Ludwig van Beethoven's String Quartet No. 7 in F major was published in 1806 as opus 59, No. 1. It consists of four movements:
- Allegro in F major
- Allegretto vivace e sempre scherzando in B♭ major
- Adagio molto e mesto - attacca in F minor
- Thème Russe: Allegro in F major
This work is the first of three quartets commissioned by prince Andreas Razumovsky, then the Russian ambassador to Vienna. This quartet is the first of Beethoven's middle period quartets and exhibits a marked departure in style from his earlier opus 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 typically lasted only twenty-five to thirty minutes. Furthermore, this quartet notoriously requires a greatly expanded technical repertoire when compared against his op. 18 quartets. By 1806, Beethoven was undoubtedly a known quantity in many elite circles; however, his universal popularity as a composer had not been established. Scholars posit that the greater demands on technical ability not only served to widen the ever-increasing gap, as it were, between amateurs and professionals but to simultaneously propel Beethoven into the public image as a composer of "serious music." Other scholars claim that the delay of public performance due to Count Razumovsky being granted exclusive rights to these quartets for several years invalidates the theory of popular image promotion.
The first movement is an expansive opener in sonata form, with a fugato in the development. It lasts nearly twelve minutes even though it forgoes the customary double exposition. The opening of the movement features a cello melody and is tonally ambiguous. The first cadence of the piece in F major is only established 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. The second movement has the character but not the form of a scherzo, like the corresponding movement of the Archduke Trio; it is formally one of the most unusual movements of Beethoven's middle period, not easily classifiable either as a sonata form or as any common variation of scherzo and trio form. The third and fourth movements are also in sonata form. The final movement is built around a popular Russian theme, likely an attempt to ingratiate the work to its Russian commissioner.
- ^ although Mauricio Hewitt is quite positive about it in his foreword to the score published by Heugel (1951)
String Quartets Nos. 7 - 9, Opus 59 - Rasumovsky (Beethoven)
References and further reading