Ludwig van Beethoven's String Quartet No. 10 in E♭ major, nicknamed the "Harp", was published in 1809 as opus 74.
The nickname "Harp" refers to the characteristic pizzicato sections in the Allegro of the first movement, where pairs of members of the quartet alternate notes in an arpeggio, reminiscent of the plucking of a harp. Like many nicknames for Beethoven's works, this was created by the publisher.
Formal analysis of movements
Movement I (Poco Adagio; Allegro)
This movement is in sonata form.
Exposition (mm. 25-77)
1st tonal area, E♭ (mm. 1-29)
Pizzicati lead transition to tonal area 2
2nd tonal area, B♭ (mm. 52-)
Closing (mm. 70-77)
In keeping with tradition, there is a repeat of this short exposition.
Development (mm. 78-139)
Recapitulation (mm. 140-205)
Coda (mm. 206-262) This coda is huge, which is a typical Beethoven characteristic.
Movement II (Adagio ma non troppo)
This movement is in rondo form.
Movement III (Presto)
This movement is in Scherzo form.
Scherzo (mm.1-76) C minor
Trio (mm. 77-169) C major
Movement IV (Allegretto con Variazioni)
Back in E♭ major again. This is a theme and ornamental variations, and follows the typical form.
The coda begins at m. 142.
The first movement, of about ten minutes duration, is one of the best examples of Beethoven's management of musical tension. The short Adagio introduction (24 bars long) is not tightly thematically integrated with the rest of the movement; it serves a similar function to the Introduzione of the first movement of Op 59 No 3. The main motifs of the Allegro are the lyrical melody appearing several bars from the beginning, and the pizzicato arpeggios played by two instruments accompanied by repeating quavers played by the other two. At first, these two themes appear thematically and rhythmically unrelated. It is only the last fifty bars that the listener discovers that Beethoven's true purpose is for them to be played simultaneously, beneath a schizophrenic violin part, to generate the climax of the movement.
The Harp Quartet parallels many facets of the Fifth Symphony. The Heroic quality pervading Beethoven's Middle Period is heard extensively in the first movement. Both the Fifth Symphony and Harp quartet have intense scherzi. Nevertheless, the grand entrance to the opening of the Finale of the Fifth is noticeably absent in the opening of Op. 74. The fourth movement of the Harp quartet follows a highly traditional theme and variations form. The Classical style of the fourth movement juxtaposed against the Heroic nature of the first movement frustrates Beethoven scholars who seek to contextualize this piece in Beethoven's stylistic trajectory.
Sources for further reading
These sources contain information specifically about the Op. 74 quartet.
- Kerman, Joseph, The Beethoven Quartets. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1966, pp. 155-168 ISBN 0-393-00909-2
- Marliave, Joseph de., trans. Hilda Andrews. Beethoven's Quartets New York: Dover, 1961, pp. 146-173.
- Marston, Nicholas. "Analysing Variations: The Finale of Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 74." from Music Analysis 8, no.3 (October 1989): pp. 303-324.
- Radcliffe, Philip. Beethoven's String Quartets New York: E.P. Dutton, 1968, pp. 82-89.
- Shepherd, Arthur. The String Quartets of Ludwig Van Beethoven. Cleveland: The Printing Press, 1935, pp. 37-39.
- Robert Winter and Robert Martin, eds. The Beethoven Quartet Companion. Berkeley, CA: University of CA Press, 1994, pp. 196-203.