Ludwig van Beethoven

String Quartet No. 15 in A minor ("Heiliger Dankgesang"), Op. 132

    Description by Robert Cummings

    This was the second of the three quartets Beethoven completed to satisfy the commission from Prince Nikolai Golitzin. No. 12, Opus 127 (1823-1824), was the first to be finished, followed by this A minor effort, with the Thirteenth (1826) coming last. The work carries the nickname "Heiliger Dankgesang" because of the note written in the score (actually in French) by Beethoven that pertains to the third movement.

    From this note, as well as from the time of the work's composition, one can safely deduce that the crisis one clearly hears in the music is related to the lengthy illness Beethoven suffered from April 1825 until August of that year. The composer makes no attempt to depict his feelings during the illness; rather, he reflects on them and gives thanks in this score for his recovery, for the vanquishing of the pain and suffering that he must surely have felt were symptoms of a life-threatening illness.

    The first movement, marked Assai sostenuto, Allegro, has an odd but ingenious structure: Beethoven presents a four-note motif that proves to be the central force throughout, developing it in between three separate expositions. There are two main theme groups, the first of which apparently represents the composer's physical suffering, the latter his sense of hope to overcome it. These subjects transform brilliantly as the movement progresses, with the theme of suffering finally appearing as a joyous hymn at the close.

    The second movement is a Scherzo marked Allegro ma non tanto. While the mood of the music here is happy, its slightly restrained character suggests the recovering composer is a bit leery about venturing into too much activity. The third movement, marked Molto adagio, is the work's emotional centerpiece. A slow, hymn-like theme of religious character dominates the proceedings, appearing in different guises throughout, in the end arriving at its definitive, celestial version. The form of this movement is unusual, consisting of five sections and progressing from depictions of the sick composer's hopes, to his feelings of recovery and returning strength, and finally to his recovery and thankfulness to God.

    The fourth movement is comprised of a short march, marked Assai vivace. In certain ways, this is a rather puzzling chapter in the overall scheme of the music, the slightly martial nature of the theme seeming out of focus with the rest of the work. Yet, the music here serves as an effective contrast to the preceding movement, as if to suggest a return from the heavens back to the reality of earth.

    The finale is a Rondo marked Allegro appassionato. There is nothing innovative in the form here, Beethoven apparently content to suggest that a return to routine can bring sufficient rewards for his purposes, as it may symbolize that a return to health can make one appreciate the simple things in life. Here the mood is joyous throughout and full of color and sunshine. The composer clearly conveys that the crisis is behind him, that the music does not celebrate triumph here, but rather expresses joy and thankfulness. This work was first published in Paris and Berlin in 1827 and was dedicated to Prince Nikolai Golitzin.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Assai sostenuto - Allegro
    2. Allegro ma non tanto
    3. Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an der Gottheit, in der Lydischen Tonart. Molto adagio - Andante
    4. Alla marcia, assai vivace
    5. Allegro appassionato

