Ludwig van Beethoven

String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op. 130

    Description by Robert Cummings

    This effort is among Beethoven's final works and is the last of the three quartets composed to meet the commission of Prince Nikolai Golitzin. No. 12, Op. 127, was written in the period 1823-1824 and was followed by the Fifteenth, Op. 132, in 1825. This Thirteenth Quartet was completed in early January 1826, but its original finale was replaced by a new one finished in late November 1826. This second finale is said to be Beethoven's last completed compositon. The composer agreed to replace the original, the so-called Grosse Fuge, Op. 133, at the behest of his publisher. It is a rather self-contained composition anyway, and proved quite difficult for the performers and audience who heard the work at its premiere on March 21, 1826. But Beethoven probably also recognized that the Grosse Fuge was a rather outsized piece, too grand to serve as the finale for the B flat Thirteenth, a great piece in its own right, but a work whose character in the preceding five movements is less epic-sounding.

    This work obtained the nickname "Lieb" (dear) from Beethoven himself, who referred to it that way in some of his writings. It consists of six movements and may be looked upon as similar to a divertimento or suite, in the older sense of those forms. The first movement alternates slow and fast music throughout, bearing the markings Adagio ma non troppo and Allegro. It moves from the somber to the playful, from the contemplative to the joyous. Beethoven's treatment of the thematic material and his handling of the sonata-allegro form is quite innovative here.

    There follows a short Scherzo, one of the composer's best in any genre. The writing in this Presto movement is brilliant and full of color; the mood is light and witty. The ensuing Andante con moto ma non troppo is bright and quite lively, despite its marking; indeed, Beethoven also included the direction here of poco scherzando.

    The next movement is marked Alla danza Tedesca (dance in the German style). The music here is again light but also a bit dry. The following passage, marked Cavatina, Adagio molto esspressivo, is somber and melancholy, and also quite profound. The composer himself spoke of the effect this music had on his emotional state, of its ability to draw an occasional tear. The main theme, as its marking suggests, is songlike and quite lovely.

    As mentioned above, the finale is the last completed piece Beethoven wrote. Its happy mood does not betray the composer's health problems and emotional state. Although he had just recovered from a serious illness, he was still not well and would live only a few months more. Moreover, Beethoven wrote this finale during a reluctant stay at his brother Johann's residence in Gneixendorff (in the Danube Valley) where he had traveled with his troubled nephew, Karl. The composer did not get along with his sister-in-law, and one can only imagine that the uncomfortable circumstances under which he wrote this music were hardly conducive to composition, especially composition of a happy cast. In any event, this finale provides a brilliant close to the work, quite a different one than that of the original rather complex fugue. This Quartet was first published in Vienna in 1827, carrying a dedication to Prince Golitzin. The premiere of the final version took place on April 22, 1827, a month after the composer's death.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Adagio ma non troppo - Allegro
    2. Presto
    3. Andante con moto ma non troppo
    4. Alla danza tedesca. Allegro assai
    5. Cavatina. Adagio molto espressivo
    6. Finale. Allegro

