 und op. 127 . . . ]

"B. Schott's Sons to Beethoven

                                                                                 [Mainz, November 30, 1824]

[According to the GA, the publishers urged Beethoven to submit the manuscripts to op. 123, op. 125 and op. 127].

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1903; Original:  not known, content derived from Letter No. Brief Nr. 1897 and Letter No. 1909].

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                           Vien am 5ten decemb. 1824

Euer wohlgebohrn!

    Diese woche werden die werke ganz sicher bei Friess et Compag. abgegeben.[1] . . . "

"Beethoven to Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                         Vienna on the 5th of Decemb. 1824

Esteemed Sir!

    This week, the works will be submitted to Friess et Compag., for sure.[1] . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1908, p. 392-393; Original:  Mainz, Stadtbibliothek; to [1]: refers to op. 123, op. 125 and op. 127; details taken from p. 393].

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                       Vien am 17ten Decemb. 1824

Euer Wohlgebohrn!

    Ich melde ihnen, das wohl noch 8 täge dazu gehen werden, bis ich die werke abgeben kann, . . . denken sie übrigens nur nichts Böses von mir, nie habe ich etwas schlechtes begangen, ich werde ihnen zum beweise sogleich mit der abgabe der werke die Eigenthum's Schrift beyfügen[3] -- . . . "

"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                        Vienna, on the 17th of Decemb. 1824

Esteemed Sir!

    I am letting you know that it might still take 8 days before I can submit the works, . . . in any event, do not think evil of me, I have never done anything bad, to prove it, to the works, I will attach ownership certificates[3] -- . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1913, p. 397-398; Original:  Mainz, Stadtbibliothek; to [3]: refers to the fact that this did not happen and that Beethoven only signed the onwership certificates for op. 123 and op. 125 on January 22, 1825, while that for op. 127 was only prepared half a year after he had submitted the work; details taken from p. 397-398].

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                             [Wien, 29. Dezember 1824][1]

Euer Wohlgebohrn!

    Ich sage ihnen nur, das <sie> nun künftige woche die werke sicher aggegeb. werd.[en][2] -- . . . -- das quartett erhalten sie gleich mit den andern werken,[5] . . .

   Lieb waer es mir, wenn sie nun schon auch das Honorar für das quartett hieher an Friess übermachen wollten, denn ich brauche jezt <eben> gerade vi[el], da mir alles vom Auslande kommen muss, u. wohl hier u. da eine verzögerung entsteht; . . . "

"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                                [Vienna, 29th of December 1824][1]

Esteemed Sir!

     I only want to tell you that the works will now be submitted for sure, next week[2] -- . . . -- you will receive the quartet with the other works,[5] . . .

    I would appreciate it if you could now send the honorarium to Fries here, since now, I need very much since everything has to come from abroad and since delays will happen here and there; . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 5, Letter No. 1917, p. 401-403; Original:  Mainz, Stadtbibliothek; to [1]: refers to the mentioned attachment by Beethoven's brother Johann; to [5]: refers to op. 127 and to the fact that the manuscript was only sent to Mainz in April, 1825; details taken from p. 403].

TF [p. 927] reports that Schott received the Mass and the Symphony on January 18, 1825, while the quartet was still delayed.  Beethoven's following lines to the publishers of January 26, 1825, promise the quartet in '8 days, the latest': 

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                                [Wien, 26. Januar 1825][1]

Euer wohlgebohrn!

. . . -- das quartett wird in höchstens 8 taegen abgeb.[eben] da ich sehr gedrängt in ein[em] anderen Werke[13] begriffen bin -- "

"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                             [Vienna, January 26, 1825][1]

Esteemed Sir!

. . . -- the quartet will be submitted in 8 days, the latest, since at this time, I am pressed to work on another work[13]--"

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 6, Letter No. 1927, p. 15 - 17; Original: Mainz, Stadtbibliothek; to [1]: refers to the fact that the date was added by someone else; to [13]: probably refers to op. 132, since Beethoven, according to the GA, interrupted his work on op. 127 in favor of op. 132, as can be seen from sketches; details taken from p. 16-17].

On March 19, 1825, Beethoven was still not quite ready: 

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                               Wien am 19. März 1825

Euer Wohlgeboren!

. . . Das Violinquartett wird diese Tage abgegeben werden.[2]  Man hat mir vortheilhafte Anträge rücksichtlich desselben gemacht, ich aber halte Ihnen mein Wort, ohne darauf zu achten. -- . . . "

"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                                   Vienna, March 19, 1825

Esteemed Sir!

. . . The violin quartet will be submitted these days.[2] One has made advantageous offers with respect to it, but I am keeping my word without heeding them. -- . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 6, Letter No. 1949, p. 42-45; Original: Mainz, Stadtbigliothek; to [2]: refers to op. 127 and to the fact that the publishers received the manuscript to op. 127 only in April, 1825; details taken from p. 42 and p. 45].

