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Hyperion Records

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Morning mist in the mountains (1808) by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)
Thüringer Landesmuseum, Heidecksburg, Rudolstadt
Track(s) taken from CDA66408
Recording details: May 1991
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Arthur Johnson
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: February 1992
Total duration: 24 minutes 23 seconds

String Quartet in F major, Op 135
composer
1824/6

Allegretto  [5'56]
Vivace  [3'29]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Beethoven's last completed composition (except for the second finale of Op 130) has the light touch of infinite wisdom and charity; smaller than the others, in scope as well as dimensions, it is nevertheless something only the vastly experienced Beethoven could have written. The first movement displays the exquisitely reticulated texture of which he had always been fond (we can find it as early as the coda to the 'Andante cantabile' of Op 18 No 5). The music ambles delicately, airily, with fine, free, strong part-writing and much variety of detail and subtlety of harmony. It is the most sensitively coloured quartet writing in existence.

It leaves us unprepared for the fire-breathing, suppressed energy of the Scherzo, full of dislocated syncopations. The wild Trio, with its extraordinarily hectic violin solo, lets fly the force of an exploding atom. Its astonishing A major climax (tonally at polar opposition to the fierce E flats which from time to time interrupt the Scherzo) then subsides all at once, muttering, into the return of the Scherzo, one of Beethoven's weirdest transitions.

All this tension is not dispelled by the D flat major slow movement, utterly quiet though it is. The stasis of these variations seems to breed a new tension, equally great. There are three variations on a theme of complete simplicity, and the central one is in the minor, full of breathless oppressed pauses, more frozen than the beklemmt section of the Cavatina of Op 130. The last moves into a trance-like coda. No relaxation here — only an iron self control, needed to cope with the enormous contrast from the Scherzo.

The reaction to this heavily subdued D flat music is F minor, and the famous Difficult Resolution. This originated in a joke of Beethoven's about someone who owed him money. On being asked to pay up, the fellow moaned 'Must it be?', and Beethoven replied 'It MUST be!', thereupon setting the words to an atrocious canon. Joke or not, some kind of difficult resolution has to be found after the fantastic Scherzo and the paralysis of the slow movement. The hard stepwise progression of this introduction to the finale, painfully edging its way up towards the light and freedom of movement, is inescapable, and breaks out with delighted relief into what MUST be —life again. The introduction recurs, intensified, more theatrical in an inextricable blend of humour and seriousness, and subdued questions precede the delicate laughter of the end. The gayest and simplest material in this finale is cast in A major, the key of the Trio's overwhelmingly vital climax, and the only traces of D flat are elliptically hinted at in the struggling introduction.

from notes by Robert Simpson © 1991

Other albums featuring this work
'Beethoven: String Quartets' (CDH55021/8)
Beethoven: String Quartets
MP3 £24.99FLAC £24.99ALAC £24.99 CDH55021/8  8CDs Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Deleted  
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