Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanowetz



Our search for lively impressions of Beethoven's life circumstances after his last direct musical contact with  Op. 74 and before his embarking on his next and last string quartet of this style period, Op. 95, takes us to the winter of 1810, when Beethoven held rehearsals for Op. 74 at the Palais of Prince Lobkowitz:


Shortly before that, on January 23 (see Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 2, p. 103, Letter No. 421), Beethoven wrote to Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanowetz, that he was still suffering from abdominal pains.

In February (GA Vol. 2, p. 110, Letter No. 428, Beethoven to Ignaz von Gleichenstein), his friend Ignaz von Gleichenstein returned to Vienna:  

"ist es wirklich wahr?  bist du hier? -- abscheulicher, wortbrüchiger, treuloser, Verrätherischer, leichtsinniger Freund! und doch Freund? -- folgt ich meinem Herzen, so würde ich ohnerachtet allen Groll und Zorn, der in mir wider dich tobt, zu dir ge[e]ilt--aber nein,--man muß sich lernen bemeistern--denn ihr andre ohne Herz lacht unser nur--selbst den autor hast du nicht einmal respektirt, mir keine antwort auf meine Dedication geschikt[2]--ich erwarte dich morgen den Vormittag vor dem strengen Gericht der Freundschaft, sey Baron sey heimlicher Abgesandter, oder weiß der Himmel was,--ich bin schlechtweg nicht weniger und nicht mehr als dein höchst aufgebrachter Freund


meine wohnung in der Walfischgaße 1087 im 2ten Stock (Es ist ein H---Hauß[3] du wirsts kennen.[)] . . . "

"is it really true?  are you here? -- terrible, unreliable, unfaithful, treacherous, lighthearted friend! and yet, friend? -- if I were to follow my heart, I would, in spite of all anger that I am harboring against you, have hurried to meet you--but, no,--one has to learn to restrain oneself--for you others without a heart only laugh about us--not even the author did you respect and you did not send me a reply to my dedication[2]--I expect you tomorrow morning before the strict tribunal of friendship, may you be a baron, may you be a privy deputy, or heaven knows what, simply put, I am not any less than you most enraged friend


my apartment in the Walfischgasse 1087on the 2nd floor (It is a wh---house[3] you will know it. . . . "

 [Original: Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [2]:  refers to the dedication of the Cello Sonata Op. 69 to Gleichenstein; to [3]: refers to the building in which Beethoven lived in the winter of 1809/1810 and which was owned by Count Nikolaus Esterhazy.   In these lines, Beethoven calls it a "whorehouse" although it, according to the GA, was not known as such].  

It might have been some time during this spring that Beethoven accepted Baron Pasqualati's offer (see GA Vol. 2, p. 108/9, Letter No. 425, February 8, 1810, Beethoven to Peter von Leber) to move back into his old quarters in the building at the Mölkerbastei (Innere Stadt 1239).

Beethoven's April 1810 correspondence with Gleichenstein gives us a lively impression of his relationship with the Malfatti family in general and with Therese von Malfatti, in particular:  

". . . Hier die S.[3] die Ich der Therese[4] versprochen--da ich sie heute nicht sehen kann, so übergib sie ihr--emphel mich ihnen allen, mir ist so wohl bey ihnen, Es ist als könnten die Wunden, <die> wodurch mir böse Menschen meine Seele zerrißen haben, wieder durch sie könnten geheilt werden, ich danke dir guter g. daß du mich dorthin[5] gebracht hast-- . . . " [" . . . Here the S.[3] that I had promised to Therese[4]--since I can not see her, today, give it to her--give my regards to all of them, I feel to well in their company, it is as if the wounds that have been inflicted on me by evil people and thereby torn my soul apart, might be healed by them, again, I thank you, good G., that you have brought me there[5]-- . . . "] [Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 2, Letter No. 436, p. 115-116; Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [3]: as the GA points out, according to Thayer, this might refer to the Sonata Op. 74 that was later dedicated to Therese von Brunsvik; to [4]: refers to Therese Malfatti; to [5]: refers to the family of the wholesale merchant Jakob Friedrich Malfatti; details taken from p. 116.]

In his letter of May 2nd (GA Vol. 2, p. 118/120, Letter No. 439) to Franz Gerhard Wegeler in Koblenz, Beethoven asks his friend to obtain for him a copy of his baptismal certificate.   

From other descriptions of this situation at this website we are familiar with the possibility that Beethoven was trying to obtain this copy in connection with his marriage proposal to Therese von Malfatti.

The end of these fruitless endeavors was reached at this time, as can be gleaned from his letters to Gleichenstein, of the end of May and the beginning of June:

" . . . Du lebst auf stiller ruhiger See oder schon im sichern Hafen--des Freundes Noth, der sich im Sturm befindet, fühlst du nicht--oder darfst du nicht fühlen-- . . .wenn du nur aufrichtiger seyn wolltest, du verhehlst mir gewiß etwas, du willst mich schonen, und erregst mir mehr Wehe in dieser Ungewißheit, als wie in der noch so fatalen Gewißheit-- . . . " [" . . . you are sailing on a calm sea or you are already in a save haven--the need of the friend who is left out in the storm, you do not feel--or you are not allowed to feel it-- . . . if you were only more honest, you are certainly keeping something from me, you want to save me from something, but with this uncertainty, you are hurting me more than with any certainty, be it ever so fatal-- . . . " [Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 2, Letter No. 444, p. 124-125; original: Bonn, Beethoven-Haus]

" . . . Deine Nachricht stürzte mich aus den Regionen des höchsten Entzückens wieder tief herab--wozu denn der Zusatz, du wolltest mir es sagen laßen, wenn wieder Musik sey, bin ich denn gar nichts als ein Musikus oder der anderen?--so ist es wenigstens auszulegen, ich kann also nur wieder in meinem eigenen Busen einen Anlehnungspunkt suchen, von außen gibt es also gar keinen für mich--so sey es denn, für dich armer B. gibt es kein Glük von außen, du must dir alles in dir selbst erschaffen nur in der Idealen Welt findest du freunde--ich bitte dich mich zu beruhigen, ob ich selbst <das alles> den gestrigen Tag Verschuldet, oder wenn du das nicht kannst, so sage mir die Wahrheit, ich höre sie eben so gern als ich sie sage--jezt ist es noch Zeit, noch können mir wahrheiten helfen--leb wohl-- . . . " [" . . .  your news threw me down from regions of the highest delight--why the addition that you wanted to let me know when there will be music again, am I nothing but a musician to you and to the others?--at least, this is how it has to be interpreted, again, I can only find comfort in my own bosom, from the outside, there is none for me, for you, poor B., there is no external happiness, you have to create everything from within yourself, only in the ideal world can you find friends--I ask you to reassure me whether I myself am to blame for everything that occurred yesterday, or if you can not do that, then tell me the truth, I like to hear it as much as I like to tell it--now, there is still time, truths can still help me--farewell . . . "][Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol.  2, Letter No. 445, p. 125].

Thayer-Forbes (p. 493) describes Beethoven's first encounter with Bettina Brentano in May of this year, whereby he relies on a letter by Bettina to Prince Pückler-Muskau and on conversations between her and Thayer:  

"One day in May, Beethoven, sitting at the pianoforte with a song just composed before him, was surprised by a pair of hands being placed upon his shoulders.  He looked up "gloomily" but his face brightened as he was a beautiful young woman who, putting her mouth to his ear said: "My name is Brentano."  She needed no further introduction.  He smiled, gave her his hand without rising and said" "I have just made a beautiful song for you; do you want to hear it?"  Thereupon he sang-raspingly, incisively, not gently or sweetly (the voice was hard), but transcending training and agreeableness by reason of the cry of passion which reacted on the hearer--"Kennst du das Land?"  He asked:  "Well, how do you like it?"  She nodded. "It is beautiful, isn't it?" he said enthusiastically, "Marvellously beaufiful; . . . 

