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“…an amazingly vivid, luminous vision of the music…this is remarkable, enthralling playing…” —Gramophone

Exclusive New York engagement
Hagen Quartet
      Lukas Hagen, violin
      Rainer Schmidt, violin
      Veronika Hagen, viola
      Clemens Hagen, cello

String Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3
String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130 with Grosse Fuge, Op. 133

The concert is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.


Join us for more Beethoven! This concert can be purchased as part of a 3-concert, 4-concert or 6-concert package.


The Hagen Quartet series is partially supported by an endowment gift from Joan L. and Dr. Julius H. Jacobson, II and by the Austrian Cultural Forum.


Y Beethoven? This is Why Beethoven, according to six young 92Y guest artists.

Report on Hagen Quartet’s debut at Trondheim Chamber Music Festival, Sep 24, 2011. Program included Schubert’s String Quintet with cellist Ralph Kirshbaum and quartets by Haydn and Brahms. Voiceover is in Norwegian but interviews with Hagen violinist Rainer Schmidt and Mr. Kirschbaum are in English. Mr. Schmidt’s comments include:

We understand each other very well. I think we have a very good relationship, each one of us with the other one, so we’re usually having a very good time together, and not much strife at all. That’s number one, and the second is that we always enjoy the music, discovering something new in the music, so for us it always stays fresh and never becomes stale. This job, we always love what we are doing, so that’s certainly important.

Hagen Quartet performing Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op. 18, No 3: IV. Presto, from its latest recording, released this past June on Myrios Classics

Hagen Quartet at 2000 Salzurg “Mozartwoche,” performing Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 135: II. Vivace

Hagen Quartet at 2000 Salzurg “Mozartwoche,” performing Ravel’s String Quartet in F major: II. Assez vif: tres rythmé

Beethoven on 92YOnDemand: 92Y’s video and audio library offers brilliant performances from 92Y’s past including cellist Miklós Perenyi and pianist András Schiff performing the Cello Sonata in A major, Op. 69.

Plus The Knights, Tokyo String Quartet, Zukerman ChamberPlayers, Inon Barnatan, Shai Wosner & more.

On the Blog

(Click the names below to expand info)

From The New York Times:

All Beethoven, All the Time, in a String Quartet Survey”—A rave review of the Hagen Quartet’s first concert in its Beethoven cycle at 92Y by James R. Oestreich in The New York Times, Nov 8, 2013. Here is an excerpt:

It is hard to know what to admire most in the quartet’s playing. It is almost impeccable, despite the many risks being taken: tempos nudged ahead, dynamics pushed, pauses extended to the breaking point. The focus and unanimity are astounding.

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From BBC Music:

North American Live Choice”—Hagen Quartet’s cycle at 92Y named one of Top 20 Live Events in North America for November, 11/13. Here is an excerpt:

Austria’s Hagen Quartet has been playing Beethoven’s 16 string quartets throughout much of its 32-year history, and now it’s demonstrating the fruits of that accumulated experience.

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From 92Y:

Interview with Rainer Schmidt—A Q&A between 92Y and the Hagen Quartet’s second violinist. Here’s an excerpt:

200 years after their genesis, Beethoven’s quartets still hold tons of exciting questions for us. And over time we certainly have changed the way how to approach them—which question comes first …

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From Süddeutsche

Beyond words and stereotypes”—An interview with the Hagen Quartet members by Helmut Mauró (translation by Eriksen Translations Inc.) for Germany’s largest national subscription daily newspaper, 8/14/13. Here is an excerpt:

Veronika Hagen: We explore the character and the emotional world of each piece. In our concert cycle, we do not follow the order in which they were created; we follow other criteria. We may play a concert consisting of nothing but Beethoven’s F major quartets, which come from all the periods of his work.

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Reviews of Hagen Quartet’s latest Beethoven recording—Op. 18/3, 18/5, 135:

From From The Guardian:

“The playing is insightful, probing, masterly.”

From Der Spiegel (in German):

“It's been a long time since Beethoven sounded so outrageously fresh—a monumental achievement.”

From Classical Modern Music:

“The music comes alive fully, with orative power, like Laurence Olivier doing Shakespeare. Every particle is given due consideration for a whole that is ravishing. Ravishing.”

