Струнный квинтет Es-dur, Opus 4

Время создания: 1795 год.
Посв. Graf von Fries

1. Allegro con brio
2. Andante
3. Menuetto and Trio
4. Finale: Presto

Much controversy and confusion surround the composition of this quintet. While it carries a numerically early opus number, it is adapted from the Octet, Op. 103, which was probably written in the early-1790s and certainly no later than November, 1792 (the time when Beethoven departed Bonn for Vienna). This latter piece, one of the composer's very early works despite its high opus number, was published in 1837, a decade after Beethoven's death, at which time, for some reason, it was assigned the misleading numbering.

The controversy hardly ends here, however. The Quintet has been viewed as a mere transcription or arrangement of the Octet, which it clearly is not. Some assert an entirely opposite view, that it is a thoroughly reworked and enlarged version of the earlier piece, virtually becoming a new composition altogether. The latter view is closer to the truth, though it would be hard to fully accept the notion that the quintet is a wholly new composition. Naturally, there is substantial reallocation of themes in the work, including pitch adjustments. And there is a score of other changes.

But the structure of this piece is considerably different, as well: in the first movement, there are significant changes in the exposition and substantial ones in the development, reprise, and ending. The ensuing Andante employs new themes and involves significant changes in the ones retained. The Scherzo and finale are also substantially different: among other alterations, a second trio was added to the former and a new alternate theme was inserted in the latter.

The movements of the quintet are marked: 1) Allegro con brio; 2) Andante; 3) Menuetto—Allegro; 4) Presto. These are, more or less, the same tempo indications given for the Octet, and while the Quintet retains much of the lightness and color from its source work, it is, in the end, a somewhat deeper composition. The instrumental writing is on a high level throughout and the structure and handling of the themes reflect a more mature compositional style.

This work was first published in Vienna in 1796.

(Robert Cummings, All Music Guide)

Beethoven sketched the quintet in 1795, as can be seen from the paper of the remaining sources, handing over the engraver's model to the publisher Artaria before he embarked on his concert tour to Prague and Berlin in January 1796. In so doing he turned to the Octet for Wind Instruments op. 103, which he had written as dinner music for the Archbishop in Bonn in 1792. Scholars have had lengthy discussions about the correct terminology for op. 4: whether the quintet is another version or rather an arrangement of the original work. It is true that Beethoven used the original material, but he made such major changes to the structure and instrumentation that it is really a new composition on the basis of older parts.
Ferdinand Ries tells an anecdote about the origin of the quintet. At one of the regular Friday morning concerts at Prince Lichnowsky's, Count Appony had commissioned Beethoven to compose a string quartet "which he had not done up to then". Beethoven went to work "twice, on the first attempt he wrote a great violin trio (op. 3) and on the second, a violin quintet (op. 4)."