Ludwig van Beethoven’s string quartets are considered the pinnacle of chamber music. The programme of the NFM Orchestra Leopoldinum concert includes two works of this type, arranged by Joseph Swensen, who will conduct. Both belong to the same opus, and both are written in cheerful major keys.
The works featured were created in the years 1805–1806 as opus 59 and are called the ‘Razumovsky Quartets. Andrei Kirillovich Razumovsky was a diplomat, and at that time he was the Russian ambassador in Vienna. During his stay in Austria, he made friends with Beethoven, and the composer dedicated several pieces to him, including these quartets. They contain quotations from Russian music (marked in the score as ‘Thème russe’), giving them a specific colour, which to Beethoven’s contemporaries must have seemed very exotic.
In the String Quartet No. 7 in F major op. 59 no. 1, the fourth movement is based on a Russian melody. This movement, like the whole work, is graceful, cheerful and optimistic. In the second composition featured in the concert programme, i.e. the String Quartet No. 9 in C major op. 59 no. 3, you will not find a literal quote from Russian music, but an exotic-sounding Gypsy scale used by the composer in the second movement, Andante con moto quasi allegretto, which made many commentators believe this melody was an equivalent of the Russian theme found in other quartets in this collection.