    There was a large dinner party that day at Franz Brentano's in the Birkenstock house and Bettina--for it was she--told Beethoven he must change his old coat for a better, and accompany him tighter.  "Oh," said he jokingly, "I have several good coats," and took her to the wardrobe to see them.  Changing his coat he went down with her on the street, but stopped there and said he must return for a moment.  He came down again laughing with the old coat on.  She remonstrated; he went up again, dressed himself properly and went with her.  But, notwithstanding his rather clumsy drollery, she soon discovered the greatness in the man for which she was wholly unprepared. . . . " [Thayer-Forbes:493].  

Thayer continues by relating that, in spite of Beethoven's mischief, Bettina soon realized Beethoven's greatness, a greatness for which she was not prepared.  However, he also warns us about Bettina's lively fantasy.  

As Thayer further reports, to her mature friend Goethe, Bettina wrote in glowing terms of Beethoven, to which Goethe replied in a friendly manner on June 6th.  As Thayer (p. 497) continues, in mid-June, Bettina arrived in Bohemia, coming from Vienna.  

Although, in a letter (No. 448, GA Vol. 2, p. 130) of the early summer, Beethoven asked Gleichenstein for information on inexpensive travel methods by which to reach Linz, both Thayer (p. 511) and Kropfinger (p. 34) report that from July to October 1810 [Thayer: from the end of July/the beginning of August to October), Beethoven stayed at Baden near Vienna.  

Let us leave Beethoven at that time and let us try to follow the first traces of Beethoven's intentions to compose further string quartets after the completion of Op. 74.  



In order to do so we can take a look at Letter No. 400 of Vol. 2 of the  Henle Gesamtausgabe (p. 81-82) of Beethoven's letters:

On September 19, 1809, in it, among other matters, Beethoven wrote to Breitkopf & Härtel,  "nächstens über Quartetten, die ich schreibe.[9] . . . " ["at the next opportunity, about quartets that I am writing.[9] . . . "]

Footnote [9] refers to Beethoven's sketches in the Landsberg 5 sketchbook, according to which Beethoven intended to write at least one more string quartet after his completion of Op. 74, namely immediately after that.  The GA source for this information is:  Clemens Brenneis [Hrsg.], Ludwig van Beethoven.  Ein Skizzenbuch aus dem Jahre 1809. (Landsberg 5), Bonn 1993, Teil II, p. 48.

After our look at Beethoven's life circumstances after his last active contact with Op. 74 and after our becoming aware of his intentions to compose further string quartets after its completion, we can turn to taking a look at details of the creation of Op. 95, in chronological sequence. 


To start with, let us best take a look at Barry Cooper's Beethoven book that appeared in 2000 in the Master Musicians series.  Perhaps this book's serving as the new contribution to this composers' series offered Cooper an opportunity to acquaint readers with the results of more recent research on Beethoven's sketchbooks.  With respect to Op. 95, he begins his description as follows: 

 "Beethoven spent the latter part of the summer in Baden, writing a new string quartet--Op. 95 in F minor" [Cooper: 324].

After a look at Beethoven's life during the summer of 1810 we will return to Cooper and his description of the details of the creation of Op. 95.  

Now, let us consider other Beethoven literature and see what it can tell us with respect to Beethoven's whereabouts in the summer of this year.  Thayer-Forbes (p. 499) refers to Beethoven's lines to Nikolaus Zmeskall of July 9th, that we want to present in their German original, with our own translation: 

"Lieber Z! sie reisen,[2] ich soll auch reisen und das wegen meiner Gesundheit,[3] Unterdeßen geht noch sonst alles bey mir drunter und drüber, der Herr[4] will mich bey sich haben, die Kunst nicht weniger, ich bin halb in Schönbrunn halb hier,[5] jeden Tag kommen neue nachfragen von fremden, neue Bekanntschaften, neue Verhältniße, se[l]bst auch in Rücksicht der Kunst, manchmal mögte ich bald Toll werden über meinen unverdienten Ruhm, das Glück sucht mich, und ich fürchte mich fast deswegen vor einem neuen Unglück. . . . -- leben sie wohl guter Z. wir werden unß hoffentlich so wiedersehen, daß sie finden, daß meine Kunst in der Zeit wieder gewonnen hat --

bleiben sie mein freund wie ich der Ihrige

                                                                                                  Beethowen . . . "

"Dear Z! you are travelling,[2] I, too, am supposed to travel, and that on account of my health,[3] meanwhile, everything is going topsy-turvy with me, the Lord[4] wants me with him, art not any less, I am half at Schönbrunn, half here,[5] every day, new enquiries arrive from strangers, new acquaintances, new relationships, even with respect to art, sometimes I might be tempted to go mad about my undeserved fame, fortune is seeking me out, and because of it, I am almost afraid of a new misfortune. . . . farewell got Z. hopefully we will see each other again in such a way that you will see that, during this time, my art has gained, again --

remain my friend as I will remain yours

                                                                                                   Beethowen . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 1, Letter No. 454, p. 135-136; Original:  Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek; to [2]: refers to the possibility that Zmeskall might only have planned a short journey since he, according to the GA, had returned to Vienna at the end of July; to [3]; refers to the fact that already in the summer of 1810, Beethoven's physicians are reported as having advised him to visit the health spas in northern Bohemia.  However, for this year, these plans were not carried out, since he was held up at Schönbrunn for too long; to [4]: refers to Archduke Rudolph; to [5]: refers to Griesinger's report of June 20, 1810, to Breitkopf & Härtel, about Beethoven's giving compositional lessons to Archduke Rudolph and about mostly staying at Schönbrunn.  Details taken from p. 136].

Beethoven's comment before note [5] appears to confirm Cooper's reports that, in the late summer of 1810, Beethoven (also) stayed at Baden.  Kropfinger's Table (p. 34) places Beethoven at Baden from July to October 6th/11th. 

With respect to this, Thayer-Forbes writes:

"He took no country lodgings this summer--alternating between Baden and Vienna, and indulging in lonely rambles among the hills and forests" [Thayer-Forbes: 501].

Let us take a brief look at Beethoven's letters of this summer that the Henle Gesamtausgabe describes as possibly or as with certainty having been written from Baden:  



Place sent from




End of July/August

Vienna or Baden


Review of the 'Pastoral' Symphony, Poem on the death of Princess Schwarzenberg


End of July/Anfang August


Archduke Rudolph

Regarding the two military marches, WoO 18 and WoO 19, the "Pferdemusik" that Beethoven wrote for a  "Karussell" (a 'riding event' in honor of Archduchess Maria Ludovica, the young wife of  Napoleon) in Laxenburg.


Beginning of August


Breitkopf & Härtel

See separate Page


August 21 


Breitkopf & Härtel

See separate Page


September 18



Orders a piano from him for Vienna, in the fall 


September 23


Breitkopf & Härtel

See separate Page


October 6


Breitkopf & Härtel

See separate Page

As already mentioned above, Cooper assumes that Beethoven occupied himself with the composition of this string quartet in late summer, 1810, mainly at Baden, while Thayer-Forbes reports that:  

" . . . True, he wrote to Zmeskall and talked of his art as if great things were in prospect; but he had no heart for such labors, and not until October did he take up and finish the "Quartetto Serioso" (Op. 95) for his friend"  (Thayer-Forbes: 501).