From (in German):

Winner of German Record Critics’ Award (Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik)

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Reviews of recent Hagen Quartet Beethoven concerts:

From The Spectator, Apr 13, 2013

Program included String Quartet in F major, Op. 59, No. 1 (Nov 7); String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2 (Nov 10). An excerpt from the review:

Now that the Alban Berg Quartet is no more, the Hagen, along with the Takács, are the supreme performers of Beethoven. There is a high-born, almost patrician quality to their music-making, which has sometimes been mistaken for emotional detachment. But there was nothing detached about their performances of the first two Razumovsky quartets, which got this latest cycle off to such a bracing start. It was thrilling playing; so thrilling they may even have surprised themselves.

From The Guardian, Jan 31, 2013

Program included String Quartet in A minor, Op 132 (Nov 10); String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2 (Nov 10). An excerpt from the review:

The Hagen's approach also says something about their development. For years, theirs has been the very model of a well-engineered, central European sound. Increasingly, though, the Hagens have become greater risk takers, too. There's a more impulsive quality to their playing, epitomised by the almost freewheeling style of first violinist Lukas Hagen…. It also showed an openness to new styles in quartet playing, which promises anything but a stock cycle when the Hagens return in April.

From Cleveland Plain Dealer, Feb 29, 2012

Program included Quartet in F major, Op. 18, No. 1 (Nov 7); Quartet in F minor, Op. 95, “Serioso” (Nov 9); Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 74, “Harp” (Nov 9). An excerpt from the review:

It was a marvelous evening of music-making marked by scrupulous attention to phrasing, texture and balance. And something else kept ears wide open: the performances surprised through the players' elastic sense of line and fierce intensity.

From Boston Classical Review, Feb 27, 2012

Program included Beethoven’s Quartet in F minor, Op. 95, “Serioso” (Nov 9); plus Haydn’s Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 33, No. 2 “The Joke”; Mozart’s Quartet in D major, K. 575. An excerpt from the review:

Even in this rather hard-edged music [from Beethoven’s “Serioso” Quartet], it was evident that the four players—consisting of siblings Lukas Hagen, first violin; Veronika Hagen, viola; and Clemens Hagen, cello; with Rainer Schmidt, second violin—had achieved a rare combination of matched and blended tone with transparent, persuasive voicing. Their sound was not big and room-filling but seductive, enticing the listener to lean closer and savor every detail of the music.

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Explore the Music

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BEETHOVEN: The Sixteen String Quartets

BEETHOVEN: The Sixteen String Quartets

by Sandra Hyslop

With this set of six concerts at 92nd Street Y, the Hagen Quartet continues a practice set in motion by the renowned Budapest Quartet 75 years ago. In 1938 92Y invited its audiences to New York City’s first-ever hearing of all 16 Beethoven string quartets played in a cycle. It would also be the Budapest’s first-ever performance of the entire set. “If you are a musician,” read the Y’s 1938 advertisement, “you will appreciate the importance of this announcement—if not, just ask any real musician and you will be convinced.” In 2013 92Y presents the Hagen Quartet’s six Beethoven concerts—its first-ever in New York City—with undiminished enthusiasm and appreciation for “the importance of this announcement.”

* * * * * *

When the 22-year-old Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792 from Bonn, intending to study composition with Joseph Haydn, he arrived as a good professional violinist, violist and organist—and a knock-out pianist. His virtuosity at the piano keyboard opened doors in Vienna society, and he found his way into the circles of Vienna’s social and musical elite. His engaging, if rough-edged, personality and his love of social interaction made him a popular guest—especially when he dazzled the assembled company with his pianism. That Beethoven and Haydn failed to develop a good working relationship mattered little in the long run. Beethoven was ready to prove himself as a composer without significant further instruction; he took full advantage of all that Vienna offered, creating a life for himself as an independent professional.

Beginning in 1798, when he began to write his first quartets, and continuing to the final months of his life, Beethoven repeatedly stretched the concept of “string quartet.” Like his 32 piano sonatas, which similarly engaged his creative energies from early to late in life, Beethoven’s 16 string quartets represent a road map of his growth as a musician. They lead the way in tracing his journey toward the deepest realms of the composer’s art.

The concept “Early-Middle-Late Beethoven” arose as a scholarly categorization of his music in general and has come to designate three specific groupings of string quartets— those composed in 1798–1800, 1806–1810, and 1824–1826. The three periods of success are shadowed by Beethoven’s growing deafness, which was already painfully evident to him in 1798, and which isolated him increasingly from the world.