As TF [p. 927] comments, the publisher only received the manuscript after the premiere of the quartet on March 6, 1825.  This also coincides with Beethoven's following letter:  

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                               [Wien, nach dem 19. März 1825][1]

Euer Wohlgeborhn!

. . . -- Das quartett, welches bereit liegt, wurde mir auch sehr lieb seyn, wenn es noch eine Zeitlang nicht öffentl. erschiene, man will's gar hoch ansezen mit dem quartett, Es soll das gröste u. schönste seyn ut dicunt was ich geschrieben, die besten virtuosen wetteifern hier es zu spielen[4] -- . . . "

"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                                [Vienna, after the 19th of March, 1825][1]

Esteemed Sir!

. . . -- The quartet, which is ready, [with respect to it], I would prefer if it was not published for some time, yet, one is valuing it very highly, this quartet, it is supposed to be the greatest and most beautiful one, they say, that I have written, the best virtuosos are vying to play it, here[4] -- . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briewechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 6, Letter No. 1950, p. 45-46; Original: in private hands in Germany; to [1]: refers to the dating of the letter according to its content; to [4]: refers to the fact that, after the unsuccessful premiere of the work by the Schuppanzigh Quartet on March 6, 1825, Beethoven had the work performed by Joseph Böhm with great success on March 23, 1825, and that further performances followed: on April 9 by Böhm, on April 15 by Joseph Mayseder and at the end of April again by Mayseder; details taken from p. 46].

TF [p. 927] also refers to Beethoven's letter to the Mainz publishers of May 7, 1825, which was obviously written after they had received the quartet:  

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                                   vien[, 7. Mai 1825][1]

. .. .

das quartett werden sie nun schon erhalten haben[3]  Es ist dasselbe ihnen versprochene; ich konnte hier von mehrern verlegern ein Hon. von 60# dafür haben, allein ich habe es vorgezogen, ihnen mein Wort zu halten -- . . . "

"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                                   Vienna[, May 7th, 1825][1]

. . . 

you will have received the quartet by now[3]  It is the one that I had promised to you; here, I would have been able to get a fee of 60# for it from several publishers, alone, I preferred to keep my word -- . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 6, Letter No. 1966, p. 60 - 62; Original:  Mainz, Stadtbibliothek; to [1]: refers to dating pursuant to registration note; to [3]: refers to op. 127 and to the fact that the manuscript had been sent to the publisher by mid-April, 1825; details taken from p. 61].

Before we deal with Beethoven's further correspondence with his Mainz publishers, let us take a quick look at his endeavors with respect to Great Britain to sell his new string quartet, of which op. 127 was nearing completion.  With respect to this, we refer to Beethoven's letter to Charles Neate of March 19, 1825: 

"Beethoven an Charles Neate in London

                                                                              Vienne le 19 mars 1825.

Mon tres cher ami!

   . . . -- Quant aux quatuors, dont vous m'ecrivez dans vos lettres[2], j'en ai acheve le premier[3], et je suis a present a composer le scond[4], qui, comme le troisieme[5], sera acheve dans peu de temps. Vous m'offrez 100 Guinees pour 3 quatuors,[6] je trouve cette proposition bien genereuse.  Il se demande seulement, s'il m'est permis de publier ces quatuors apres un an et demi, ou deux ans.[7]  Cest ce qui serait tres avantageuz pur mes finances.  En ce qui concerne la maniere de simplifier l'envoiement des quatuors,] et de l'argent de votre part, je vous propose de remettre les oeuvres a Mrss Fries et Compie qui tempogneront a Vous meme, ou a quelche banqiuer des Londres, d'etre possesseurs des quatuors, et qui vous les remettront aussitot apres l'arrivee de l'argent. . . . "

"Beethoven to Charles Neate in London

                                                                               Vienna, the 19th of March, 1825

My very dear friend,

    . . . -- As far as the quartets are concerned, of which you have written in your letter[2], I have completed the first one, and am composing the second one now[4], which, as the third[5], will be completed within a short time.  You have offered me 100 guineas for the 3 quartets,[6] I find this offer very generous.  The question is only whether I would be allowed to publish these quartets within one and a half or two years.[7]  This would be very advantageous to my finances.  With respect to the mode of dispatch of the quartet and the payment on your part, I suggest that the works be submitted to Messsrs. Fries & Compagnie who will pass them on to a London banker who will hold them for you and who, after his receipt of your payment, will dispatch them to you. . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 6, Letter No. 1947, p. 39-40; Original:  Ithaca, N.Y. Cornell University Library; to [2]: refers to Letter No. 1737 of September 2, 1823 and to Letter No. 1914 of December 20, 1824; to [3]: refers to op. 127; to [4]: refers to op. 132; to [5]: refers to op. 130; to [6]: refers to the fact that Neate had offered 100 pounds, not guineas; to [7]: refers to the fact that Neate had not discussed the conditions for the publication of the quartets; details taken from p. 40].

Of course, TF [p. 931] also mentions this correspondence in connection with op. 127.  

