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BEETHOVEN (ORCH. MAHLER) String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95, “Serioso”
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote String Quartet No. 11 in F Minor in 1810, a period when the composer was going through a difficult personal and professional time in his life. He had experienced a marriage proposal rejection, his deafness was worsening, and the state of his health was deteriorating. This may be one of the reasons why the work was nicknamed “Serioso,” and is the only quartet that was given an alternate name. The piece’s dedication was unusual in the fact that Beethoven dedicated it to his good friend Nikolaus Zmeskall, rather than to a wealthy patron.
The string orchestra arrangement of Beethoven’s “Serioso” by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic in 1899. The performance was not a huge hit and was met with some boos from the crowd. The Viennese were upset that Mahler would dare to change Beethoven’s original score. Besides the fact that a few bass parts were added, Mahler stayed loyal to the score for the most part. After the unsuccessful premiere, the transcription was tucked away in the archives until 1986, when composer David Matthews brought the score back to life by re-orchestrating it.