To what extend Beethoven's work on this string quartet can be followed in his sketchbooks is best described by Cooper: 

" . . . the main sketches follow immediately those for Egmont . . .  The chronology of the sketches is also not straightforward.  The main batch in Landsberg 11 appears to date from about July-September 1810, but others are found in the next sketchbook, now dismembered, suggesting that Beethoven appears to have continued to work on the quartet in 1811. [21]  However, the known sketches in this later book clearly predate some in Landsberg 11, indicating an overlap between consecutive sketchbooks that is almost unique.  Thus the quartet probably was completed around October 1810, even if a fresh score was  written out a few years later . . . " [Cooper: 324;  with respect to this, Cooper relies on: Douglas Johnson, Alan Tyson, and Robert Winter [ed. Douglas Johnson], The Beethoven Sketchbooks:  History, Reconstruction, Inventory [Oxford, 1985].   However, Cooper also notes that the known sketches in this sketchbook undoubtedly precede those in Landsberg 11, which, in his view, shows an overlapping of chronological sequence in the sketchbooks that is almost unique.  As he further notes, the quartet was probably completed around October, 1810, although a new score was written out a few years later]. 

Therefore, according to Cooper, we can imagine Beethoven both at Baden and in Vienna being occupied with the completion of Op. 95, in October 1810.    [Thayer-Forbes, p. 502-3, also lists Op. 95 as having completed in 1810 and points out that the autograph is at the Nationalbibliothek in Vienna].  His reference to the fact that, a few years later, Beethoven wrote out a new score to this work, leads us to the publication and dedication of this work.    



In Beethoven's lines of the end of August or the beginning of September 1813, to his friend, Count Franz von Brunsvik in Ofen, we might, perhaps, find a first "trace" of Op. 95 that, according to Cooper, was completed in October 1810:  

" . . .

lieber Freund

Bruder! -- 

    Eher hätte ich dir schreiben sollen, in meinem Herzen geschahs 1000 mal -- weit früher und eher hättest du das T.[rio][2] und die S.[onate][3] erhalten müßen, ich begreife nicht, wie <lu>M.[4] -- dir diese solange vorenthalten hat -- so viel ich mich erinnere habe ich dir ja gesagt, daß ich dir beydes Sonate und trio schicken werde, mache es nach deinem belieben, behalte die Sonate oder schicke sie Forray[5], wie du willst, das quartett[6] war dir ja so früher zugedacht, bloß meine Unordnung war schuld daran, daß du es eben erst bey diesem Ereigniß erhalten -- und wenn von Unordnung die rede ist, so muß ich dir leider sagen, daß sie noch überall mich heimsucht, noch nichts entschiedenes in meinen Sachen, der Unglückseelige Krieg dürfte das endliche Ende noch verzögern, oder meine Sache noch verschlimmern -- bald faße ich diesen Jenen Entschluß, leider muß ich doch nahe herum bleiben, bis diese sache entschieden ist;[7] -- o Unseeliges Dekret[8], verführerisch wie eine Sirene, wofür ich hätte die Ohren mit Wachs verstopfen sollen laßen und mich festbinden, um nicht zu unterschreiben wie ulisses -- . . . "

" . . .

dear Friend

Brother! --

    I should have written to you sooner, in my heart, I did so a thousand times--far sooner, you were supposed to have received the T.[rio][2] and the S.[onata][3], I do not understand how <lu> M.[4]--has withheld them from you for so long--as far as I remember, I have told you that I will send you both, the sonata and the trio.  do as you wish, keep the Sonata or send it to Forray[5], already earlier on, the quartet[6] had been intended for you, it was only due to my disorderliness that you have only received it on this occasion--speaking of disorder, unfortunately, I have to tell you that it still haunts me, everywhere, nothing has been decided in my matters, the unfortunate war might still prolong the final end, or might even worsen my matter--I come to this or that resolution, however, I have to remain close to here until the matter has been decided;[7]--o unfortunate decree[8], as tempting as a siren, against which I should have had my ears plugged with wax and should have been tied up, in order not to sign it, like ulisses-- . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 2, Letter No. 665, p. 366-367; Original: Washington, Library of Congress;  to [2]: probably refers to Op. 97; to [3]: probably refers to Op. 96; to [4]: probably refers to Ladislaus Mihalcivicz; to [5]: refers to Baron Andreas von Forray, married to  Countess Julia Brunsvik, a cousin of Count Franz von Brunsvik; to [6]: probably refers to Op. 95; details taken from p. 367].

In the event that the quartet referred to in this letter actually is Op. 95, we can not be certain in what form Beethoven sent it to his friends, since Cooper writes that: 

" . . . The date of the autograph score, October 1810, fits well with the fact that the main sketches followed immediately those for Egmont, but this date was probably inserted retrospectively since the paper of the autograph appears to belong to about 1814. . . . " [Cooper: 324].

However, by taking a look at Beethoven's letters of this year to several recipients, we can gain a good impression of the troubles Beethoven referred to in his above lines to his friend, Count Franz von Brunsvik: 

"Erzherzog Rudolph an Beethoven

                                                                      [Wien, wohl 5. Januar 1813][1]

Lieber Beethoven

    Übermorgen Donnerstag ist um 1/2 6 Uhr wieder Musick bei dem Fürsten Lobkowitz, und ich soll daselbst die Sonate mit dem Rhode wiederhohlen, wenn es Ihre Gesundheit und Geschäfte erlauben so wünschte ich Sie morgen bey mir zu sehen um die Sonate zu überspielen.  . . . " 

"Archduke Rudolph to Beethoven

                                                                      [Vienna, probably January 5, 1813

Dear Beethoven

    The day after tomorrow, at half past five, thee will be music again at Prince Lobkowitz's, and there, I am supposed to repeat the sonata with Rhode, if your health and your business allow, I would like to see you here, with me, tomorrow, in order to rehearse the sonata. . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 2, Letter No. 614, p. 313; Original: Vienna, Library of the City and Province of Vienna; to [1]: refers to the fact that the first performance of the Violin Sonata, Op. 96, took place on December 29, 1812, and to the fact that the repeat performance mentioned here probably might have taken place on January 7, 1812, and that this letter might have been written two days prior to that; details taken from p. 313]. 

"Beethoven an Erzherzog Rudolph

                                                                        [Wien, 6. Januar 1813][1]

Ihro Kaiserliche Hoheit!

    Ich war eben gestern ausgegangen, als ihr gnädges Schreiben[2] bey mir anlangte -- was meine Gesundheit anbelangt, so ist's wohl daselbe, um so mehr, da hierauf Moralische Ursachen wirken, die sich sobald nicht scheinen heben zu wollen, um so mehr, da ich nur alle Hülfe bey mir selbst suchen, und nur in meinem Kopf die Mittel dazu finden muß, um so mehr, da in der jezigen Zeit weder Wort, weder Ehre, weder Schrift jemanden scheint binden zu müßen;[3] -- . . . "

"Beethoven to Archduke Rudolph

                                                                         [Vienna, January 6, 1813][1]

     I just had stepped out when your graceful letter[2] arrived--as far as my health is concerned, it is the same, all the more, that it goes back to moral issues that do not appear to be solved so soon, all the more, that I have to look for help within myself and in my head, all the more since in this time, neither word, nor honor, nor written documents appear to bind anyone;[3]-- . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 2, Letter No. 615, p. 313-314; Original:  Vienna, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde; to [2]: refers to the fact that this letter appears to be a reply to Letter No. 614; to [3]: according to the GA, this might refer to Beethoven's legal dealings with Prince Lobkowitz and Prince Kinsky in the matter of their contributions to his annuity; details taken from p. 314].  

