Ludwig van Beethoven: The String Quartets

Addendum / “Historio-Biographic” Note

2013-02-25 — Original posting (on Blogger)
2014-11-08 — Re-posting as is (WordPress)
2015-06-25 — Addendum
2016-07-11 — Brushed up for better readability
2017-02-09 — Replaced PDF lists with interactive table

Table of Contents


This is partly an anecdotal addition to my review of recordings of the Beethoven String quartets, partly a contribution to my collection of personal biographic notes:

Recovering an Ancient Beethoven Score

While I was doing the Beethoven string quartet reviews, my wife handed me a copy of an Eulenburg score of all quartets: “Ludwig van Beethoven, Siebzehn Streichquartette, herausgegeben von Wilhelm Dugge, Neue Ausgabe, revidiert und mit Einleitungen versehen von Wilhelm Altmann”, Ernst Eulenburg, Leipzig, 1911:

This book originally belonged to the gentleman below who apparently received it as a gift on April 24th, 1921:

Albert Kunz (1887 - 1968)
Albert Kunz (1887 – 1968)

This is Albert Kunz (1887 – 1968), viola player and teacher at secondary school in a nearby village. He was the brother of my wife’s grandmother Ida (herself a singer and piano player), and son of Heinrich Albert Kunz (1861 – 1942). The latter was an iron turner and dedicated amateur flute player in Rüti ZH. A man with a pretty impressive mustache, indeed:

Heinrich Albert Kunz (1861 - 1942), Rüti ZH
Heinrich Albert Kunz (1861 – 1942), Rüti ZH

In the first years of the last century, Heinrich Albert Kunz used to stop working early on Saturday (probably 6 p.m. rather than 8 p.m.!). He then met his son at home, and they went playing in restaurants in the area (dance & other popular music, presumably).

Notes and Remarks Found in the Score

His son Albert wasn’t just playing the viola for himself. He was also playing in string quartets in the area. And he was an avid radio listener and occasional concert goer. Whenever he listened to a Beethoven string quartet on the radio, or after attending a concert or performing one of these quartets himself, he would add a note into the above book. That note typically included the date of the performance, the radio station, and the artists.

Altogether, the book mentions almost 70 string quartet performances between 1921 and 1947. I felt it would make some interesting reading to see that list of performances, shown below. The radio quality at that time must have been truly awful by today’s standards. Where the artists are not mentioned, this is presumably when he could not understand the announcement / comment.

The book also has numerous annotations, such as playing instructions, or comments on how specific artists performed a certain passage, approximate timing (per movement and/or for a complete quartet), etc. — unfortunately, most of this is in stenography. Some 44 years ago I took stenography lessons at high school, but not enough to make me real fluent in reading. So, I didn’t even try reading, with very few exceptions. Also, I mostly left the spelling as is (not sure the names are all correct).

Most auditions were via radio. For the concerts (typically in the Tonhalle in Zurich), the location and the artists are in italics, for concerts where Albert Kunz (“moi”) actively performed, the date is given in bold letters, additional remarks by Albert Kunz are found on separate lines:

Early String quartets, op.18

F major, op.18/1
  • 1931-03-10: Radio London
  • 1937-11-08: Tonhalle Zürich, Busch-Quartett
G major, op.18/2
  • 1931-03-10: Radio London
  • 1933-11-10: Radio London: Lener-Quartett
D major, op.18/3
  • 1939-01-16: Radio Leipzig, Dresdener Quartett
C minor, op.18/4
  • Radio: Gottesmann-Quartett Wien
  • 1929-11-01: Radio Wien, Buxbaum-Quartett
  • 1930-01-12: Radio Berlin, Berliner Quartett
  • 1931-11-15: Radio Zürich, Schiffmann-Quartett
  • 1932-03-13: Radio Zürich, Popp Quartett
  • 1934-01-16: Radio Leipzig, Dresdener Quartett
  • 1937-11-08: Tonhalle Zürich, Busch-Quartett
    seating order: Vl.I, Vl.II, cello, viola
  • 1937-11-28: Wald ZH: W. Ritter, Brunner, moi, Wolf (I, III, IV)
A major, op.18/5
  • 1929-03-23: Radio Frankfurt
  • 1929-09-20: Radio Wien, Rosé-Quartett
  • 1930-02-13: Radio Kattowitz
  • 1930-02-28: Radio Berlin, Guarneri-Quartett
  • 1931-07-05: Radio Beromünster + Basel
  • 1933-09-19: Radio Straßburg
  • 1934-01-17: Radio Breslau
  • 1942-12-27: Radio Beromünster, Wetzel-Quartett
    Menuetto: 3/4 = 60;
    Andante cantabile: 1/8 = 92; Var.2: 1/8 = 100; Var.3: 1/8 = 92; Var.4: 1/8 = 84; Var.5: 1/8 = 108; Poco adagio: 1/8 = 76
    Allegro: 1/2 = 120
B major, op.18/6
  • 1929-01-20: Radio Zürich: Basler Streichquartett (I)
  • 1932-02-22: Radio Daventry, Catterall Quartet
  • 1934-01-17: Radio Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Königsberger Quartett

