String Quartet No. 13 (Beethoven)

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The String Quartet No. 13 in B major, op. 130, by Ludwig van Beethoven was completed in November 1825.[1] The number traditionally assigned to it is based on the order of its publication; it is actually Beethoven's 14th quartet in order of composition. It was premiered in March 1826 by the Schuppanzigh Quartet and dedicated to Nikolai Galitzin on its publication in 1827. Its original form consisted of six movements totalling approximately 50 minutes, as follows:

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

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

After the work's first performance, mixed reactions and his publisher's suggestion convinced Beethoven to substitute a different final movement, one much shorter and lighter than the enormous Große Fuge. This new finale was written between September and November 1826—and is thus the last substantial piece of composition Beethoven completed before his death. This movement is marked:

6. Finale: Allegro

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

The original finale was then published separately under the title Große Fuge as opus 133. Modern performances sometimes follow the composer's original intentions, leaving out the substitute finale and concluding with the fugue.

Beethoven was quite fond of fugues in his later years: others can be found in the final movements of the Hammerklavier Sonata, the Ninth Symphony, the Fifth Cello Sonata and the Piano Sonata No. 31, op. 110.

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

The Cavatina (performed by the Budapest String Quartet) is the last piece on the "golden record", a phonograph record containing a broad sample of Earth's sounds, languages, and music sent into outer space with the two Voyager probes.[2]

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