1801: Early quartets. The success of Beethoven’s first major publication for string ensemble, a set of three String Trios published in 1798, alerted Vienna’s music lovers that the phenomenal pianist had emerged as an equally remarkable composer. Even as music connoisseurs were awakening to that fact, Beethoven was beginning work on the ne plus ultra of chamber music, the string quartet. In 1801Beethoven issued six String Quartets, published as Op. 18. These new quartets found immediate success and secured his reputation not only with the public, but also with Vienna’s fine professional musicians. For the next 25 years, Beethoven was the most prominent musical force in the city.

In the wake of the Op. 18 Quartets, Beethoven composed piano sonatas, symphonies, the Violin Concerto, the Fourth Piano Concerto, and his opera Fidelio, any one of which would have secured his eminent position. In spite of his growing deafness, he possessed the exquisite inner hearing of a powerful musical mind, a faculty amply demonstrated as he fearlessly produced works that set him apart in conception, style and execution from all his contemporaries.

1806–1810: Middle quartets. The Vienna correspondent of the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, the most important music journal of its day, reported early in 1807 that “three new, very long, and difficult Beethoven quartets…are attracting the attention of all connoisseurs. They are profoundly thought through and admirably worked out, but not to be grasped by all.” Indeed, Beethoven’s new music proved bewildering to musicians and audiences. One violinist, the Italian Felix Radicati, asked the composer if he seriously considered the three Op. 59 quartets to be real music. Oh, said Beethoven, this music is “not for you, but for a later age.” Undeterred by the puzzled reception accorded his string quartets, Beethoven published two further gems, Op. 74 and Op. 95, in 1809 and 1810.

1824–1826: Late quartets. After that, Beethoven left the genre alone for a full 12 years. In the summer of 1822, once again thinking in string quartet terms, he produced some sketches that he soon put aside—temporarily. A commission for string quartets offered him by an amateur cellist from St. Petersburg, Prince Nicholas Galitzin, then living in Vienna, got Beethoven’s full attention. In 1825 he composed three quartets for Galitzin—published as Opp. 127, 130, and 132. Two more followed—the quartets of Op. 131 and Op. 135—and shortly before he died, Beethoven composed a new final movement for the Op. 130 quartet.

Beethoven was a trained violist and violinist; but by all accounts, he was a careless performer—lax in practice habits and apparently indifferent to playing accurately or in tune. His inner ears, however, remained acute for his entire lifetime, and he had a superior sense of how the four instruments of a string quartet could be challenged. If such a thing were possible, Beethoven might have played a string quartet as one instrument as well as he played a piano.

Already in the 18th century, the metaphor of string-quartet-as-conversation was widely known and accepted. No one knew better than Beethoven how to structure such a conversation, not merely as a polite agreement among voices (such as a simple canon or a fugue), or one person expressing an opinion and the others amiably following along (such as a melody with supporting accompaniment), but also as an exchange of ideas—exploratory, challenging and discursive. The voices might be heated, calm, elevated or hushed, but they are always vibrantly engaged. It was this vibrancy and engagement that increasingly characterized Beethoven’s quartets, and he was by no means finished with the medium when he died, in March 1827, at age 57.

© 2013 Sandra Hyslop

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BEETHOVEN: String Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3


Born Bonn, baptized December 17, 1770; died Vienna, March 26, 1827
String Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3
Composed in 1806, 34 minutes

Late in 1805, Count, and later Prince, Andrei Kirillovich Razumovsky (1752–1836), the Russian Ambassador in Vienna, commissioned three new string quartets from Beethoven. One of the wealthiest men in Europe, Count Razumovsky was a faithful friend and patron of Beethoven. At his palace in the Austrian capital he held frequent musicales. Beethoven fulfilled the quartet commission between May and November 1806, and he dedicated the resulting three works to the Count, who played second violin with the Schuppanzigh Quartet when the quartets were first performed in his glamorous home.

Upon their publication and first performances, the three works were received with consternation by musicians and audiences alike. The critic for the influential Leipzig music journal Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung hailed their publication by calling them “long and difficult…profoundly thought through and excellently wrought, but not easily intelligible,” but adding this exception, “…the Third, whose originality, melody and harmonic power will surely win over every educated music lover.” Reading these words 200 years later calls to mind the old French saw “Chacun a son goût,” since all the Op. 59 String Quartets would seem to offer the same degree of idiosyncratic interest—what the earlier era found “difficult.” Perhaps the AmZ critic had simply experienced a sudden enlightenment when it came to Op. 59, No. 3.

