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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

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Spotted Horses:

--- Quote from: amw on October 15, 2021, 03:18:47 PM ---The Grosse Fuge merges the "light" and "heavy" styles with great mastery, I think—the first few minutes are pure récherché contrapuntal writing, the "Meno mosso e moderato" retains the counterpoint but in a more amiable, conversational style recalling the third movement, the Allegro molto e vivace then presents a straight up "Turkish march" in 6/8 with minimal counterpoint, immediately plunges back into another intense récherché fugue in A-flat major, etc. By the end one does feel that the contradictions and disorientations of the quartet have been in some way transcended, with the very last section of the coda presenting both fugue subjects in the rhythm of the march and allowing them to yield to a (semi-)traditional series of cadential figures.

The replacement finale is not really a light throwback; it is still one of the longest and most complex finales to a Beethoven quartet (493 bars; only the GF at 741 bars is longer). It only appears small by comparison with the GF. The main "problem" with it for listeners is that it doesn't attempt to solve the inherent dissociation of the piece, but rather heightens it; not bothering to integrate the various styles, instead introducing all kinds of new disruptions (e.g. its own section in A-flat which is "resolved", rather than through modulation, simply by being played again in E-flat and then B-flat—not a real resolution at all, in that sense; also all the extended contrapuntal interludes that intrude on the sonata-rondo structure, and whatever the hell is happening in bars 215-223) which continue all the way to the pianissimo fermata on the last sixteenth note of the antepenultimate bar. In this sense it creates an "open" ending similar to those in Op. 131 and, to a lesser extent, 135, one where the music is destabilised to the extent that any ending feels arbitrary.

It does create essentially two different versions of the piece—in the version with the Grosse Fuge, the weight of the work falls entirely on the finale, which then requires an extremely convincing performance. (The best performance of Op. 130/133 I know of is the Hagen Quartet's recording on DG.) In the version with the replacement finale, the weight of the work is largely carried by the Cavatina, which admittedly is easier to pull off. (Two exemplary performances of Op. 130 without the GF: the Belcea Quartet on Zig-Zag/Alpha, which plays the Cavatina very slowly and sadly (as Beethoven probably intended), and the Leipzig Quartet on MDG, which plays it passionately and urgently.) One notable ensemble, the Elias Quartet, recorded both versions of Op. 130 on different volumes of their cycle, though the extent to which they succeed at giving the performances different characterisation is subjective. Their style is vibrato-heavy with frequent use of portamento, and prone to very slow tempi, so it will not be to the taste of all listeners, but is worth some exploration I think.

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Thank you for this.

When I was new to this music I thought that the GF was the only legitimate ending for Op 130, but lately I've come to love the replacement finale and tend to prefer it as the finale of the quartet.

Regarding the unusual structure of the Op 130 finale, I think there are other examples of Beethoven departing from the traditional Sonata Allegro structure this way, such as the first movement of Op 132.

I find it unfathomable that the Artemis Quartet goes beyond placing the GF as the finale of Op 130, but does not record the replacement finale of Op 130 at all. It is the last movement that Beethoven wrote for string quartet, at the height of his powers, and an extraordinary piece of music. (The same for the Quatuor Mosaiques.)

--- Quote from: amw on October 14, 2021, 02:57:20 PM ---I ignore most non-string-quartet performances of the Große Fuge but Adolf Busch's string ensemble recording is very good, and I've also picked up several versions of Beethoven's own arrangement for piano four hands (Op. 134) of which I'm not sure which is the best. Duo Koroliov and Peter Hill/Benjamin Frith are the two I've listened to most often, but the latter was a recent release and thus probably shows up more often in my listening history for that reason.

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I think I have that Adolf Busch recording in a box set. I like Furtwangler's live recording with the WPO as well. I must find one of those four hand piano arrangements you mention.

Symphonic Addict:
Astounded is a frequent epithet when referring to Beethoven. I rediscovered the Fantasia for piano, soloists, chorus, and orchestra and it is a masterwork in its own right. Symphony No. 9 meets Piano Concerto No. 3, I couldn't help myself, uplifting and well-crafted work.


--- Quote from: Symphonic Addict on December 31, 2021, 06:17:55 PM ---Astounded is a frequent epithet when referring to Beethoven. I rediscovered the Fantasia for piano, soloists, chorus, and orchestra and it is a masterwork in its own right. Symphony No. 9 meets Piano Concerto No. 3, I couldn't help myself, uplifting and well-crafted work.

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I prefer the Fantasia to both.  ;D

Symphonic Addict:

--- Quote from: Florestan on January 01, 2022, 06:56:51 AM ---I prefer the Fantasia to both.  ;D

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Really? Oh, that's something else. I did find alluring the motif pre-Symphony No. 9, in a more cheerful Ode-to-joy, more unbuttoned as you say.  :)

The piano part is also a stroke of a genius. Singular and enjoyable piece!

I might have asked this before, but does anyone have recommendations for the wind octet (op.103) or the wind sextet (op.71)?

I know there are at least some albums that combine the two - it's a pretty obvious combination given the forces involved - and sometimes the smaller pieces that are also for octet or sextet (one each).

A couple of examples I've spotted, but I've no idea about the performances:


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