String Quartet No. 8 (Beethoven)
The String Quartet No. 8 in E minor by Ludwig van Beethoven, opus 59, no. 2, was the second of three of his "Razumovsky" cycle of string quartets, and is a product of his "middle" period. He published it in 1808.
It is in four movements:
- Allegro, 6/8
- Molto adagio (Si tratta questo pezzo con molto di sentimento), common time in E major
- Allegretto (second section "Maggiore – Theme russe"), 3/4, E minor - Maggiore - Minore
- Finale, Presto, alla breve, starting in C major and finishing in E minor
According to Carl Czerny, the second movement of the quartet occurred to Beethoven as he contemplated the starry sky and thought of the music of the spheres (Thayer, Life of Beethoven); it has a hymnlike quality reminiscent of a much later devotion, the "Heiliger Dankgesang" hymn to the Divine in the Quartet Op. 132.
The scherzo movement of the quartet, the third movement (Allegretto), uses a Russian theme also used by Modest Mussorgsky in Boris Godunov, by Anton Arensky in his String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, and by Sergei Rachmaninoff in his 6 Morceaux for Piano Duet, Op. 11. The original song, Glory to the Sun, was recorded by Nikolay Lvov and Jan Prac; sheet music was published in 1790 (second edition 1806), verses in the 1770s. However, Beethoven used it in an ungentle way. According to Kerman, "It sounds as though Count Razumovsky had been tactless enough to hand Beethoven the tune, and Beethoven is pile-driving it into the ground by way of revenge." In an extremely unusual example of melodic setting prior to the 20th century, portions of the tune with strong tonic harmonic leanings are harmonized with the dominant, and vice versa; the harmonic clash is harsh, and many listeners have found this portion of the quartet to be quite amusing, especially as contrasted with the prosaic, almost "exercise-book" counterpoint which precedes it (another example of Beethoven parodying a student counterpoint exercise can be found in the scherzo of the Quartet No. 10, opus 74).
- Grove, G. p. 244, and p.270 under the heading "Original Publisher.": "Bureau des Arts et d'Industrie of Schreyvogel & Co., Pesth, 1808."
- Emerson, Oldani p. 41
- Caryl Emerson, Robert Oldani (2006). Modest Musorgsky and Boris Godunov: Myths, Realities, Reconsiderations. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-36976-3.
- Joseph Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1966. ISBN 0-393-00909-2
- Alexander Wheelock Thayer, Life of Beethoven. Princeton, rev. 1964.
- Sir George Grove, "Beethoven" Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Volume I. New York: Macmillan. 1904.
- String Quartet No. 8: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Performance of String Quartet No. 8 by the Borromeo String Quartet from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in MP3 format