Ignaz Schuppanzigh

Ignaz Schuppanzigh (20 July[1] 1776 – 2 March 1830) was an Austrian violinist, friend and teacher of Beethoven, and leader of Count Razumovsky's private string quartet. Schuppanzigh and his quartet premiered many of Beethoven's string quartets, and in particular, the late string quartets. The Razumovsky quartet, which Schuppanzigh founded in late 1808, is considered to be the first professional string quartet. Until the founding of this quartet, quartet music was played primarily by amateurs or by professional musicians who joined together on an ad hoc basis.


Schuppanzigh was born in Vienna, son of a professor of Italian at the Theresian Military Academy. After abandoning his early preference for the viola, he established himself before his 21st birthday as a virtuoso violist and violinist, as well as a conductor. He gave violin lessons to Beethoven, and they remained friends until Beethoven's death.

Schuppanzigh's dedication to quartet playing played a pivotal role in the transition of quartet performance and composition. Prior to Beethoven, the quartet repertoire could be performed successfully by either competent amateurs or professionals with few rehearsals. Beethoven's quartets, starting with the three of Op. 59 dedicated to Count Razumovsky, introduced many new technical difficulties that could not be completely overcome without dedicated rehearsal. These difficulties include synchronized complex runs played by two or more instruments together, cross-rhythms and hemiolas, and difficult harmonies that require special attention to intonation. When informed that Schuppanzigh had complained about a particularly difficult passage, Beethoven is said to have remarked, "Does he believe that I think about his miserable fiddle when the muse strikes me?"

Razumovsky's quartet also premiered works by other composers. Franz Schubert dedicated his A minor "Rosamunde" quartet to Schuppanzigh.

Schuppanzigh's was the first professional string quartet that gave concerts for subscription-paying audiences.[2]

He is said to have dragged Beethoven to a brothel, incurring Beethoven's wrath, after which he avoided Beethoven for months afterward.[3] Beethoven often joked about his corpulence, calling him 'Milord Falstaff', a comment aimed at both his weight and his fun-loving propensity, and wrote a short comical chorus dedicated to him, "Praise to the Fat One" ("Lob auf den Dicken"),[4] WoO 100.

Schuppanzigh was described as handsome in his youth, but in adult life he became seriously obese. Toward the end of his life, his fingers reputedly grew so fat that he was unable to play in tune, and reputedly died of paralysis in Vienna.


  1. Michael Lorenz: "Four more months for Ignaz Schuppanzigh"
  2. Swafford (2014). Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-544-24558-7.
  3. Swafford (2014). Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-544-24558-7.
  4. Swafford (2014). Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-544-24558-7.


  • Schuppanzigh, Ignaz,In Constant von Wurzbach: Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich. 32. Band. Wien 1876. Online-Version:
  • Clemens Hellsberg, Ignaz Schuppanzigh. Leben und Wirken, Phil. Diss., Wien 1979.
  • The String Quartet: A History by Paul Griffiths (1985: Thames & Hudson). ISBN 0-500-27383-9.
  • The Beethoven Quartet Companion, edited by Robert Winter and Robert Martin (1994: University of California Press).
  • Cobbett, Walter Willson, editor (1929). Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music. Oxford University Press.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians (ed. Stanley Sadie, 1980)
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