The Third Quartet picks up harmonically where Op. 59, No. 2 (heard on November 10) had left off: Beginning with an assertive diminished chord, which relates logically to the Second Quartet’s E-minor tonic ending, Beethoven now introduces a quiet, 30-measure harmonic exploration that comes nowhere near to the C-major tonic key of this Quartet. The tempo indication Andante con moto proves to be a rhythmically static essence, an exercise in suspended animation. As the bass line descends, the other instruments search the harmonic spheres for a home. The entire introduction, harmonically and rhythmically ambiguous, creates a tension that is relieved by the promise of stability when the Allegro vivace breaks forth, and, after a few sprightly introductory measures, cheerfully establishes the C-major home key. Clarity replaces ambiguity, and in spite of delightful harmonic and melodic turns, the C-major tonic is never again in doubt.

The second movement, a reflective Andante con moto, moves the discourse from C major to its relative A minor. The melodic materials are bittersweet, and they make their way in a lengthy flow of lilting 6/8 meter. A lovely 14-bar coda in A minor completes the movement, which ends with a whisper.

The third movement, a gentle C-major Minuet, moves along in 16th-note passages that are passed among the players. The Trio moves to the subdominant, F major, with a surprising turn into A major, before returning to the Minuet itself. An 18-measure transitional coda contains melodic elements of the Finale to come.

And such a Finale: Beethoven rarely surpassed the unrestrained exuberance, self-assurance and brilliance of this concluding movement. The breathless pace of the introductory fugal material sets the tone for the entire finale. As soon as the fourth voice has entered, Beethoven leaves the fugue and develops the rapid 8th-note figures in other ways. Contrapuntal suggestions abound, along with brilliant starts and stops, syncopations and frequent perpetuum mobile passages of breathtaking elan. It all ends with a joyous perfect cadence in emphatic C major.

Beethoven did not include specifically Russian thematic materials in this Quartet, as he had in the other two works of Op. 59 in honor of his patron. However, by commissioning these quartets—and playing in their first performances—the Count earned eternal renown through the name by which they are universally known, the “Razumovsky Quartets.”

© 2013 Sandra Hyslop

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BEETHOVEN: String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130 with Grosse Fuge, Op. 133


String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130 with Grosse Fuge, Op. 133
Composed in 1825–1826, 47 minutes

Hagen Quartet
BEETHOVEN: String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130 with Grosse Fuge, Op. 133 – IV. Alla Danza Tedesca (Allegro Assai)
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Beethoven began this string quartet in July 1825, completing it in November. He composed it as the last in a three-quartet commission that he had accepted from Prince Nicholas Galitzin, a gifted amateur musician from St. Petersburg. He dedicated it to his long-time friend, the Archduke Rudolf (brother of the Austrian Emperor).

The work as Beethoven composed it in 1825—and as the Hagen Quartet performs it in this afternoon’s concert—comprised six movements, the last of which is an elaborate fugue. During the ensuing year, 1826, some of his colleagues, as well as his publisher, convinced Beethoven that he should compose an alternate sixth movement. No one knows for sure whether Beethoven himself, who was very fond of his great fugue, actually agreed with the change that was urged upon him. Whatever the case, he completed the new Allegro Finale in November 1826 and it was published along with the rest of the Quartet as the official sixth movement. (The original sixth movement, the “Grosse Fuge,” was subsequently published as a separate entity, complete with its own opus. number, 133.) In the intervening years, both versions of the Op. 130 Quartet have appeared regularly on concerts, as has Beethoven’s Great Fugue, as a stand-alone concert work.

In March 1826 Beethoven’s old friends and colleagues of the Schuppanzigh Quartet gave the first performance of Op. 130 in Vienna, a performance Beethoven himself chose not to attend. Now completely deaf, the composer waited in a nearby tavern to learn of the audience’s response. The Schuppanzigh’s second violinist, Karl Holz, reported later that Beethoven had bristled when he learned that the audience had demanded encores of the second and fourth movements. Rather than expressing pleasure at those successes, he roared his displeasure that the audience had failed to call for a repetition of his beloved Fugue. “Asses! Cattle!” he cried.

Explicating in a few words a work of such great and complex proportions seems almost impertinent. Those listeners who would like to explore the inner workings of Op. 130 even further can pursue that pleasurable endeavor by sitting with the score in hand and listening to the Hagen Quartet’s CD of the work; by studying the admirable analyses of such writers as Michael Steinberg and Joseph Kerman; even by performing the work as a member of a string quartet, or at the piano, in the duet reduction for two pianists at one keyboard. Through repeated hearings, one discovers the beauties of the Quartet in its two versions: as Beethoven originally wrote it, with the Fugue Finale, and in its published version, with the Allegro Finale. The effect, and the affect, of the work change remarkably, depending upon which sixth movement concludes the Quartet. In its original version, the Fugue sets the tone for the entire work. In its revised version, the voice of the beautiful Cavatina assumes more prominence.

