Watch: Beethoven’s 7th played by viola quintet

Nicholas Kitchen of the Borromeo String Quartet has found an 1816 arrangement for viola quintet of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and gave its first modern performance this summer at the Heifetz Institute – rearranged for two violas, two violins and cello.

It’s weirdly effective.


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    • This arrangement would properly be said to be for string quintet – I have never come across anything called a viola quintet (which would be assumed to be five violas). Incidentally there is also an 1816 arrangement of the 7th Symphony for wind nonet – now that would be something to savour!

    • MTCS — the format is usually named after the extra instrument (or piano, if it includes piano — e.g. Brahms’s piano quintet). As somebody already pointed out, “viola quintet” means a string quartet with an extra viola. Mozart wrote some viola quintets; so did Brahms.

      (Schubert’s beautiful C Major string quintet is often called his “cello quintet” because he adds a cello. Mozart also wrote an “oboe quartet” and 4 “flute quartets” that are staples of the chamber repertoire for those instruments. And so on, and so forth.)

      • And yet NL says it’s “rearranged for two violas, two violins and cello”. If it was a Viola Quintet by your definition (which usually works) then it’s not a rearrangement. If it were for five violas, I can see using violins for the high parts and a cello for the lower. Your definition for “something – quartet” works a lot of time – but not always. A bassoon quintet is understood by players to be 5 bassoons or maybe 4 bassoons plus a contra. No strings or piano allowed.

          • Got it – it should never have been labeled VIOLA QUINTET – it was a STRING QUINTET arrangement:

            Beethoven Symphony No.7, all mvts.(handwriting parts published around 1800), for string quintet, CB091
            Sheet music for string quintet published by FC MUSIC.
            This sheet music is a replication of the string quintet version of Beethoven Symphony No.7 published by S. A. Steiner of Vienna in 1816. Handwriting parts only, no score.
            Set of parts(Vn1,Vn2,Va1,Va2,Vc)

  • Arrangements for chamber groups of Beethoven’s compositions from the composer’s time but done by others can be very interesting, especially when so little good music is being composed today. Probably the main difficulty in reviving this music is that the parts are not always technically demanding or interesting enough for the musicians to interest them. I would mention the string quartet arrangements of the piano sonatas op. 2 published in Paris 1828 as especially worth to revive (as far as I know these quartets have been played and recorded by the Bamberger Streichquartett about two decades ago).

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