However, let us return to Beethoven's correspondence with Schott in Mainz.  At the beginning of August, 1825, Beethoven mentioned that he had already indicated to them the title and the dedicatee of op. 127:   

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                                     Baden am 2-ten august 1825

Euer wohlgebohrn!

. . . 

den titel u. dedication zur overture habe ich ihnen angezeigt,[12] so wie auch zum quartett[13] . . . "

"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                                      Baden on the 2nd of August 1825

Esteemed Sir!

. . .

the title and the dedication of the overture, I have already indicated to you,[12] as well as those for the quartet[13] . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 6, Letter No. 2022, p. 121-123; Original: Donaueschingen, Fürstlich Fürstenbergische Hofbibliothek; to [12]: refers to Letter No. 1932 of February 5, 1825; to [13]: probably refers to the letter of June 8, 1825 which has not been preserved; details taken from p. 123].

In November, 1825, Beethoven finally also sent the ownership declaration for op. 127 to Schott: 

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                                   [Wien, 25. November 1825]

Euer Wohlgeboren!

. . .

   Vieleicht haben Sie noch keine Versicherung des Eigenthums über das Quartett in Es]6] erhalten; ich füge selbe hiermit bey

   Ihr ergebener

                                                                                    Ludwig van Beethoven

    Dass die Herren B Schott Söhne ein Quartett in Es für 2 Violinen, Viola u Violoncell von mir erhalten, u. dasselbe ganz allein ihr Eigenthum sey, bestätige ich hiemit laut meiner Unterschrift.

Wien am 25. Novembr. 1825.

                                                                                    Ludwig van Beethoven

An Die Herrn B. Schott Söhne Hofmusikalienverleger in Mainz."

"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                                   [Vienna, November 25, 1825]

Esteemed Sir!

. . .

   Perhaps, you have not yet received from me reassurance regarding your ownership of the quartet in E-Flat[6]; I am attaching the same herewith

    Your devoted

                                                                                      Ludwig van Beethoven

   That the Herren B Schott Sons have received a Quartet in E-flat for 2 violins, viola and violoncello from me and that the same is their sole property I herewith confirm with my signature.

Vienna on the 25th of November, 1825.

                                                                                       Ludwig van Beethoven

To the Herren B. Schott Sons Court Music Publishers in Mainz."

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 6, Letter No. 2094; p. 188-190; Original:  Mainz, Stadtbibliothek; to [6]: refers to op. 127; details taken from p. 189-190].

After the quartet had already been with the Mainz publishers for half a year, at the end of January, 1826, Beethoven reminded them of the dedicatee and asked for several copies after the printing of the work:  

"Beethoven an B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz

                                                                                    [Wien, 28. Januar 1826]

Ew Wohlgeboren!

    . . . , ich bitte Sie, nicht zu vergessen dass das erste Quartett dem Fürsten Galitzin dedicirt ist.[2] -- . . . es würde mir lieb seyn, auch hiervon, so wie auch von dem Quartett, mehrere Exemplare zu erhalten.  Sollte es geschehen seyn, dass ich Ihnen für die vorigen Exemplare noch nicht gedankt habe, so ist es wirklich aus Vergesslichkeit geschehen; übrigens sollen Sie überzeugt seyn, dass ich weder ein Exemplar verkaufe noch damit handle; es erhalten deren nur einige von mir werthgeschätzte Künstler, . . . 

    Noch muss ich mich erkundigen, ob Fürst Galitzin, als er Ihnen die Titulatur zur Dedication bekannt machte, <nicht> zugleich von Ihnen die nöthigen Exemplare des Quartetts und der Ouverture verlangte, widrigenfalls ich dieselben von hier aus ihm senden müsste.

   . . . "

"Beethoven to B. Schott's Sons in Mainz

                                                                                  [Vienna, January 28, 1826]

    . . . , I ask you not to forget that the first quartet is dedicated to Prince Galitzin.[2] -- . . . I would appreciate it if you could also send me some copies of the quartet.  Should it be the case that I have not yet thanked you for your previous sending of copies, this has only happened due to my forgetfulness; moreover, you should be convinced that I am neither selling nor trading them; only a few worthy artists will receive them, . . .

   Moreover, I have to enquire whether Prince Galitzin, when he sent you the title for the dedication, did not request from you the required copies of the quartet and the overture; in case he did not do so, I would have to send him some from here.

   . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtsaugabe, Vol. 6, Letter No. 2110, p. 209-213; Original: Mainz, Stadtbibliothek;  to [2]: refers to op. 127; details taken from p. 210].

As TF [p. 982 and p. 1011] writes, the parts to op. 127 were published in March 1826, and the score in June of that year.  With this, we have answered the question as to when op. 127 appeared in print. 

Let us now turn to the two last, particular questions with respect to some musical aspects of the work.


In trying to answer this question we should concentrate on two aspects, namely, on the one hand, on the general musical nature of the work, and, on the other hand, on its particular nature respectively on that which would differentiate it from all of its predecessors. 