"Beethoven an Gräfin Maria Eleonora Fuchs[1]

                                                                        [Wien, kurz nach dem 6. Januar 1813][2]

Meine liebe Gräfin!

    wie leid thut es mir nicht ihrer Einladung folge leisten zu können, allein ich habe eben etwas sehr dringendes zu schreiben, denn leider ist dieses das einzige, was mir übrig bleibt troz allen Aufopferungen, die ich gemacht, wenn ich nicht vor Hunger umkommen will -- und einen meiner Unglücklichen kranken Brüder[3] nicht ebenfalls Umkommen laßen will -- . . . "

"Beethoven to Countess Maria Eleonora Fuchs[1]

                                                                         [Vienna, shortly after January 6, 1813][2]

My dear Countess!

    how sorry I am that I can not follow up on your invitation, alone, I have to write something very urgent, right now, since that is the only thing that remains, in spite of all sacrifices I have made, if I do not want to die of starvation--and also if I do not want to let one of my unhappy, ill brothers[3] perish-- . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 2, Letter No. 616, p. 314-135; Original:  in private hands in Austria; to [1]: refers to Countess Maria Eleonora Fuchs, née von Gallenberg (1786 - 1842), wife of Count Franz Xaver Fuchs (1767 - 1842), the sister of the composer Count Wenzel Robert von Gallenberg, thus also the sister-in-law of Guilietta Guicciardi; to [2]: according to the GA, this refers to the concert of Pierre Rhode in the Große Redoutensaal on January 6, 1813; to [3]: refers to Kaspar Karl van Beethoven, who was suffering from tuberculosis; details taken from p. 315].

"Beethoven an Erzherzog Rudolph

                                                                     [Wien, vielleicht Januar 1813][1]

Ihro Kaiserliche Hoheit!

    Ich bin schon seit Sonntag nicht wohl zwar mehr geistig als körperlich, ich bitte Tausendmal um Verzeihung, wenn ich mich nicht früher entschuldigt, doch hatte ich jeden Tage den Besten Willen aufzuwarten, aber der Himmel weiß es, troz dem Besten Willen, den ich für den Besten Herrn habe, hat es mir nicht gelingen wollen -- so weh es mir auch thut, dem nicht alles aufopfern zu können, für den ich das Höchste Gefühl der Hochachtung und liebe und Verehrung habe -- Seine Kaiserl. Hoheit würden vieleicht selbst nicht Unrecht handeln, Wenn sie diesesmal in Rücksicht der Lobkowizischen Konzerten eine Pause machten, auch <der höchste Glanz> das glänzendst[e] Talent kann durch Gewohnheit verliehren.

Mit der Tiefsten Verehrung Ihro Kaiserl. Hoheit

treu-ergebenster Diener

                                                                                              Ludwig van Beethowen"

"Beethoven to Archduke Rudolph

                                                                       [Vienna, perhaps January 1813][1]

Your Imperial Highness!

    Already since Sunday, I have not been feeling well, and that more spiritually than physically, I ask for your forgiveness, a thousand time, for not having apologized earlier, but every day I had the best of intentions of calling on You, but heaven knows, in spite of the best will that I have for the best of masters, it did not want to turn out that way--as much as it hurts me not to be able to sacrifice everything to the one for whom I have the highest feeling of esteem, love and reverence--His Imperial Highness would, perhaps, not act wrong, himself, if this time, he were, with respect to the Lobkowitz concerts, to take a break, even <the highest brilliance> the most brilliant talent can lose through over-exposure.

With the deepest reverence, Your Imperial Highness'

faithfully devoted servant

                                                                                               Ludwig van Beethowen"

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 2, Letter No. 618, p. 317; to [1]: refers to the fact that, according to the GA, Beethoven's depressed mood at the beginning of 1813 might go back to his legal dealings with respect to the annuity payments of Prince Lobkowitz and the Estate of Prince Kinsky, see also Letter No. 615; details taken from p. 317].  

"Beethoven an Fürstin Marie Charlotte Kinsky

                                                                                          [Wien, 12. Februar 1813]

Eure Durchlaucht!

    Sie hatten die Gnade Sich in Ansehung des mir von Dero Höchstseeligen Herrn Gemahl zugesicherten Gehalten dahin zu äußern, daß Sie wohl die Billigkeit, mir den dießfälligen Betrag in Wiener Währung bezahlen zu lassen, wohl einsähen, daß aber hiezu die Einwilligung der Obervormundschafts-Behörde erforderlich wäre.[1] . . . "

"Beethoven to Princess Marie Charlotte Kinsky

                                                                                           [Vienna, February 12, 1813]

Your Grace!

    You had the grace to state, with respect to the annuity secured by Your most blessed Spouse, that you considered it just that the amount owing should be paid to me in Viennese currency, that, however, in order to do so, the permission of the Supreme Guardianship Office would be required.[1] . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 2, Letter No. 622, p. 318-320; Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [1]: that the letter, a reply by the Princess to Beethoven's petition of December 30, 1812 [Letter No. 608], has not been preserved].  

Letters No. 636 of April 16, to Baron Joseph Schweiger von Lerchenfeld, and No. 638 of April 19, 1813, to Zmeskall reflect that Beethoven's attempts of holding concerts in the University Hall failed.   

His next reference to his brother's illness is the following:   

"Beethoven an Erzherzog Rudolph in Baden

                                                                                         [Baden, 27. Mai 1813][1]

Ihro Kaiserliche Hoheit!

    Ich habe die Ehre ihnen meine Ankunft in Baden zu melden, wo es zwar noch sehr leer< aber> an Menschen, aber desto völler angefüllter, und in überfluß in hinreißender Schönheit pranget die Natur. -- Wenn ich irgendwo fehle, gefehlt habe, so haben sie gnädigst Nachsicht mit mir, indem so viele aufeinander gefolgte fatale Begebenheiten[2] mich wirklich in einen beynahe Verwirrten Zustand versezt, . . .  "

"Beethoven to Archduke Rudolph in Baden

                                                                                          [Baden, May 27, 1813][1]

     I have the honor to report to you my arrival at Baden, although it is still very empty of people, however, in turn, all the more abundant in breathtaking beauty of nature.--If I have erred in any way, please have mercy with me, since so many precarious events[2] that occurred one after the other, really almost put me into a state of confusion. . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven, Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 2, Letter No. 656; Original:  Vienna, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde; to [1]: according to the GA, this indicates that Beethoven obviously departed from Vienna on May 27th; to [2]: according to the GA, this is a reference to the illness of his brother and to his legal problems with the Executors of the Estate of Prince Kinsky and with Prince Lobkowitz, with respect to their contributions to his annuity; details taken from p. 353].  

What all of this might have to do with Op. 95 and its publication will become clear to us when we read Beethoven's letter of March 10, 1815, to Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig:

"Mein werthester H[err]!

