Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Ferraguto, Mark. “Beethoven à la moujik: Russianness and Learned Style in the ‘Razumovsky’ String Quartets.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 67 (Spring 2014): 77-124.

In his Opus 59 string quartets, Beethoven juxtaposes learned styles and Russian folk styles in a self-conscious critique of highbrow Viennese music. This reading is informed by the German reception of Russian folksongs and Count Andreas Razumovsky’s cosmopolitan persona. The common argument that Beethoven parodies Russian folk music by misrepresenting the lament Ah, Whether It’s My Luck, Such Luck is less clear-cut than it is often presented. Beethoven’s use of the Russian tune as a fugue subject in the finale of Op. 59, No. 1 suggests a playful juxtaposition of high and low art while the coda presents the tune as the ultimate goal of the movement and quartet. Many critics read the quasi-fugal setting of the hymn tune Slava in Op. 59, No. 2 similarly as a parody of Russian music. However, the dissonant counterpoint can be read as referencing the sublime in the manner of Mozart’s “Jupiter” symphony. Thus, Beethoven’s use of folk music as the basis for strict counterpoint calls attention to the artifice of counterpoint itself. Furthermore, given Russia’s political position at the turn of the nineteenth century, the inclusion of specifically Russian folk music should be understood as a political act. Beethoven’s setting reflects the persona of his patron Razumovsky, a “European Russian” who negotiated between two cultural worlds: old Russia and cosmopolitan Vienna. Op. 59, No. 3 is unlike the other two quartets in the set as it does not contain a marked thème russe, posing the question of whether a folk song is included. A possible Russian folk song source for the Andante movement of Op. 59, No. 3 is an arrangement of Ty wospoi, wospoi, mlad Shaworontscheck printed in a July 1804 issue of Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (translated as Singe, sing’ein Lied). The movement shares its key, meter, and tempo with the printed arrangement and the opening bars of the movement paraphrase the opening melody and bass line. This rendition of Ty wospoi continues the work of the first two quartets in engaging with a cosmopolitan blend of Russian folk music with learned styles.

Works: Beethoven: String Quartet No. 7 in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 (78-80, 81-92), String Quartet No. 8 in E Minor, Op. 59, No. 2 (79, 92-112), String Quartet No. 9 in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3 (112-16)

Sources: Traditional: As, Whether It’s My Luck, Such Luck (78-80, 81-92), Slava (Uzh kak slava Tebe Bozhe) (79, 92-112), Ty wospoi, wospoi, mlad Shaworontscheck (Singe, sing’ein Lied) (112-16)

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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