Beethoven's Razumovsky String Quartet No. 7. Op. 59 in F Major
This string quartet is the first among three quartets that were commissioned by Count Andrei Razumovsky who was then the Russian Ambassador to Vienna in 1806. This quartet falls also among the first of Beethoven's middle period quartets. Thise set of quartets is much different from his earlier group of Opus 18 quartets. These are longer in duration than the earlier ones and they involve a technical repertoire which is quite expanded.
The first movement is in an expansive sonata form. It includes a fugato in its development section. The lengthy development section reminds you of the expanse of the first movement of the Eroica Symphony. Eroica was composed a few years earlier and it is considered as the beginning of Beethoven's middle period works.There is a delayed entry of recapitulation. It happens after the tonic key gets established and it generates an expectation of a definite statement. The opening melody on the cello is ambiguous tonally and its first cadence is established in the key of F Major a little into few bars of the movement.The extended coda section is also very nicely crafted.
The second scherzo movement is quite unusual among the middle period works of Beethoven. It is also in sonata form like the solemn slow third movement and the fourth movement which is built on a Russian theme. It was an attempt to make the work familiar to the Russian ambassador. It has a cheerful melody which appears in the beginning and it is based on a folk song. There is both canonic and contrapuntal activity here. It has a development section and a recapitulation of a genial nature.
On the final leaf of his sketches for the quartet, Beethoven mentioned a phrase, "A weeping willow or acacia tree on my brother's grave." It is interesting to note that both his brothers were alive when this work was composed; so, the interpretation is that this phrase has a masonic significance as the acacia is considered to be the symbolic plant in Freemasonry.
This work is considered among the finest chamber works of the classical period. This set of three quartets is generally found to be difficult to perform. They were written in a span of six months.