    Sie würden mich verkennen, wenn sie mich irgend der Vergessenheit ihrer beschuldigten -- was hat sich alles, seit der Zeit ich ihnen von Tepliz das leztemal geschrieben,[1] zugetragen? vielmehr böses als gutes! -- doch von so etwas einmal eher Mündlich, wenn ich mit der Herausgabe meiner vielen neuern werke zögere,[2] so ist es wohl der Ungewißheit aller Dinge, die im Menschlichen Verkehr statt finden, zuzuschreiben, denn was war gewiß in dieser rücksicht und was ist noch gewiß? -- Umstände wie Geldaufnahmen zwangen mich einem verleger von hier einige verbindungen einzugehen,[3] wie?, werden sie schon bald erfahren, dann glaube ich, daß ich wieder mit ihnen werde leichter mich vereinigen können -- viel Dank für ihre Musik.[alische] Z.[eitung], ich werde ihnen nächstens einmal etwas für sie ein schicken --

    . . . 

    nun leben sie recht wohl, ihr jeziges politisches Daseyn will mir auch nicht recht gefallen,[6] allein -- allein -- allein -- die noch nicht erwachsenen Kinder brauchen nun einmal Puppen -- so ist nichts mehr zu sagen --

in Eil ihr wahrhaft ergebenster


"My most worthy Sir!

    You would misjudge me if you would, in any way, accuse me of forgetfulness--what all has not happened since the time when I wrote you from Teplitz, the last time.[1]?  much more bad than good!--however, more about such matters, rather in verbally; if I am hesitating with the publication of many of my newer works,[2] then it is probably on account of the uncertainty of all things, as far as human interaction is concerned, for what was certain in this respect and what is still certain?--circumstances such as having had to take out loans forced me to enter into a relationship with a publisher here,[3] how? you will find out, soon, then, I believe, I will be in a better position to come to terms with you--many thanks for your Musikal.[ische] Zeitung, at the next opportunity, I will send something in for it--

   . . .

   now, farewell, your present political existence does not want to please me, either,[6] alone--alone--alone--the not yet grown-up children need dolls, after all--thus, no more is to be said--

in haste your truly devoted


[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 2, Letter No. 789, p. 118-119; Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Bodmer Collection; to [1]: refers to the fact that the last letter of Beethoven to this publisher was that of September 17, 1812 and that it was written from Teplitz; to [2]: refers to the fact that, with the exception of some songs and folk song arrangements, Beethoven had not published any compositions after 1811; to [3]: refers to the fact that, on December 25, 1813, Beethoven had transferred a promissory note of his sister-in-law Johnanna, in the amount of 1,500 florins, to the Viennese publisher Sigmund Anton Steiner and that the amount owing was supposed to be paid in two installments within a period of nine months.  The GA further points out that, after this time had passed, on September 14, 1814, Steiner had put a caveat on the half of house no. 121 in the Alservorstadt suburb that belonged to Johanna van Beethoven, and that, in turn, Beethoven had taken over this debt, obtained an extension of three months and that he had granted Steiner the rights [without remuneration], to  "seine ganz neue noch nirgend im Stich erschienene Claviersonate mit oder ohne Begleitung eines anderen Instrumentes" ["his entirely new and not yet printed piano sonata with or without accompaniment of another instrument"] and the right of first refusal on further compositions; with respect to this, the GA relies on:  Max Reinitz, Beethovens Prozesse in: Deutsche Rundschau 162 (1915), p. 251 and 254.  The GA further mentions the possibility that Beethoven might also have taken out a loan from Steiner in order to cover any financial loss he had incurred on account of shortfalls in annuity payments by Prince Lobkowitz and the Estate of Prince Kinsky; to [6]: according to the GA, this refers to the fact that, due to the resolutions of the Congress of Vienna, the Kingdom of Saxony suffered substantial territorial losses and that Leipzig was also supposed to be annexed by Austria; details taken from p. 118-119].

From February 1st, 1815 on, in the Henle Gesamtausgabe, we can find many letters and notes by Beethoven to Steiner, in which he addressed this publisher as "General Leutnant" and also those which are addressed to his "Adjudant", Tobias Haslinger.  The contract of May 20, 1815, between Steiner and Beethoven also includes Op. 95.  Les us take a look at a draft of it:   


 Draft of the Contract between Steiner and Beethoven


On May 20th, 1815, Beethoven wrote the following lines to Steiner:  

"Bester ganz erstaunlichster General-Lieutenant!

    ich brauchte noch einige Partituren wie z.B. die von der Sinfonie in A[2], die vom quartett für violin in F moll[3] <ists> und <wenn sie> das singterzett[4]] -- all dieses können sie Montag samt den 2 anderen Partituren[5] zurück erhalten,[6] Es sind einige Fremde hier,[7] denen ich es nicht abschlagen kann, einiges von meinen neuern Werken zu zeigen, übrigens hoffe ich nicht, daß sie hiebey was suchen, wo nichts zu suchen ist -- gegen 3 uhr diesen Nachmittags schicke ich um obgesagtes gesagte!!! leben sie wohl unverwelklichster, Unsterblichster G.L.

                                                                                         ihr generalissimus Beethowen. . . . "

"Best, most amazing General-Lieutenant!

    I still need some scores, as, for example, that of the Symphony in A[2], that of the quartet for violin in F minor[3] and the song trio[4]--you can have all of it back on Monday, together with the 2 other scores[5][6]; there are some foreigners here,[7] whom I can not refuse to show something of my newer works; moreover, I do not hope that you will see something in this, where there is nothing to be seen--towards 3 o'clock of this afternoon I will send for the above-mentioned!!! farewell, most imperishable, immortal G. L.

                                                                                       your generalissimus Beethowen. . . . "

[Source:  Beethoven Briefe Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 3, Letter No. 807, p. 139-141; to [2]: refers to Op. 92; to [3]: probably refers to Op. 95; to [4]: refers to Op. 116; to [5]: refers to Op. 96 and Op. 115; to [6]: refers to the fact that, according to the GA, based on a note by Haslinger on Letter No. 805, Beethoven had returned the scores to Op. 96 and Op. 115 already on May 20th, 1815, thus on Saturday and not on Monday, the 22nd of May; to [7]: according to the GA, this refers to the possibility that Beethoven might have needed these works for Charles Neate who had come to Vienna in May, 1815; details taken from p. 141].

From this can be concluded that Beethoven gave the score of Op. 95 to Steiner on May 22, 1815.  

September 4th, 1816, was the date on which Beethoven again mentioned the score of the quartet in a letter to Steiner:   

"                                                                         Baden am 4ten September. [1816][1]

Sehr bester General-[Lieutenant]

 . . .

 . . .

 wegen der Partitur des 4tets[10] ist der Adjutant immer noch in Verdacht, ich emphele daher die strengste Untersuchung, ich habe es hier angesehen, ohne <Correctur> Partitur kanns nicht corrigirt werden -- . . . "

                                                                           "Baden, on the 4th of September,[1816][1]

Very best General-[Lieutenant]

. . .

. . .

   with respect to the score of the quartet[10], the adjutant is still suspected, therefore, I recommend the strictest investigation, I have reviewed it here, without the score it can not be corrected-- . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 3, Letter No. 967, p. 290-291; Original: Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Bodmer Collection; to [1]: refers to the fact that, according to the GA, the year can be determined from the mention of the Piano Trio Op. 97 that was about to be published; to [10]: refers to Op. 95, details taken from p. 291].

