String Quartet No. 7 (Beethoven)

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String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59, No. 1, was written by Ludwig van Beethoven and published in 1808.


This work is the first of three quartets commissioned by prince Andrey Razumovsky, then the Russian ambassador to Vienna. This quartet is the first of Beethoven's middle period quartets and departs in style from his earlier Op. 18 quartets. The most apparent difference is that this quartet is over forty minutes long in a typical performance, whereas most of Beethoven's earlier quartets lasted twenty-five to thirty minutes. Furthermore, this quartet notoriously requires a greatly expanded technical repertoire.


It consists of four movements:

  1. Allegro (F major)
  2. Allegretto vivace e sempre scherzando (B major)
  3. Adagio molto e mesto – attacca (F minor)
  4. "Thème Russe": Allegro (F major)

The first movement is in an expansive sonata form, including a fugato in the development and lasting nearly twelve minutes even though it forgoes the then-customary repeat of the exposition. The opening cello melody is tonally ambiguous, with the first cadence establishing the key of F major only occurring several bars into the movement.

Another feature of the first movement is the delayed emotional recapitulation. As became one of Beethoven's many tools for emotional manipulation, delaying the grandiosity of the recapitulation for several bars after the establishment of the tonic key allowed Beethoven to heighten expectation of a definitive statement.

While both the majestic slow third movement and the fourth are also in sonata form, the second movement scherzo is formally one of the most unusual movements of Beethoven's middle period, easily classifiable as being also in sonata form.[1]

The final movement is built around a popular Russian theme, likely an attempt to ingratiate the work to its Russian commissioner.[2]

Masonic symbol[edit]

On the last leaf of the sketches for the Adagio, Beethoven wrote, "A weeping willow or acacia tree on my brother's grave" (Einen Trauerwiden oder Akazien-Baum aufs Grab meines Bruders). Both of his brothers were alive when this work was written so these words are interpreted as having a masonic significance,[3] for the acacia is widely considered the symbolic plant of Freemasonry.[4]


  1. ^ Mauricio Hewitt is quite positive about this in his foreword to the score published by Heugel (1951)
  2. ^ This theme also appears, with a difference in accent and emphasis, as a main theme in the finale of Anton Arensky's Symphony No. 1 in B minor.
  3. ^ "Ludwig van Beethoven". Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. Retrieved 2015-12-21. Andrew Pearmain. Music and Masonry. The Prestionian Lecture for 1988. Ars Quatuor Coronatorum. London : Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, vol. cii (1990). p. 152. 
  4. ^ "Freemason Symbols". Masonic Lodge of Education. Retrieved 2015-12-21. 

Further reading[edit]

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