For the description of the general musical nature of this quartet, Maynard Solomon refers to Joseph Kerman:

"Kerman sees lyricism as the guiding principle of the Quartet, op. 127, "inspiring the intimate aveu of the opening movement, the popular swing of the Finale, and the great stream of melody in the Adagio variations."  Opus 127 can be seen as a natural outgrowth of the last piano sonatas, though it reflects a commitment to Classical structure which they were then tending to disavow.  The Quartet minimizes contrast (the first movement and the development in favor of ornamentation), with only the Scherzando vicace supplying "the intellectual, mordant note, the note of contrast."  Despite its unenigmatic approachability and lyricism, the Quartet is not without its "late style" characteristics--the driving dotted rhythms of the Scherzo; the contrapuntal textures; the fantastic, idealized, occasionally violent dance rhythms of the pastoral finale, and, especially, the luxuriously ornamental variations of the Adagio, in the course of which the theme itself is transformed into a new entity." [Solomon:316-322].

In the following paragraph, William Kinderman points out the forward-looking nature of op. 127: 

"New light on the genesis of this quartet has been shed by Brandenburg, who reassessed the sketch sources first examined by Nottebohm more than a century ago.  Nottebohm was especially impressed by the immense quantity of sketches for the second movement--a great set of variations on a slow theme of sublime character.  The overall design of the finished quartet still adheres to the traditional four-movement plan, but Brandenburg has pointed out that Beethoven considered including two additional, alternative movements--a character piece in C major entitled 'La gaiete' that was evidently planned at one point as the second movement, and a slow introduction to the finale in the key of the Neapolitan, E major.  These preliminary plans show how Beethoven's attempts to shape the work as a cyclic whole were already anticipating elements akin to those of his later C# minor Quartet op. 131, which has seven interconnected movements" [Kinderman: 284].

Barry Cooper's comment is the one which most strongly points towards Beethovens entirely new  way of part-writing for quartets:  

"Once the bagatelles were completed, however, detailed work on the new quartet was soon under way, and in an attempt to obtain what he later described as a new kind of partwriting, he began making frequent use of sketching in open score on four staves, instead of merely on one or two as before.  Although he had occasionally made such score sketches in earlier years, only in his late quartets did this become a standard procedure.  The score sketches did not supplant other types of sketching, but ran parallel with them.  Thus there were now three modes of sketching:  using pencil in pocket sketchbooks (or single leaves) generally filled outdoors; using desk sketchbooks indoors, mainly written in ink; and using loose folios or bifolios of manuscript paper for score sketches.  Often two or three of the four staves of a score sketch were left blank, but the extra space available, which could if desired be filled with countermelodies or dialogue between instruments, facilitated the creation of works far more contrapuntally conceived than his earlier quartets.  Haydn in his quartets had pointed the way for this type of texture, by distributing important motifs to all four instruments, but Beethoven now developed the idea much further, where all four parts continually have their own individual interest, whether they all have similar or quite different figuration at any one point.  One might expect the score sketches to have functioned as an intermediate stage between ordinary sketches and autograph scores, but some belong to a very early stage of composition of individual movements, whereas some of the normal sketches were jotted down when Beethoven was already occupied with writing out the autograph" [Cooper: 322ff].

After our look at the general and the particular nature of this string quartet, in addition to featuring general critical comment[s], we should still try to answer the last of our questions: 


With respect to this, William Kinderman made interesting observations that refer to works Beethoven had written 'in the meantime': 

"The climactic canonic passage leading to the Maestoso in C major opens a dimension with symbolic implications, one that his deepened further in the following variation movement, the Adagio, ma non troppo e molto cantabile (see Plates 23 and 24).  Before we examine this relationship in detail, however, it is important to assess the formal analogy between the slow movement of the quartet and the choral finale of the Ninth Symphony, the work Beethoven completed immediately before op. 127.

    The Adagio movement in the quartet, in A-flat major, contains five variations on its broadly lyrical theme, with an episode in D-flat major, C# major and a coda.  Both of the last two variations have a recapitulatory character and follow passages in foreign keys.  After the hymn-like third variation in the flat submediant, E major, the fourth variation brings a return to the tonic and the original version of the theme, which is animated rhythmically be the substitution of sixteenth-notes for eighth-notes in the melody and by trills in the accompaniment.  This variation also restores the 12/8 metre of the theme, after changes in metre in the second and third variations.  The recapitulatory variation is then followed by the mysterious episode in the subdominant, a passage Beethoven sketched and revised more than almost any other, entering changes even into the autograph score.  A final half-variation, while not strictly recapitulatory in function, remains audibly close to the original melodic shape of the theme, which is decorated in flowing sixteenth-notes in the violin, in a texture reminiscent of the second variation of the principal theme in the slow movement of the Ninth Symphony.