Thayer-Forbes (p. 636) reports that, among other works, Beethoven gave to Charles Neate Op. 95.  With respect to this, we can also refer to footnote no. 2 from Letter No. 1035 of the Henle Gesamtausgabe, a letter which Beethoven wrote to Steiner: 

"Beethoven hatte im Frühjahr 1815 eine größere Zahl von Werken an Steiner verkauft, sich aber das Verlagsrecht für Großbritannien vorbehalten.  Einen Teil dieser Werke hatte er schon Ende 1815 Robert Birchall in London überlassen. . . . Zur Sicherung der englischen Verlagsrechte mußten die Erscheinungsdaten mit Steiner abgestimmt werden.  Aus Gründen, die Beethoven nicht zu verteten hatte, blieben einige Werke vorläufig ungedruckt, die anderen erschienen im Laufe der Jahre 1816/1817" [Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 3, Letter No. 1035, n. 2, p. 357; this note expresses that, in the spring of 1815, Beethoven had sold a larger number of works to Steiner, but had reserved the right to publish them in England, separately, and that he had already given a part of these works to Robert Birchall in 1815.  As the GA further states, in order to secure the publication rights for England, the publication dates had to be coordinated with Steiner, and for reasons that were not Beethoven's doing, some of these works were not printed, immediately, while others were published in the course of the years 1816 and 1817].   

With respect to this, we still want to acquaint you with the following letters from the Henle Gesamtausgabe:  

"Beethoven an Charles Neate

                                                                               [Wien, Ende Januar/Anfang Februar 1816][1]

    mon cher ami je vous prie de ne parles pas de ces oeuvres, que le vou[s] donnerai pour vous et pour l'angleterre,[2] les raisons <de>pour cela, je vous dirai sincerement an bouche -- 

    votre vrai ami

                                                                                                         Beethoven . . . "

     "my dear friend, I ask you not to speak about the works that I will give you for England[2]; I will honestly tell you the reasons for that, in person-- .

       Your true friend

                                                                                                          Beethoven . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 3, Letter No. 889, p. 217; Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Bodmer Collection; to [1]: refers to the fact that this letter is probably connects with Neates impending departure from Vienna; to [2]: refers to the fact that Neate received copies of the scores to the following works: Op. 61, Op. 72, Op. 92, Op. 95, Op. 102, Op. 112, Op. 113 (Overture), Op. 1156, Op. 117 (Overture) and Op. 136; details taken from p.  217].

     "Beethoven an Charles Neate in London

                                                                                              [Wien, 18. Mai 1816]

           My dear Neate!

           By a lettre of M. Ries I am acquainted with your happy arrival at London.[1]  I am very well pleased with it, but Still better I schould be pleased, if I had learned it by yourself.

. . .

. . .  As for the Quator in F moll you may sell it without delay to a printer, and Signify me the day of its publication, as I am intention to Sit it abroad here at[5] the very day.  . . . 

      I leave entirely to your judgement to appoint my reward for bath [= both] the works, to wit: the Quatour and the Sonates.  The more the better.

     . . .

     In expectation of your speedy answer, my dear friend and country man I am wholly

                                                                                                 yours Ludwig van Beethowen

Vienna the 18 May 1816 . . . "

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 3, Letter No. 937, p. 261-262; Original: Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Bodmer Collection; to [1]: refers to Letter No. 917 of March 19, 1816; to [5]: refers to the fact that the passage "as I am . . . at" was corrected by Moscheles to read "as I should wish it to appear on"; details taken from p. 262].

Thayer-Forbes (p. 660) further reports that the work was published by Steiner in 1816, with a dedication to Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanowetz.  


Title Page to Op. 95


This probably coincides with the mentioning of the "patent" on account of the " Vermehrung des poenale [8]" [increase of punishment] in Beethoven's lines of December 20th, 1816 [Letter no. 1020, p. 345-346, Vol. 3 GA] to the "Adjudant" Tobias Haslinger, whereby [8], according to the GA, refers to errors in the editions of Op. 92 and Op. 95, with respect to this Steiner was to publish a list of errors.  In two further letters, No. 1023 and No. 1024, to   Sigmund Anton Steiner, Beethoven refers again to the errors in the edition of Op. 95:   

                                                                     "[Wien, zweite Hälfte Dezember 1816[1]

    Noch einige Fehler des q.[artetts] sind zu verbeßern, wann folgt das Verzeichnis der Fehler in der partitur den Stimmen, u. Quartett-Simmen[2] -- man schläft -- ich werde schon zur Beförderung in Donner u. Bliz erscheinen müßen. --

Der g ---- s"

                                                                      "[Vienna, second half of December 1816[1]

    Still a few more errors of the q.[artet] have to be corrected, when will the list of errors follow in the score, in the parts and quartet parts[2]--one is sleeping--to speed matters up, I shall have to appear in the form of thunder and lightning.--

The g ---- s"

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 3, Letter No. 1023, p. 347; Original: Vienna, Library of the City and Province of Vienna; to [1]: according to the GA, this refers to the fact that the letter deals with corrections to Op. 95 after the publication of the first edition in mid-December 1816; details taken from p. 347].  

                                                                    "[Wien, zweite Hälfte Dezember 1816[[1]

   Es war ausgemacht daß in allen fertigen Exemplaren des quartets etc.  die Fehler solten korrigirt werden, dessen ohngeachtet besitz der Adjutant die Unverschämtheit selbe uncorrigirt zu verkaufen; diese werde ich noch heute zu ahnden u. zu bestrafen wissen, mit den Verzeichnißen[2] wird wie ich merke nur spott getrieben, allein ich werde auch hier wißen, was mir meine Ehre gebiethet u. gewiß nichts nachgeben. --  . . . --zu wissen ist, daß wenn ich nicht zwischen heute u. morgen von wärmern DienstEifer des Adjutanten überzeugt werde, demselben eine zweite schimpfliche Absezung drohet, obschon man denselben <sei> Unserer bekannten Großmuth getreu lieber befördert hätte. --

                                                                                                   der g ----- s . . . "

                                                                      "[Vienna, second half of December 1816][1]

    It had been arranged that in all completed copies of the quartets etc. the errors were supposed to be corrected, in spite of this the Adjutant has the audacity of selling the same uncorrected; I will see to it that this will still be investigated and punished, today, with the lists[2], as I see, only mockery is being committed, alone, also here I shall see to defend my honor and will certainly not give in. -- . . . --let it be known that, if between today and tomorrow, I do not see a more diligent behavior on the part of the Adjutant, the same has to expect an embarrassing demotion, although one, in light of our known benevolence, one would have preferred to promote him.--

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 3, Letter No. 1024, p. 348; to [1]: according to the GA, this refers to the fact that the letter deals with the just-published original edition of Op. 95; to [2]: refers to Letter No. 992;  details taken from p. 348].



If we consider Barry Cooper's above-noted report that the date of October 1810 as the completion date of Op. 95 was probably inserted retroactively, since the paper of the original score appears to stem from the year 1814, then Anton Schindler's report, 

"In May the trio was repeated at a quartet matinee given by Schuppanzigh in the Prater. This performance in the Prater, which I attended as I had the one on 11 April, was Beethoven's last appearance as a pianist. At this matinee the new quartet in F minor, opus 95, was also given its first performance, though it had been composed in 1811" (Schindler: 171; Schindler, Anton Beethoven as I Knew Him, edited by Donald W. McArdle and translated by Constance S. Jolly London, Chapel Hill: 1966, The University of North Carolina Press, Faber and Faber),

might seem plausible to us.  