Suffice to say that the six-movement structure of this Quartet must have startled that first audience. Was this really a string quartet? Or a serenade? Or perhaps a divertimento? But no, the first movement is no doubt in the sonata-allegro tradition. The madly playful second movement—a two-minute dash—might qualify in the divertimento class, as do the two dances that follow. Very entertaining.

But was anything ever more sublime, or in its simplicity more complex, than the penultimate movement, the Cavatina? This is a movement that commands serious listening, not the casual attention one would pay an evening serenade. Karl Holz, a close friend of the composer and a reliable source, wrote later that Beethoven had confessed that “nothing that he had written had so moved him; ….that merely to revive it afterwards in his thoughts and feelings brought forth renewed tributes of tears.”

And the last movement, that fugue! That was serious business. Michael Steinberg has correctly called it “a fugue of outsize dimensions and outlandish difficulty.” Indeed, those who have ever attempted to play the piece, either as a member of a string quartet or as a partner in the four-hand piano reduction that Beethoven himself prepared (published as Op. 134), will attest to its mighty technical and musical challenges.

Beethoven surrounded the fugue, which is at the center of the Op. 130 Quartet’s final movement, with materials that sound almost improvisatory. The fugue itself, a highly structured, 128-measure tour de force—in fact, a double fugue—emerges from a 30-measure introduction that seems aleatory. Following the principal iteration of the fugue, Beethoven takes us on a wild ride, changing tempos, keys and dynamics with reckless glee. Wisps of the fugue reappear. He stops, he starts, he changes course. And he is in complete control, up to the ending, which comes swiftly.

The relationship between structure and freedom surely epitomizes Beethoven’s ethic. A man who learned and practiced his craft with rigor, Beethoven possessed a profound compulsion toward freedom and liberty in all earthly endeavors. In this particular endeavor, the Grosse Fuge, Beethoven swings freely between structure and freedom, finding variety, complexity and balance as only he could.

© 2013 Sandra Hyslop

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Artist Bio

Hagen Quartet

Praised for their unique, finely nuanced timbre and the engaging immediacy of their ensemble sound, the Hagen Quartet was founded in 1981 by four Hagen siblings: violinists Lukas and Angelika (whose chair has been filled by Rainer Schmidt since 1987), violist Veronika and cellist Clemens in Salzburg.

Thirty years later, the Quartet has been celebrating its anniversary with extensive touring of the first presentation of the complete cycle of Beethoven’s string quartets in its history. From August 2012 through December 2013, the Quartet is performing this pinnacle of musical composition in the major music centers of the world, including Paris, London, Vienna, Salzburg and Tokyo. The Quartet will perform it for the first time in North America on November 7-17, 2013 at 92nd Street Y.

Among other highlights of its 30th anniversary, in October 2011, the Hagen Quartet was recognized with the prestigious Echo Klassik Award for Ensemble of the Year, and in 2012, it was named Honorary Member of Vienna’s Konzerthaus. The Quartet also released two acclaimed new recordings to celebrate its anniversary, both on Myrios Classics: a disc of string quartets by Beethoven, Mozart and Webern; and a pairing of Grieg’s String Quartet in G minor with Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet, featuring clarinetist Jörg Widmann. In June, Myrios will release an all-Beethoven disc representing the opposite ends of his quartet-composing career: Op. 18, Nos. 3 and 5 (1798-1800), and Op. 135 (1826).

The Hagen Quartet’s concert repertoire and discography embrace the history of the string quartet, from its pre-Haydn beginnings to György Kurtág. The Hagen Quartet also works closely with composers of its own generation, whether by reviving existing works or by commissioning and premiering new pieces. Collaborations with other artists, such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Maurizio Pollini, Mitsuko Uchida, Sabine Meyer, Krystian Zimerman and Heinrich Schiff, are also important to the Quartet. As teachers and mentors at the Salzburg Mozarteum and the Hochschule in Basel, as well as in international master classes, the quartet’s members pass on their experience to younger colleagues.

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Details & Ordering

92Y Recommends


  • The New York Times gives a rave review of Hagen Quartet’s opening concert of its 92Y Beethoven cycle. (Click the On the Blog tab above to read the review.)
  • BBC Music magazine names Hagen Quartet’s Beethoven cycle at 92Y a Top 20 Live Event in North America for November. (Click the On the Blog tab above for details.)

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