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Harmonia Mundi HMM 90240305
    2018 Audite AUD 21454
    2018 ABC Classics
    2017 Naïve V 5445
    2017 Centaur Records CRC 3533
    2017 Channel Classics CCS 39317
    2016 Audite AUDITE 92684
    2016 Alpha ALPHA 262
    2016 Avie AV 2356
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795982
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646019311
    2015 ATMA Classique ACD 22493
    2015 Thorofon CTH 2614
    2015 Praga / Praga Digitals PRD 250314
    2014 Marquis Classics MAR 81449
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMU 80764148
    2014 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT 344
    2014 BIS 1096
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT 321
    2013 Aeon AEN 1223
    2013 Music@Menlo LIVE 201307
    2013 Audite AUDITE 21424
    2012 Warner Classics 694515
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 Centaur Records CRC 3212/3213/3214
    2012 ICA Classics ICAC 5070
    2011 CAvi-music AVI 8553225
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Virgin Classics
    2011 Camerata Records CMCD 201056
    2011 Virgin Classics 5099902931524
    2011 Erato
    2010 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099960710
    2010 Warner Classics
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94064
    2010 Harmonia Mundi 80748183
    2010 Foghorn / Foghorn Classics 2005
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778649
    2010 Foghorn / Foghorn Classics 2002
    2010 Sony Classical 7776782
    2009 Nimbus 6100
    2009 Thorofon / Zebralution
    2008 Warner Classics 2564694713
    2008 Koch International Classics 7683
    2008 Parnassus Records 96042/4
    2008 Corona Classics 0002742CCC
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics 5096552
    2008 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 476820
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099950965
    2007 Cascade Records 2200
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93525
    2007 Testament 3082
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93323
    2007 Sony Classical Essential Classics 88697072652
    2007 EMI Classics 87739
    2007 EMI Classics 3777672
    2007 Altara Classic 1024
    2007 Philips 4758685
    2007 Philips
    2006 Arte Nova 636370
    2006 Supraphon 38702
    2006 Warner Classics 4621962
    2006 Teldec
    2006 ASV / Sanctuary 801
    2006 Vanguard 1942
    2006 NCA 60139
    2005 EMI Classics 73798/8
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 0002894775705
    2005 Opus KURA 2052
    2005 Virgin Classics
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 54592
    2005 Warner Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics 5869812
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 67236
    2005 Decca 000387502
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 76824
    2005 Praga 350013
    2005 Music & Arts CD1154
    2005 Music & Arts CD-1154
    2005 Dutton Vocalion 9755
    2004 Quadromania Klassik 222111
    2004 Warner Classics / Warner Music 4613992
    2004 Brilliant 92387
    2004 RCA Victor 55704
    2003 Virgin 62258
    2003 Telarc Distribution 80427
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000048402
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon
    2003 Artemis Classics 1206
    2003 ASV Digital 1118
    2002 Sony Music Distribution 87889
    2002 Hungaroton 41004
    2001 Naïve 4871
    2001 Music & Arts 1084
    2000 Ars Musici 1245
    2000 Arkadia 78513
    2000 Praga 250133
    2000 Naxos 554592
    2000 Calliope 3633/9
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 463143
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 65308
    1999 Pearl 0053
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 415676
    1999 Fono Enterprise 99401
    1999 Arte Nova 63637
    1999 Biddulph Recordings 099
    1999 Brilliant 99093
    1999 Hyperion 55021/8
    1999 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 7243573606
    1999 Calliope 9633/9
    1998 Virgin 61406
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459063
    1998 Intim Musik 049
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459071
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453768
    1997 Sony Music Distribution MH2K62873
    1997 Calliope 9639
    1997 Telarc Distribution 80475
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 66408
    1997 Vanguard 72/74
    1997 Biddulph Recordings 84
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 447075
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon
    1997 Bridge 9072
    1996 Philips 454 062-2PB10
    1996 Everest 9056
    1996 Philips 454 712-2PM2
    1996 Capriccio Records 10722
    1996 Berlin Classics 0091632
    1996 Vox 5149
    1995 Preiser Records 90172
    1995 Supraphon 0076
    1994 Delos 3039
    1994 Delos 3037
    1993 ASV 604
    1993 Praga 254009
    1993 Teldec 76457
    1993 Teldec 91496
    1993 ASV 403
    1993 Thorofon 2182
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48058
    1992 RCA Victor 60975
    1991 Hyperion 66406
    1990 RCA 60458
    1990 Philips 426050
    1988 CBS Records 37873
    1987 Valois 4406
    QT Records 99402
    Chandos 10553
    Cascade Records 2257
    Vanguard 5003
    MDG 3070854
    Denon Records 7086
    Arte Nova 37312
    Harmonia Mundi 1901221
    Platz 594
    Nimbus 5285
    White Label 126
    Philips 422388
    EMI Music Distribution 69793
    Brilliant 92387/34
    Brilliant Classics 93323/7
    Brilliant 93525/41
    Virgin 90746
    Warner Music
    Chandos 10304
    Brilliant 99126
    ABC Classics 4763541
    RCA Victor 902661621
    Musical Heritage Society 10903
    ABC Classics 4763543
    Deutsche Grammophon 447080
    EMI Music Distribution 47135
    Fono Enterprise 99336
    Philips 464684
    Arte Nova 496932
    Bvhaast 9507
    EMI Music Distribution 47134