    In the choral finale of the Ninth, as we have seen, the basic framework of ten variations on the 'Freude' theme encloses two main episodes:  the double fugue for orchestra in B-flat (the flat submediant); and the slow section in G (the subdominant), set to the last two stanzas of the text, beginning 'Seid umschlungen Millionen'.  Each of these passages is followed by a variation of recapitulatory character in the tonic, D major.  After the orchestral fugue, Variation 9 brings an emphatic return to the original melodic shape of the 'Freude' theme, heard in the full chorus and orchestra.  Subsequently, after the slow section in G, a double fugue for chorus and orchestra combines the head of the 'Freude' theme with the setting of 'Seid umschlungen Millionen'.  In both quartet and symphony, therefore, the penultimate variation recapitulates the theme after a contrasting section in the submediant, while the final variation again restores the tonic key and the basic thematic material after an episode in the subdominant.

    The relationship between these works is by no means confined to their tonal plan, however, and bears on the actual character and thematic substance of the E major variation in the quartet, which Kerman has described as the 'spiritual crown' of the entire work.  Martin Cooper suggested in this regard that the rising third C#-E at the beginning of the variation acts like a pedestal, lifting the ensuing passage above the preceding music in a manner similar to the rising third at the beginning of the slow movement of the Hammerklavier Sonata.  The image of the pedestal is especially apt in this case, in view of the aspirational character of the music.  There is a parallel here with a specific passage in the choral finale of the Ninth Symphony, as well as with a related movement in the Missa solemnis.  The corresponding passage in the symphony is the second part of the slow section in G, set to the last stanza of the text, from 'Ihr stürzt nieder' to 'Über Sternen muss er wohnen'; this is the passage that is itself so strongly reminiscent of parts of the Missa solemnis and which exploits a vivid contrast in register between the earthbound music of 'Ihr stürzt nieder' on the one hand and, on the other, a gradual but inevitable rise in pitch to symbolize the divine presence above the stars.  the climax at the words  'Über Sternen muss er wohnen' reaches the high, monolitic E-flat major chord with G at the top, the same sonority that Beethoven used, with similar symbolic implications, in the Credo of the Mass.

    In his chamber works Beethoven tends to employ the key of E major in music associated with the heavens, as in the slow movement of the second 'Razumovsky' quartet and the song Abendlied unterm gestirnten Himmel.  As we have seen, he is supposed to have conceived the slow movement of the 'Razumovsky' quartet 'while contemplating the starry heavens and thinking of the music of the spheres'.  In fact, as Warren Kirkendale has pointed out, there is a musical kinship between that movement and the Benedictus of the Missa solemnis, in which the descent of the solo violin from high G symbolizes the arrival of the divine messenger.  Yet another related piece is the Adagio of the op. 127 quartet.  The theme of the Adagio, like that of the Benedictus, is characterized by iambic rhythm in 12/8 metre, and the similarities of the two themes extend to their melodic profiles and even to their instrumentation, in view of the role of the solo violin in the Benedictus.  In the light of the character and probable associations of the Adagio theme, then, it is not surprising that Beethoven should have included a variation evoking the contemplation of the heavens as a centrepriece, set apart by the sudden modulation to E major.

    In the Ninth Symphony the rise in pitch from 'Ihr stürzt nieder' to 'Über Sternen muss er wohnen' is from E above middle C to the G two octaves higher.  This is exactly the compass of the melodic ascent in the E major variation in the quartet, regardless of the difference in key.  Whereas in the symphony the final part of this ascent into the highest register is abrupt and reserved for the orchestra, in the quartet the first violin gradually rises to the high G, which is the goal and endpoint of the progression.  The E is still part of the pedestal that introduces the variation.  From it the first violin ascends, and, as in the passage in the symphony, the melody falls earthwards momentarily before rising again.  In the fifth bar of the variation (bar 63) the repetition of the first phrase in the cello substitutes G [symbol] to G#, foreshadowing the turn to the flat sixth two bars later.

    The climax itself involves an emphatic shift to a C major chord in root position with the first violin on high G in the eighth bar of the variation (bar 66).  This is the moment corresponding in the symphony with the arrival on the E-flat major cord at  'Über Sternen muss er wohnen', where the same high G [symbol] is reached through a similar turn to the flat sixth in the larger tonal context of G minor.  Since this ascending melodic progression to the climax is built directly into the structure of the variation in the quartet, it is restated, with some modification and intensification, in the second half of the variation.  The treatment of high G as the goal and endpoint for each half is reminiscent of the Benedictus of the Mass, where the same pitch provides a consistent point of return for the solo violin.  It is indicative of the scope of Beethoven's variation procedure in is final years that even the symbolic 'Blick nach oben' is assimilated here into the variation form.

    We are now in a position to return to the first movement to reconsider the third and last appearance of the opening Maestoso motto, which appears in C major (bars 135-40).  Beethoven sets apart this presentation of the Maestoso by intensifying the dynamics to fortissimo and by harmonic means, avoiding the turn to the subdominant that characterized its earlier appearances.  As a consequence the sonority of C major is stressed three times, in a chorale-like configuration with the broadest possible spacing, in which the first violin ascends to high G for the last statement.  What is striking here is the parallel with the threefold articulation of C major in Variation 3 of the ensuing Adagio.  There are no further appearances of the motto, which has puzzled some commentators.  But the significance of the Maestoso goes beyond its role in the first movement:  like the opening motto of op. 110, it prefigures momentous events to come, pointing towards the symbolic climax of the Adagio, one of the weightiest and most perfectly conceived of all Beethoven's slow movements.

