Prince Razumovsky (1752 - 1836) and Beethoven's Razumovsky Quartets, Opus 59

Prince Razumovsky was Russian ambassador in Vienna, as well as great patron of the arts who commissioned three String Quartets, known today as the Razumovsky Quartets, Opus 59.

In two of the three String Quartets, numbers one and two, Beethoven incorporated Russian themes to please his patron.

Razumovsky spent a vast amount of money – all from his own pocket – on building a sumptuous new embassy outside the city wall on a rise overlooking the Danube.

On New Year's Eve 1814 he held a glittering ball there with Tsar Alexander as guest of honour.

This was to celebrate the successful conclusion of the Congress of Vienna – for which the then Count Razumovsky was elevated to Prince – following the allies’ defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig. Beethoven, who was certainly invited, did not attend.

To accommodate all the guests, Razumovsky had had a temporary extension built onto the palace, heated from the main building by a flue.

Some time in the early hours of the morning - after all the guests had left - a fire started in the flue. It rapidly spread to the main house.

Razumovsky joined the efforts to stop the flames spreading. But little could be done. Many rooms in the palace were destroyed, along with the many classical and neo-classical sculptures Razumovsky had collected.

In fighting the fire Razumovsky's sight was damaged. More significantly his spirit was broken. He was found in the dim light of dawn wandering among the ruins of his once-splendid palace.

He continued to live in Vienna - in seclusion. His descendants live there today. His palace still stands, its once magnificent gardens overgrown and its grandeur faded. In the late 1990's it was the headquarters of the International Oceanographic Institute, which was about to put it up for sale.

Since writing this page, I have been contacted by Prince Razumovsky’s direct descendant, Gregor Razumovsky, who has provided me with the fascinating and intriguing information that after the palace fire, Tsar Alexander promised to contribute to the reconstruction of the palace. But he never kept his word since he had a strong hatred of Prince Razumovsky, suspecting him of having passively supporting the murder of his father, Tsar Paul. I am most grateful to Herr Razumovsky for providing me with this information.