With respect to the year 1814 we can further report that The New Grove Dictionary of Music, Vol. 3, p. 117 mentions May 1814 as the time of the first performance of Op. 95 and that the Beethoven Compendium [London: 1991, Thames and Hudson, p. 238-239], which was edited by Barry Cooper, refers to May 1814 as the time of the first performance of Op. 95, as well.  

Contrary to this, neither TDR III nor Thayer-Forbes mention this first performance. With respect to Schindler's spring 1814 interaction with Beethoven, Thayer-Forbes reports:  

"In those days a well-to-do music-lover, named Pettenkofer, gathered a number of young people into his house every Saturday for the performance of instrumental music. One evening a pupil of Schuppanzigh's requested his neighbor at the music-stand, a youth of eighteen years, to take a note from his teacher next day to Beethoven, proposing a rehearsal of the Trio, and requiring no answer but "yes" or "no." "I undertook the commission with you," he records; "The desire to be able to stand for even a moment beside the man whose work had for several years inspired me with the greatest reverence for their author, was not to be so unexpectedly and strangely realized.  The next morning the bearer of the note, with beating heart, climbed the four flights in the Pasqualati house, and was at once led by the sartorial servant to the writing table of the master. After he had read the missive, he turned to me and said 'Yes'; with a few rapidly added questions the audience came to an end; but at the door I permitted myself to tarry a little while to observe closely the man, who had already resumed his writing."

This youth was Anton Schindler. He continues his narrative: "This, almost the most important event in the life-history of the poor student up to that time, was soon followed by the acquaintanceship of Schuppanzigh. He gave me a ticket for the concert of April 11, given by him. . . . On this occasion I approached the great master with more confidence, and greeted him reverently. He answered pleasantly and showed that he remembered the carrier of the note." [15: Biogr., 1, pp. 229-30. (TDR, III, 420.)]

And thus ended all personal intercourse between Schindler and Beethoven until the end of the year-a fact to be noted." (Thayer-Forbes, Vol. I: 578).

Solomon (1977), Kinderman (1995), Cooper (2000), Kropfinger (2001) and Lockwood (2003) do not discuss this topic.  

Thayer-Forbes reports about a further performance of Op. 95 during Beethoven's life time: 

    "Schuppanzigh succeeded in swinging the decision back in his favor, and Linke was given the hope of getting the A Minor Quartet, which was realized in the fall.  In the meantime he was annoyed and held Schuppanzigh responsible for the change.  However, by the middle of January the quartet still was not ready so that for his first concert Schuppanzigh had to substitute the Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95" [Thayer-Forbes: 939].

After our look at the fate of this string quartet during Beethoven's life time, we can turn to a look at its musical content.  


With respect to this, let us, again, turn to Bernard Jacobson's description in the CD booklet to the Beethoven String Quartet edition by the Alban Berg Quartet:

" . . . Jacobson writes that it is no coincidence that, in addition to Beethoven's last string quartet, this quartet is the only one that has not been dedicated to an aristocratic patron, but rather to a good friend (Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanowecz) and that Beethoven, not without reason, called it "Quartetto serioso", himself, since, indeed, as never before, Beethoven used this work to convey his most personal, most private expression.   Jacobson continues by pointing out that again, only one movement, namely the first, has been written in sonata form, while it completely foregoes the traditional repetition of formal sequences.  As Jacobson states, the Neapolitan key relationships of the 2nd Razumovsky Quartet are taken up again, while they are treated in a still more compressed form. . . . According to Jacobson, the slow movement (in a thoroughly effective Neapolitan turn towards D-Major) is entirely lyrical and contains a strongly chromatic fugue.  Jacobson describes the third movement as appearing in a contrasting dance form that, however, in its character, is anything but scherzando.  With respect to the last movement, Jacobson refers to Tovey's notion that he was not sure as to whether this movement could be described as a finale, since its theme is somewhere in-between a Rondo and the main theme of a movement.  Jacobson continues by stating that the 6/8 movement keeps the tension that arises in the short, slow introduction until nearly the end, at which time it is replaced by a whirlwind Allegro Coda. He reports that some have found this uncomplicated, cheerful finale unsatisfactory and points out that it might remind us of the forced smile at the end of Mozart's d-Minor concerto.   

    With respect of the great achievement of the f-minor quartet, which, as Jacobson reports, Kerman described as a heretofore unknown immediacy of introversion and expresses the hoe that one might forgive its somewhat ambiguous finale . . . " [CD-Brochure: 44-45].


With respect to contemporary critics, we can again rely on Solomon, Kinderman, Cooper and Lockwood.  Solomon's description is, again, held very general and descriptive:  

" . . . the Quartet in F minor, op. 95, written in the summer of 1810 and withheld from publication for six years, is "an involved, impassioned, highly idiosyncratic piece, problematic in every one of its movements, advanced in a hundred ways."  Titled "Quartetto serioso" -- the only time Beethoven used this odd designation--opus 95 is an experimental work which compresses many complex ideas into a compass smaller than that of opus 74 or any of the Quartets, op. 59.  Beethoven may have been groping here toward his last-period style; and he was presumably dissatisfied with his efforts, for he turned away from the genre for more than a dozen years.  Perhaps what he overlooked in op. 95 was the possibility of combining its probing rhetoric and elliptical condensation with the lyricism and open communicativeness of opus 74.  . . . " [Solomon: 210-211].

Kinderman's comment describes every movement briefly and precisely:  

"Beethoven's other major work of 1810 is also in the key of F minor: the String Quartet op. 95, which was dedicated to Zmeskall.  This piece was withheld from publication until 1816.  Beethoven titled it "Quartetto Serioso", which befits its dark introspective, and vehement character.  Its idiom is concise if not laconic, with many of the conventional transitional and cadential passages of the Viennese Classical style curtailed or eliminated altogether, also drastically compressed in the recapitulation in the first movement.  As in Beethoven's last quartets, there is a special emphasis here on counterpoint and fugue.  The slow movement in D major, marked Allegretto ma non troppo, contains extended fugal passages based on a chromatic subject, whereas the following march-like Allegro assai vivace ma serioso in F minor makes much use of contrapuntal imitation of its basic dotted-rhythm motif.

    As in the Appassionata Sonata in the same key, Beethoven makes the Neapolitan scale degree of G-flat--a semitone above the tonic--serve as a crux for powerful dramatic tensions.  Already near the beginning of the Allegro con brio the terse opening motif is heard on G-flat; an analogous rising semitone relationship is embodied in prominent and disruptive rising scales, while an emphatic D-flat chord--the analogous semitone above the dominant--opens the coda.  The mysterious descending cello scale, beginning on D# that opens the slow movement is related to this harmonic complex in the opening Allegro con brio, and particularly to the gesture of rising scales, which in the first movement have twice been heard on D.  At the end of the slow movement the crucial pitch D is harmonized with a soft diminished seventh chord, before a sudden, forceful reinterpretation of that sonority launches the third movement, in F minor.

    The finale, marked Allegretto agitato, stresses some of the same harmonic relationships, particularly the dissonant semitone D-flat-C of the first movement, but its astonishing coda, in F major, leaves the brooding character of the work as a whole far behind.  There is a curious parallel here with the Egmont Overture:  in the coda of the quartet the dramatic tensions are not resolved but are forgotten and seemingly transcended in a brilliant, exhilarating conclusion.  Randall Thompson wrote of the passage, as cited by Daniel Gregory Mason, that "no bottle of champagne was ever uncorked at a better time" [Kinderman: 148-149].