    The following Scherzando vivace strikes a note of ironic detachment and grim humour after the contemplative experience of the variations.  The transition from the end of the Adagio is reminiscent of the shift in op. 101 from the opening Allegretto ma non troppo to the Vivace alla Marcia--a movement similar in its rhythm and counterpoint to this scherzo.  One is reminded as well of the scherzo of the Hammerklavier Sonata, and still more of that of the Ninth Symphony.  After the opening pizzicato fanfare--as Kerman notes, 'there are no timpani in a string quartet!'--the movement unfolds contrapuntally, even fugally.  Beethoven originally sketched the principal motifs in even eighth-notes, only later introducing the jagged upbeat rhythm that permeates the scherzo sections.  The fugal texture is interrupted periodically by sudden fits and starts, massive unison passages, and recitative-like gestures; a strong disruptive energy infuses the whole.  The Scherzando vivace assumes a crucial role in the whole quartet by bringing together forces of rhythmic tension and dramatic qualities that are largely absent from the other movements" [Kinderman: 284-290].

After our attempt at answering the questions we raised at the beginning of our look at op. 127, let us conclude with Lewis Lockwood's description of the musical content of this quartet.  



Here follows Lockwood's comment:  

"The traditional four movement layout of Opus 127 is the only feature of the work that might be construed (that is, misconstrued) as conservative.  In the long course of planning and writing the quartet Beethoven thought at one time that it might have as many as six movements, including a slow introduction to the finale and a middle movement to be called "La Gaite."  Strangely enough this heading was applied to a sketch for a jocular movement in 2/4 whose theme he transformed into the profoundly moving 12/8main theme of the Adagio movement of the quartet. The final movement plan of the work, with its tightly condensed slow introduction to the first movement, has a fair number of antedecents.  Perhaps Opus 70 No. 2 and the "Harp" Quartet, Opus 74.  The first movement Allegro, with its smooth, flowing melodic motion in 3/4, recalls the first movement of the Violin Sonata Opus 96 and the Piano Sonata Opus 90, but in his earlier works, triple-meter Allegro first movements had been a minority compared to those in duple.

The very brief opening Maestoso sets up the first movement with a clenched-fist opening gesture in which the basic tonic chord of E-flat major appears three times with the upper line rising through each statement on the scale steps 1, 3, and 5, spaced out between restless syncopated figures in the intervening measures and leading to a firm subdominant (A-flat major) chord.  There may have been Masonic overtones in this elaborated use of the rising tonic triad to open the work; similar conscious used of the rising triad, all progeny of the symbolic rising triadic chords that open the overture to The Magic Flute, had appeared in earlier Beethoven works in this key.  Slow introductions in middle and later Beethoven works are often extended sections with well-developed frameworks of their own, but here, as in at least one earlier example--the Piano Sonata in F-sharp Major, Opus 78--the introduction is short and firm but subtle in content and consequence.  The Allegro rises smoothly our of the subdominant harmony that ends the introduction and feels more like a continuation than a wholly new theme.  In fact, somewhat as in the Eroica, this exposition has no single, fully shaped main them; rather, a succession of well-crafted thematic ideas lead from the tonic area to a transition that moves out, not to the traditional dominant (B-flat major), but to G minor and then to G major.

There is little or no use of the dominant as a key area in the entire work, a mark of late Beethoven harmonic planning in which the time-honored use of the dominant as basic opposition to the tonic is supplanted by other contrasting tonal centers.  Sometimes the main contrasting harmony is the subdominant, as in the Missa solemnis; sometimes the flat sixth degree, as in the first movement of the Ninth Symphony and that of the Sonata Opus 111.  Here the central contrast is formed on the third degree, G, as root of both major and minor harmonies.  The formal dynamics of the movement take advantage of the opening contrast of Maestoso and Allegro.  The Maestoso returns in G major to signal the beginning of the development section:  it returns another time, now in C major and in truncated form, near the end of the development section, thus dramatizing the harmonic move to C major that Beethoven will use to set up the eventual return to the tonic in E-flat major. 

