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Ludwig van Beethoven, Quartett für zwei Violinen, Viola und Violoncello (F-Dur) op. 135, Stimmen, Autograph

Beethoven-Haus Bonn, Sammlung H. C. Bodmer, HCB BMh 6/46

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It must be!

Beethoven made the copy for his last String Quartet op. 135 himself in October 1826. Unusually, he copied the work in separate parts. At this time in his life, he rarely did so and it is generally unusual for Beethoven. All four parts have the title "Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß" (The difficult decision) written above the last movement, with the famous words and musical motif "Muß es sein?" - "Es muss sein!" (Must it be? - It must be!). At the end of the 1850s, the original publisher of this string quartet in Paris, Maurice Schlesinger, tells of Beethoven's accompanying letter, which he had sent in the post with the copy. In it Beethoven gives the reason for the motto and also explains why he had copied the quartet himself rather than handing it over to a copyist. Although the original letter was destroyed in a fire, Schlesinger remembered Beethoven's words, "You see what an unhappy person I am. It was not only difficult to write as I had something much greater in mind and only wrote it down because I had promised to do so and needed the money. You can see that it was very difficult for me from the "it must be so". But an additional problem was that I wanted to send it to you in parts to make engraving easier. Yet I couldn't find a copyist in the whole of Mödling and so I had to copy it myself. That was a piece of work! Phew, it's done. Amen."). At the time he completed the quartet, Beethoven was still in his summer lodgings, but in Gneixendorf (this is also noted on the first page of the first violin part) and not in Mödling (Schlesinger had probably been mistaken, Beethoven had often gone to Mödling in earlier years).
Beethoven's friend Karl Holz writes in a much less serious manner about how the motto "Muß es sein" came into being. His anecdote is supported by corresponding entries in the conversation books, "Beethoven had completed the Quartet in B [op. 130] and given the manuscript to his friend Schuppanzigh [the first violinist in a string quartet] for the performance. The latter was confident of making good money with this. Beethoven was therefore even more annoyed when after the performance he found out that a wealthy music lover D..., who was well-known in Vienna, had not attended, claiming that he could have the quartet performed by competent artists for his own circle; getting his hands on Beethoven's manuscript would not be difficult. Shortly afterwards this gentleman did actually turn to Beethoven with a friend's recommendation, requesting the parts for his latest quartet. Beethoven explained to him in a letter that he would send him the parts when Schuppanzigh had been given 50 fl. as compensation for the first performance. Quite disagreeably surprised when given the message, D said to the messenger, "If it must be so-!" This answer was relayed to Beethoven, who laughed heartily and immediately wrote down the canon "Es muß seyn! Es muß seyn!" [WoO 196]. The Finale of the last Quartet in F major evolved out of this canon in late autumn 1826, for which he wrote the title "Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß". (J.R.)

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