Cooper's comment is not any less compact: 

" . . . The key is in F minor, and the overall mood is of extreme anguish.  The first movement is characterized by sudden short and angry outbursts, with much emphasis on G-flat, as in the "Appassionata" Sonata, and on dominant minor 9ths--one of Beethoven's favourite chords in such movements.  With a mere 141 bars and no repeats, the movement lasts little over three minutes (going by his own metronome marking), yet it manages to give the impression of being condensed rather than small-scale, with numerous modulations and changes of texture and dynamic.  The second movement beings gently, but is disconcertingly set in D major rather than the more probable D-flat, allowing the note G-flat to be heard in a new contact as F#, and before long, it is engaged in tortuous chromaticism reminiscent of the kind used in the "Malinconia" movement in Op. 18, no. 6.  Beethoven frequently linked the last two movements together at this period, but here he usually links the middle two movements.  The link is provided by an enharmonic diminished seventh, which supplies both the last, soft chord of the slow movement and the angry opening of the ensuing Allegro, where the key and mood of the first movement are resumed.  After further emphasis on the note G-flat, the Trio section is mainly in D major, like the second movement, providing a sense of unity in dissociation that was to become a hallmark of Beethoven's late style.

The agitated finale, again highly condensed, maintains the general mood of anguish until a coda in F major, which is a complete contrast to everything that has bone before.  The link is provided inevitably, by the note F#, which was already present at an early stage in the sketching, and this is followed by light, fluttery sounds and rising scales with a "molto leggeramente" marking.  Much uncertainty has surrounded the interpretation of this section.  Is it a joke?  Is it ironic?  Even a mistake?  Perhaps it is best viewed as a compliment to the Egmont Overture, which also has a coda in F major after an intense F minor movement.  The chronological proximity of the two works is striking--they represent Beethovens F minor phase that briefly succeeded those in C and E flat of the preceding three years.  In both works, the coda evokes a tremendous sense of liberation from everything preceding it, with the first violin soaring to a high C.  In the quartet this free-as-a-bird sensation is enhanced by the fluttering accompaniment.  Just as the "Dona nobis" in Beethoven's Missa solemnis is a "prayer for inner and outer peace", so the coda of the quartet movement and the Egmont Overture can be seen respectively as inner and outer liberation:  inner liberation from mental anguish and external liberation from political oppression.  The key-relationship also contains echoes of the Pastoral Symphony, where the shepherds are liberated in F major from the terrors of a storm in F minor.  Once again, he has found a new means of deploying an earlier idea" [Cooper:  324].   

Lewis Lockwood provides the most extensive comment:  

" Of all Beethoven's quartets up to then, Opus 95 is the most fiercely concentrated and closely argued.  F minor, a key of tragic feeling, always evokes a strong emotional response, not only in Beethoven but in his two great predecessors and also his followers.  Witness Schubert's deeply moving Fantasy for piano four hands, D 940, which shows some signs of potential influence from Opus 95 in its odd juxtaposition of keys.  (Schubert has interior movements in F-sharp minor and D major within an E-minor context, which could well derive from Beethoven's slow movement choice of D major in this quartet).  Later examples stream down through the 19th century.  For Beethoven himself we trace significant uses of F minor as a main key only in his piano sonatas, first in No. 1, and again, much more developed, in the "Appassionata".  Otherwise Beethoven chooses it as tonic only for Florestan's dungeon scene, for the slow movement of Opus 59 No. 1, for the "Storm" in the Pastoral Symphony, and for the Egmont Overture.  It is somewhat surprising that after this quartet, he never completed another  full work in this key and that the only F-minor inner movement of a later cyclic work is the Scherzo of the F-flat major Piano Sonata No. 31.  The tonal and expressive range of the late works-especially the late quartets--never moves beyond the classical key associations that still hovered lightly over his middle-period works.

The brief opening subject is outlined by the same scale steps, 1-3-1-3-1, as the Eroica opening subject but with the intervals filled in, using two forms of the minor scale in immediate succession (**W42).  Thus the melody moves down from 1 to 5 through lowered 7 and lowered 6, then moves back from 5 to 1 through raised 6 and raised 7.  This initial ambiguity sets up tonal suggestions that are immediately taken up in connection with scale step 2, that is G, the opening subject reappears on G-flat, or lowered 2, thus treating this pitch as if it were a new local tonic, and then suddenly returns to its F-minor tonic by way of a G# in the Cello.

From here the well-defined rhythmic cell of four sixteenth notes plus downbeat--with the pitches 1-2-3-2-1--takes hold as a basic figure for the movement, in which the tension once established never lets up.  The phrases are frequently asymmetric and abrupt, and there is an absence of simple periodicity in the phrase relationship along with a focus on the close, insistent development of a small  group of motives.  This high degree of concentration allows little or no room for transition passages that could relax the discourse and define spaces between principal thematic units.  The exposition is not repeated.  Rather, Beethoven goes on at once to the short development section, which leads to the drastically shortened recapitulation.  Everywhere compression rules;  the whole development section occupies only 14 percent of the whole movement, and the fiercely emphatic recapitulation and coda hold the intensity to the end (*W43).

    In contrast the Allegretto slow movement, in D major, patiently explores its thematic material, which turns out to be based on the same descending interval of a fourth that is prominent in the first movement, but now with completely different character:  it opens "mezza voce" ("with half voice") and slowly develops a web of quiet themes, gaining complexity as it accumulates more complex harmonics and relationships, including a fugal passage:  The slow movement closes into a Scherzo that resumes the power and tension of the first movement, relieved only by a lyrical Trio in the odd keys of G-flat major (in the half step above the original F-minor tonic of the first movement) and D-major (the key of the slow movement).  All this is then capped by the Finale.  A short introduction, Larghetto espressivo, prepares the 6/8 main body of the last movement.  Allegretto agitato, whose basic sense is of deep gestural yearning and imploring, moving along pathways of feeling that no words can fully describe.

The coda of the Finale has baffled many a dedicated Beethovenian, as it ends the whole work with a light-fingered, nimble Allegro.  Its special character is enhanced by what immediately precedes it,, namely a pianissimo close in F major that seemingly promises to conclude the movement on a quiet note of affirmation.  But then the coda breaks out with its running figures in 2/2 meter, sempre piano building gradually to two climactic arrivals on the tonic.  The composer Vincent d'Indy criticized the coda forcibly, others see it as perhaps a joke, even an "opera buffa finale", or as a sample of paradox and romantic irony.  But behind the facade lurk elements of art, as the half-step figure F#-g-G#-A that starts off the coda emerges as a basic idea that is repeated three times emphatically near the end.  There it suddenly reminds us of the opening chromatic figures that had started off the first movement, now on different scale steps but with the same emphasis on two forms of the same scale step, G, which is now G and G# in immediate succession.  Further, the F-sharp implies two forms of the tonic pitch, F, thus the implied sequence is an upward chromatic span of five notes. F-F#-G-G#-A.  The chromatic figure forces our attention to the pitch content of the coda rather than simply letting us be carried away by its speed and finality.  It ends this darkest of Beethoven quartets in alight still shadowed by the tragic features of the earlier movements.  Such qualities, depths below depths, have given this work the valid reputation of being a visionary anticipation of Beethoven's late style, certainly of the late quartets.  Yet if we look at the work more for what it fulfills than what it anticipates, we see that in the foliage of its interrelated clusters of ideas, it represents, a deepening and thickening of Beethoven's second period quartet style, moving from broad and open ways of expression, as in Opus 59 no. 1into a world of pain and oppression" [Lockwood: 327-329].