A typical paradox of the late style, met with here for the first time, is that the three statements of the Maestoso appear in three different keys and serve three entirely different structural functions:  to open the piece; to open the development, and to mark a turning point as the development moves to C major.  Most important is that the Maestoso never returns in the music.  Thus it does not round off the form, as it so readily would have in earlier works using this strategy--and it does not appear in the recapitulation.  Whereas the opening of the recapitulation in many an earlier and middle-period work had always been a moment of vital articulation, whether attacked forcefully or smoothly, here it is virtually concealed within the ongoing discourse at the end of the development; the listener has to know it is there in order to hear it.  In other words, traditional formal junctures and dividing points are now either signaled by an introductory passage that is never exactly the same twice or are concealed in the name of continuity.  That is why there is no repeat of the exposition and no use of the Maestoso at the recapitulation or the coda.  Another element of long-range structural planning does emerge, however, and this one harks back in various ways to earlier works, especially Opus 50 No. 1.  It is the gradual enlargement of registral space as the movement progresses, from the opening two-octave span of its beginning, to the three octaves of the G-major Maestoso, to the four octaves of the C-major Maestoso, and finally, to the maximum span, four octaves and a sixth--from low C of the cello to the high A flat of the first violin--at the apex of the coda.  From this moment of maximum expansion, the final beautiful and intimate phrases take their point of departure and finish the movement with grace and sensibility on a tonic chord that spans four octaves.

From the very opening of the Allegro we see what Beethoven meant when he spoke to Holz about "a new kind of voice-leading."  It is true that he upper line, Violin I, is the leading voice in the sense of carrying the most distinctive melodic content.  But the lower voices are no mere accompaniment.  Each is a smoothly written, stable melodic or quasi-melodic voice.  No matter to what degree they are simpler than the top voice and seemingly subordinated to it, they are individualized and linearized to a degree surpassing what we find characteristically in the earlier quartets, except in earlier fugal and fugato writing.  The texture is saturated with motivic content, overt or latent, and is inherently linear in all voices, while at the same time it makes perfect harmonic sense.  Not only this counterpoint of voices but also another factor strikes the ear and helps account for the density of the content.  Although there are four instruments in the quartet there are often many more than four voices.  Sudden leaps in register within individual string parts, abrupt shifts that can occur in the current leading voice or in any other voice, above all the viola and cello, give rise to the realization that a single part can often imply more than one contrapuntal line.  For example, in one cadence on the tonic E-flat major, both Violin I and cello suddenly leap down from a high B-flat to an E-flat an octave and a half lower, instead of resolving conventionally to the E-flat a fifth below.  Moreover, to reach this higher B-flat the cello has to leap up an octave to reach it, when it could perfectly well have remained on the lower B-flat (* W 54).  Why?  Because in both string parts Beethoven wants to prepare the middle register in which the next thematic material will occur; the cello picks up the middle-range B-flat for the next phrase, and violin I answers to it two bars later in the same range.  Meanwhile the high B-flat in Violin I is being "save" or held in reserve until it reemerges a bit later.  The texture is filled with mysterious suggestions, hints, and allusions to voices that come and go in the four-instrument texture, which is perpetually resonant with content, infused with even more motivic and thematic material than it overtly presents.

The slow movement, transformed from "La Gaiete" to a profoundly beautiful variation movement, exemplifies the cantabile aspect of quartet writing but shares the development of thought that marks all of Beethoven's mature variations.  As it fills out its ample space it has room fro striking shifts of affect, from the jocular to the tragic.  The opening "curtain" in prestissimo, which slowly steals into the mind of the listener by building a dominant seventh chord from the bottom up, is acutely calculated to prepare the arrival of the main theme, a long and winding melody whose first and second strings are each presented first in Violin I, then in the cello, with a short codetta to softly round off the whole.  Now begins a set of variations, five in all plus a surprising interlude between Nos. 4 and 5, and with a breathtaking coda to finish the movement.

It is no accident that the variations are not numbered in the score.  By omitting the numbering, as he had already done in other variation movements, such as the finale of Opus 74, Beethoven signals his departure from the traditional formal  codes that belonged to the variation as a classical genre, with its familiar succession of tonally closed sections.  The same is true in late independent sets of variations, above all the "Diabelli" Variations, but there he has no choice but to number each variation since they make up the whole work.  The same avoidance of labels for each variation is found in the slow movement of Opus 132 (the "Heiliger Dankesgesang"), the Andante of Opus 131, and the Lento assai of Opus 135.

Gone too in this mature phase is Beethoven's earlier adherence to the older method of variation writing in which the first few variations of a set in turn created new versions of the theme by having each variation proceed in shorter note values than the one before, then altering the material in new ways such as a change to minor (for a major-mode theme) and a change of tempo.  Now in the first variation, while retaining the 12/8 meter of the theme, Beethoven plunges directly into elaborate figurations in all four instruments, weaving fantastic patterns from the simpler melodic lines of the theme.  In the second variation he shifts the tempo from Adagio to Andante con moto and brings a new meter, 4/4, for a marchlike section with even more complex writing in the two violin parts, which form an animated dialogue.  The third variation restores the Adagio tempo, maintains the duple meter, but moves the entire harmonic content into the key of E major--extremely distant from the basic tonic of A-flat major.  In this new environment he develops a rich body of melody from the earlier material, with Violin I soaring into new expressive regions and with a harmonic climax on a C-natural harmony in Beethoven's ripest style.  The fourth variation slips back easily into the home tonic, A-flat major, and unfolds a dialogue between cello and first violin in the original meter, followed by a strange interlude, perhaps an extended coda, at the end of this section that leads once more from A-flat major to E major.  This move in turn leads back to the final variation, in which first Violin I and then the three other instruments sing in arabesques of sixteenth-note diminutions of the phrases of the original theme.  The coda revived echoes of the rising arpeggios of variation 4, then works its way gently through reminiscences of earlier sixteenth-note patterns to the final measure, where the last cadence closes the vast circle of the movement with a reference back to the opening phrase of the theme.  And fully indicative of Beethoven's departure from convention is that the last cadence, rather than having the traditional dominant to tonic (5-1) motion in the bass, moves from scale degree 2 to 1, keeping its melodic role alive to the very end, as do all the voices.

