The rapid-fire dialogue of this quartet’s lively fourth movement is unrelenting and dazzling. This classic work is part of a set of three string quartets commissioned by Count Andrey Razumovsky, Russian ambassador to Vienna. These were composed in the years 1805-1806, during Ludwig van Beethoven’s “middle period,” and published together in 1808.
The fugal main theme passes seamlessly through all four instruments, occasionally standing out in a single voice before the others join back in. Brief snippets of minor key material introduce colors on a more intense spectrum, but the piece ends triumphantly and decisively in C major, raising the music to joyous heights with an unstoppable whirlwind of notes.