“MIddle” String Quartets

F major, op.59/1, Razumovsky I
  • 1928-12-14: Radio Berlin, Rosé-Quartett
  • 1930-02-02: Radio Berlin, Klingler-Quartett
  • 1931-01-09: Tonhalle Zürich, Klingler-Quartett
  • 1931-03-16: Radio Wien, Rosé-Quartett
  • 1933-02-20: Radio London, Brosa Quartet
  • 1936-04-20: Radio Prag
E minor, op.59/2, Razumovsky II
  • 1927-03-29: Uster: W. Ritter, Pfr. Häusler, moi, A. Ebner
    Allegro: 3/8 = 66
  • 1929-03-24: Radio Wien, Manzer-Quartett, Karlsruhe
  • 1931-08-24: Radio Daventry, Amar Quartet
  • 1932-02-26: Radio Budapest, Waldbauer-Kerpely-Quartett
  • 1933-05-16: Radio Bern, Berner Quartett
  • Vegh-Quartett
    Finale, Presto: 1/2 = 144
C major, op.59/3, Razumovsky III
  • 1929-09-27: Radio Budapest, Waldbauer-Kerpely-Quartett
  • 1930-01-28: Radio Stuttgart (from Basel), Hirt-Quartett
E♭ major, op.74, Harp
  • 1925-05-13: Klingler-Quartett
  • 1929-11-30: Radio, Zusen-Quartett
  • 1938-11-16: Radio Stuttgart: Stuttgarter Quartett
F minor, op.95, “serioso”
  • 1925-05-13: Klingler-Quartett
  • 1929-11-27: Radio Berlin, Kolisch-Quartett
  • 1931-10-28: Radio Brüssel
  • 1933-02-07: Radio Stuttgart, Dresdener Streichquartett
  • 1934-02-26: Radio Straßburg
  • 1945-02-25: Radio, Schneiderhan-Quartett

Late String Quartets

E♭ major, op.127
  • 1931-04-05: Radio Stuttgart, Kergel-Quartett
  • 1933-02-12: Radio Breslau, Henning-Quartett
  • 1934-01-23: Radio Berlin
B major, op.130
  • 1936-09-20: Radio Wien, Telef.(?) Sedlak-Winkler-Quartett
C♯ minor, op.131
  • 1922: Busch-Quartett
  • 1925-05-13: Klingler-Quartett
  • 1928-03-13: Radio Langenberg, Quatuor Capet, Paris
  • 1943-03-13: Radio Sottens, Ribeaupierre-Quartett
  • Quarteto Nacional, Madrid (46′)
  • Vegh-Quartett: 40′
A minor, op.132
  • 192x-04-05: Tonhalle Zürich, Lener-Quartett
  • 1930-03-18: Radio Prag, Ondriček-Quartett
  • 1931-01-09: Tonhalle Zürich, Klingler-Quartett
  • 1931-03-01: Radio London
  • 1932-10-10: Radio London, Brosa-Quartett
  • 1934-01-25: Radio Leipzig, Dresdener Quartett
  • 1937-11-08: Tonhalle Zürich, Busch-Quartett
B major, op.133, “Great Fugue”
  • (none, no annotations, etc.!)
F major, op.135
  • 1928-10-06: Radio Wien, Sedlak-Winkler-Quartett
  • 1934-01-24: Radio Berlin, Strub-Quartett
  • 1947-02-06: Radio Beromünster, Berner Quartett