In its third and fourth movements Opus 127 sails into uncharted waters, making full use of the Scherzo-Trio and sonata-form templates but with a new relation between content and form.  The opening measures announce a new paradigm in Scherzo writing, as Beethoven finds ways of supplying inner contrasts to this movement type that is seemingly limited by its adherence to a single basic metrical format throughout its length.

The opening phrases give us a clear sample of how he achieves such variety (*W 55).  First comes a short "curtain" made up of four plucked chords in a regular 3/4 rhythm, simple tonic and dominant in a two-octave span.  A paradox follows:  neither the opening harmonic sequence, nor the short chords on the beat, nor the pizzicato sonority provides the main stuff of the movement: in fact they are never heard again within it.  The cello theme that follows, with its sequential rising repetitions of a rhythmically jagged, four-note upbeat-downbeat figure (3 + 1) moving on to a smooth legato phrase with conspicuous trills on the third beat of each measure, is answered by the viola with an inverted form of the figure that also descends in its main melodic line, replying to the cello's ascent.  They join as a contrapuntal pair.  In complementary style, the tossing back and forth of short phrases (always with trill) spreads to the upper voices and higher registers; just as the first big cadence is to be reached, the cello makes a rhythmic shift and brings the jagged rhythm on the first instead of the third beat.  This introduces a new form of the rhythm that then has a life of its own, and we realize with astonishment how freely new rhythmic cells and placements of already known rhythmic cells can be worked into the texture.  This scherzo in fact resembles some other late Beethoven scherzos (certainly that of the Ninth Symphony) in having enough differentiated material to form an approximation of a sonata form.  Not that this formal shape is new here, but a sonata-form scherzo with such ample material and density of textures had not been seen since the large, one-movement Scherzo of Opus 59 No. 1.  In Opp. 74 and 95, and in the Seventh Symphony, Beethoven worked out the scherzi along different lines.

   The larger pattern of the whole third movement is:

Scherzo                        Trio (Presto)               Scherzo repeated            Coda

E-flat major                   E-flat minor                 E-flat major                       E-flat minor-major

(sonata form)

143 measures              125 mm.                       146 mm.                             21 mm.

This makes up a large, three-part Scherzo-Trio-Scherzo form with coda, but the coda alludes to both Trio and Scherzo at the end, somewhat as in the Seventh Symphony, and thus hints at Beethoven's middle-period five-part Scherzo form.  No change of scene in any Beethoven movement is more vivid than this intricate, active, contrapuntal Scherzo and the mysterious Trio that flies in like a distant storm, passing from its opening pianissimo to its fortissimo climax and then receding; it breaks off abruptly to give ay to the return of the Scherzo, briefly reappears, and then breaks off again in the coda.

The finale, massive like its fellow movements, is in a highly elaborated sonata form with remarkable features, most of all a pseudo-recapitulation in the subdominant immediately followed by the real recapitulation.  The opening feature, an octave leap from G to G, is a hallmark of the late quartet style, in its anticipation of the leap that opens the Grand Fugue (on the same pitch, G), and even that of the D-major second movement of Opus 131) (*W 56).  But even more striking is Beethoven's way of opening this E-flat major finale with an off-tonic phrase that then wends its way down to E-flat through sinuous motions that suggest a related key area, C minor, in fact C minor is a goal of the development section.  The opening gesture also anticipates the movement of the first theme to its dominant note, B-flat, by way of its own leading tone, the raised fourth A-sharp.

The coda is a telling example of Beethoven's sensitivity to the effects of harmonic shift and tone color.  Anticipating Impressionism by three generations, it blends the strings in a gossamer web of new sonorities, some of which were heard by Schubert and used to wonderful effect in his last piano trio, in the same key, and in his own late quartets, written in the next few years.  The coda is no mere completion of the final tonic harmony:  it has its theme, and explores, in order, a series of keys descending by major thirds before moving chromatically into the home tonic.  It is exactly the scheme that Beethoven used for the Bagatelles Opus 126, as we saw earlier.  It was this coda that the deaf Beethoven, "crouched in a corner," heard being rehearsed by Joseph Böhm and the other members of the Schuppanzigh Quartet, and by following their bowings, attended so carefully to the tempo that he changed it then and there from "Meno Vivace" to "Allegro con moto" [Lockwood: 446-452].

To our Section on op. 132