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Audite AUD 21454
    2018 ABC Classics
    2017 Naïve V 5445
    2016 Audite AUDITE 92685
    2016 Alpha ALPHA 262
    2016 Avie AV 2356
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795982
    2016 Phi LPH 023
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646019311
    2015 ATMA Classique ACD 22493
    2015 Thorofon CTH 2614
    2015 Wigmore Hall Live WHLIVE 00732
    2014 La Dolce Volta LDV 278
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMU 80764148
    2014 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT 344
    2014 BIS 1096
    2014 Aeon AECD 1438
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT 321
    2013 Audite AUDITE 21424
    2012 Warner Classics 694515
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 Centaur Records CRC 3212/3213/3214
    2012 Concerto / Zebralution
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Virgin Classics
    2011 Camerata Records CMCD 201056
    2011 ZYX / ZYX Music CLA 10118
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94064
    2010 Warner Classics
    2010 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099969458
    2010 Harmonia Mundi 80748183
    2010 Foghorn / Foghorn Classics 2005
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778649
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Foghorn / Foghorn Classics 2002
    2010 Simax / Simax Classics 1265
    2010 Sony Classical 7776782
    2008 Warner Classics 2564694713
    2008 Koch International Classics 7683
    2008 Parnassus Records 96042/4
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 471580
    2008 Corona Classics 0002742CCC
    2008 EMI Classics 5096552
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 476820
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099950965
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93525
    2007 Cascade Records 2200
    2007 MDG 3070851
    2007 Testament 3082
    2007 CD Accord 158
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93323
    2007 EMI Classics 3777672
    2007 EMI Classics 87739
    2007 Altara Classic 1024
    2007 Philips
    2007 Philips 4758685
    2006 Arte Nova 636370
    2006 Biddulph Recordings 80222
    2006 Supraphon 38702
    2006 Warner Classics 4629982
    2006 Teldec
    2006 ASV / Sanctuary 801
    2006 Vanguard 1942
    2006 NCA 60139
    2005 EMI Classics 73798/8
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics 5866112
    2005 Warner Classics
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 86612
    2005 Warner Classics
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 54587
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 54592
    2005 Chandos CHAN10292
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 67236
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 76824
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Decca 000387502
    2005 Praga 350013
    2004 Quadromania Klassik 222111
    2004 Praga 250206
    2004 Warner Classics / Warner Music 4613992
    2004 Brilliant 92387
    2004 RCA Victor 55704
    2003 Virgin 62258
    2003 Telarc Distribution 80422
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000048402
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon
    2003 Artemis Classics 1205
    2002 Sony Music Distribution 87889
    2002 Hungaroton 41004
    2001 Naïve 4871
    2001 Boheme Music 9161
    2001 Music & Arts 1084
    2001 ASV 1117
    2001 ASV/Living Era 9117
    2000 CBC Records 2020
    2000 Naxos 554593
    2000 Capriccio Records 10851
    2000 Angel Records 61748
    2000 Calliope 3633/9
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 463143
    1999 Pearl 0053
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 415676
    1999 Thorofon 2409
    1999 Arte Nova 63637
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 447920
    1999 Brilliant 99093
    1999 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 7243573606
    1999 Hyperion 55021/8
    1999 Calliope 9633/9
    1998 Arbiter ARBITER112
    1998 Arte Nova 54455
    1998 Intim Musik 048
    1997 Calliope 9637
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453768
    1997 Multisonic 310381
    1997 Telarc Distribution 80475
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 66408
    1997 Vanguard 72/74
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 447075
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon
    1997 Bridge 9072
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 66252
    1996 Philips 454 062-2PB10
    1996 Everest 9056
    1996 Nimbus 5465
    1996 Collins Records 12982
    1996 Berlin Classics 0091632
    1996 Philips 454 711-2PM2
    1996 Sony Classical SK/ST-62616
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 47687
    1994 Delos 3039
    1993 Praga 254009
    1993 Teldec 76457
    1993 ASV 602
    1993 ASV 403
    1993 Teldec 91496
    1992 RCA Victor 60975
    1990 Delos 3032
    1990 RCA 60458
    1990 Philips 426050
    1988 Philips 422059
    1988 CBS Records 37873
    1987 Valois 4407
    Chandos 10553
    Cascade Records 2256
    Cypress Performing Arts Association 666449674921
    Polskie Nagrania 070
    Partridge 1124
    Accord 204462
    Platz 593
    Denon Records 7088
    Nimbus 5254
    Hyperion 66407
    Brilliant 92387/32
    Eco Classics 006
    EMI Music Distribution 47136
    EMI Music Distribution 69792
    Brilliant 93525/42
    Brilliant Classics 93323/8
    Brilliant 99127
    RCA Victor 902661621
    ABC Classics 4763541
    ABC Classics 4763543
    Fono Enterprise 99336
    EMI Music Distribution 47135
    Philips 464684
    EMI Music Distribution 47134
    BBC Music Magazine SQ1