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This section is not intended to be a review of existing CDs. Good critics have done this already, and are experts on the subject. I wish just to draw your attention to particular works and interpretations.
Title String quintets and rare pieces for string quartet

The Quartet Ysaÿe delivers to us a CD of very great quality, a new sonority and melody. This marvel gathers together the two works of Beethoven for string quintet, but also some unusual pieces for string quartet:


  • Quintet for strings, opus 29;
  • Fugue for string quintet, opus 137.


  • Piece in B minor (not catalogued);
  • Minuet, Hess 33;
  • Prelude and Fugue, Hess 30;
  • Arrangement of the Fugue of the Overture of Solomon of Handel, Hess 36;
  • Arrangement of the sonata for piano opus 14 no. 1, Hess 34.
A very complete booklet, by Bernard Fournier, completes this little gem.

Ysaÿe Quartet
Quatuor Ysaÿe
and Shuli Waterman (viola)
Ysaÿe Records - 2004

Title Septet and Sextet

The Septet opus 20, in E flat major, was written around 1800, for violin, viola, clarinet, clarinet, horn, bassoon, cello and double bass. Beethoven considered this work to be 'popular' (once can imagine the grimace accompanying this remark). It was commercially very successful.

The Sextet opus 18b, also in E flat major, was composed in 1794, for two horns, two violins, viola and cello. This was lately published in Bonn. The two horns have a prominent place in the sextet.

Beethoven Septet and Sextet on cd
Consortium Classicum
DMG - 1995

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Title Septet and Grand Fugue arranged for chamber orchestra

Septet and Grand Fugue
Berlin Classics - 1994

The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie under the direction of Walter Levin presents two arrangements of works by Beethoven:

  • The Septet in E flat major, opus 20;

  • The Grand Fugue in B flat major, opus 133.

A different sound for well known works.

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Title The Septet of Ludwig van Beethoven arranged by Aturo Toscanini

Arturo Toscanini led the NBC Symphony Orchestra on 18th November 1939.

This recording consists of the overture to Egmont and the Seventh Symphony, but also and adaptation of the septet for orchestra.

A classic sometimes forgotten and not easy to find.

Septet for Orchestra
Naxos - 1999

Title Works of Beethoven transcribed for string quintet

Transcriptions for string quintet
Naxos - 2003

"Metamorphosis Quintet" presents us with three works of Ludwig van Beethoven transcribed for string quintet.

The transcriptions are the work of Carl Khym, or Chym (1770-?), who realised and published them during Beethoven's lifetime:

  • Trio for piano Opus 1 no. 2;

  • Trio for clarinet Opus 11;

  • Sonata for horn and piano, opus 17.

The essence of the works is preserved and each instrument finds its place with elegance.
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Title Other works also transcribed for string quintet

CD Beethoven
Berlin Classics - 1994

Here are two other works of Ludwig van Beethoven transcribed for string quintet by Ulf-Guido Schäfer:

  • Sextet, opus 71;

  • Octet, opus 103.

The Ma'alot Quintet perform these two works as well as two works by Usang Yun, also for string quintet.

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Title Beethoven's viola

Here, on this CD, is one of the two principal works composed by Beethoven giving the viola the principal part: the Notturno opus 42 for viola and piano.

Tabea Zimmermann playing, with a historical bow, the viola which Beethoven used at the Bonn court and which has been restored. Hartmut Höll plays on the Conrad Graf of 1824. Also on the CD, the Etudes no. 4 and 7 for viola and piano by Franz Anton Hoffmeister and the Sonata for piano and viola opus 5 no. 3 of Johann Nepomuk Hummel.

A little known work, and a rare performance.

CD Beethoven
Ars Musici - 2003

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"You who have ordered the Zimmermann/Höll recording can look forward to a treat! Their playing is absolutely marvellous, the tone quality of the viola is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard (and I have quite a lot of comparisons, having heard most of the world's great violas in the four double-CDs of "The recorded viola"), and the pianoforte is the 1824 Graf which also was one of Beethoven's and displayed in Beethovenhaus, Bonn.

Tabea Zimmermann's playing is delicate, I have tried to detect where she shifts positions, in order to learn some "tricks", but my efforts have been in vain. Just listen to her playing in the last movement's 2nd variation, what a fantastic tone! Such playing and such a tone make me ask: Why on earth has the viola always been in the shadow of the violin and the cello?

I have two critical remarks to the CD though. One is a small one: I wish the booklet had contained much more information on the two instruments. For instance, I would have liked to know what kind of strings the viola is equipped with, and it's size, its body length. (As you probably know, while violins have almost no variation in body length (ca. 35.5 cm), violas vary considerably, from the small ones at about 38 cm to the "giants" at about 45 cm. As far as I can remember, this viola looked quite small.) And I would like to know what a strange effect which is made by the Graf in the 4th movement, measure 9 and onwards! It sounds like a snare drum....

My other objection is to the arrangement as such. Who was this guy Franz Xaver Kleinheinz? He is only mentioned briefly twice in Thayer. I think the arrangement is lacking in inventiveness. Most of the time the viola plays the same line as it has in B's original String Trio version, the piano takes accordingly the violin and the cello. Only now and then is the viola allowed to play interesting cello sections, practically speaking never the violin's voice. But worse are the direct changes to Beethoven's own inventiveness: take for instance the 3rd movement Adagio, measure 55. Beethoven ingeniously wrote for the violin and viola the two beats in this way: four sixteenth-notes, then a triplet and four thirtysecond-notes, which gives a funny impression. Kleinheinz plainly writes eight sixteenth-notes, basta! Why did he "trivialize" (is that a word?) in that way? In the 4th movement Allegretto alla Polacca Beethoven wanted two full silences in measures 108 and 110. A splendid idea! However Kleinheinz could not resist the temptation to fill in something in those two measures. Why did he have to try to improve on Beethoven? We find even more strange deviations from the original in the last movement: after measure 115 Kleinheinz has inserted a measure, and in the concluding Tempo I he has removed measures 135-7!

Let me not forget to mention the other works on the CD: two of the fine twelve studies for viola solo by Franz Anton Hoffmeister, and a Sonata for viola and piano by Hummel, which was new to me. Everything is splendidly played, and the two instruments suit each other very well."

Finn Løvfold

Title The Serenade Opus 8 transcribed for guitar

This serenade for viola and cello, arranged by Beethoven as Notturno for piano and viola, opus 42, was transcribed for guitar by the Austrian composer and guitarist Wenzel Matiegka.

Here are three performances for guitar and a two other instruments.

Transciption of opus 8
Guitar, flute, clarinette
Koch - 1998

Transciption of opus 8
Guitar, violin, viola
Coda - 1995

Transciption of opus 8
Guitar, viola, clarinette
Fleur de son - 2001

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Title Beethoven's only piece for harp

Under the name “Harp Concertos”, this CD also presents the only piece Beethoven composed for this instrument: the six Variations on a Swiss song, WoO 64, composed between 1790 – 1792.

If you love the harp or do not wish to miss a work of Beethoven's, go to it, the cost of the CD is not ruinous...

CD Beethoven
Decca - London - 1990

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Many thanks to Melanie PIDDOCKE and Hannah SALTER
for their translations of this page from French into English
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