The String Quartet No. 13 in B♭ major, op. 130, by Ludwig van Beethoven was completed in November 1825. The number traditionally assigned to it is based on the order of its publication; it is actually the fourteenth 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; they are as follows:
- Adagio, ma non troppo — Allegro
- Andante con moto, ma non troppo. Poco scherzoso
- Alla danza tedesca. Allegro assai
- Cavatina. Adagio molto espressivo
- Große Fuge (Grande Fugue Op.133): Ouverture. Allegro — Meno mosso e moderato — Allegetto — Fuga. [Allegro] — Meno mosso e moderato — Allegro molto e con brio — Allegro
Nomenclature: "danza tedesca" is a German dance, "Cavatina" a short and simple song, "Große Fuge" is "Great (or Grand) Fugue".
After the first performance of this work, mixed reactions and publisher suggestion convinced Beethoven to substitute a different final movement, much shorter and lighter than the enormous Große Fuge. This new finale was written between September and November 1826. This movement is marked:
- 6. Finale: Allegro
Beethoven never witnessed the first performance of the quartet in its final form, since this did not happen until April 22, 1827, almost one 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, 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, and the Piano Sonata No. 31).
The work is unusual among quartets in being written in six movements. The six follow the cycle 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 (as played by the Budapest String Quartet) was chosen as the last piece to be played on the "golden record", a phonograph record containing a broad sample of Earth's common sounds, languages, and music sent into outer space with the two Voyager probes.