Summary of Beethoven String Quartet Performances

Database of Beethoven string quartet performances 1921 - 1947 from legacy book
Last update: 2017-02-09
Radio Station / VenueArtistsCompositionDate
Konzert Tonhalle ZüŸrich(unknown)op. 18/11937-11-08
Radio London(unknown)op. 18/11931-03-10
Radio London(unknown)op. 18/21933-11-10
Radio London(unknown)op. 18/21931-03-10
Radio Leipzig(unknown)op. 18/31939-01-16
Radio ZüŸrichPopp Quartettop. 18/41932-03-13
Radio Leipzig(unknown)op. 18/41934-01-16
Radio WienBuxbaum-Quartettop. 18/41929-11-01
RadioGottesmann-Quartett Wienop. 18/41921:1928
Radio BerlinBerliner Quartettop. 18/41930-01-12
Konzert Wald ZHW. Ritter, Brunner, moi, Wolfop. 18/41937-11-28
Konzert Tonhalle ZüŸrich(unknown)op. 18/41937-11-08
Radio ZüŸrichSchiffmann-Quartettop. 18/41931-11-15
Radio Wien(unknown)op. 18/51929-09-20
Radio Breslau(unknown)op. 18/51934-01-17
Radio Strassburg(unknown)op. 18/51933-09-19
Radio BeromüŸnster + Basel(unknown)op. 18/51931-07-05
Radio Norddeutscher RundfunkKöšnigsberger Quartettop. 18/51934-01-17
Radio BeromüŸnsterWetzel-Quartettop. 18/51942-12-27
Radio ZüŸrichBasler Streichquartettop. 18/51929-01-20
Radio Frankfurt(unknown)op. 18/51929-03-23
Radio Kattowitz(unknown)op. 18/51930-02-13
Radio BerlinGuarneri-Quartettop. 18/51930-02-28
Radio DaventryCatterall Quartetop. 18/51932-02-22
Radio Berlin(unknown)op. 59/11930-02-02
Radio Prag(unknown)op. 59/11936-04-20
Radio Wien(unknown)op. 59/11931-03-16
Radio London(unknown)op. 59/11933-02-20
Radio BerlinRosŽ-Quartettop. 59/11928-12-14
Konzert Tonhalle ZüŸrich(unknown)op. 59/11931-01-09
Konzert UsterW. Ritter, Pfr. HŠäusler, moi, A. Ebnerop. 59/21927-03-29
Radio BernBerner Quartettop. 59/21933-05-16
Radio DaventryAmar Quartetop. 59/21931-08-24
Radio Budapest(unknown)op. 59/21932-02-26
Radio WienManzer-Quartett, Karlsruheop. 59/21929-03-24
Radio BudapestWaldbauer-Kerpely-Quartettop. 59/31929-09-27
Radio Stuttgart (from Basel)Hirt-Quartettop. 59/31930-01-28
(unknown)Klingler-Quartettop. 741925-05-13
Radio StuttgartStuttgarter Quartettop. 741938-11-16
RadioZusen-Quartettop. 741929-11-30
Radio BrŸssel(unknown)op. 951931-10-28
Radio Strassburg(unknown)op. 951934-02-26
Radio StuttgartDresdener Streichquartettop. 951933-02-07
Radio BerlinKolisch-Quartettop. 951929-11-27
(unknown)Klingler-Quartettop. 951925-05-13
RadioSchneiderhan-Quartettop. 951945-02-25
Radio StuttgartKergel-Quartettop.1271931-04-05
Radio BreslauHenning-Quartettop.1271933-02-12
Radio Berlin(unknown)op.1271934-01-23
Radio Wien(unknown)op.1301936-09-20
(unknown)Quarteto Nacional, Madridop.131
Radio LangenbergQuatuor Capet, Parisop.1311928-03-13
Radio SottensRibeaupierre-Quartettop.1311943-03-13
Radio Leipzig(unknown)op.1321934-01-25
Radio London(unknown)op.1321931-03-01
Radio LondonBrosa Quartetop.1321932-10-10
Konzert Tonhalle ZüŸrich(unknown)op.1321931-01-09
Konzert Tonhalle ZüŸrichLener-Quartettop.1321921:1929-04-05
Konzert Tonhalle ZüŸrich(unknown)op.1321937-11-08
Radio PragOndriček-Quartettop.1321930-03-18
Radio WienSedlak-Winkler-Quartettop.1351928-10-06
Radio BerlinStrub-Quartettop.1351934-01-24
Radio BeromŸünster(unknown)op.1351947-02-06
(unknown)Vegh-Quartettop. 59/2


The above book (even older editions!) is still occasionally on offer from amazon (look for “Eulenburg Beethoven String Quartets”); there are also newer editions, covering all of Beethoven’s string quartets in a single volume, starting at very low prices (e.g., from Dover Publications). However, most people will find carrying a 450+ page book into a concert unwieldy. I personally prefer pocket scores, where editions such as Kalmus offer the whole cycle in four handy volumes (volume Ivolume IIvolume IIIvolume IV); if you prefer a nicer (but much pricier) edition, there’s the “The String Quartets-Complete 7 Volumes In A Slipcase Study Score” (and of course, you can also buy scores of individual quartets).

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