Author Topic: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)  (Read 378980 times)

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Offline Jo498

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1920 on: October 14, 2021, 05:24:44 AM »
If Beethoven had remained stubborn, the piece would certainly have been published with the fugue. The publisher (and maybe Holz or some other friends) apparently used two main arguments to convince Beethoven: The difficult fugue would be more appreciated as separate piece, therefore also the 4 hand version. And he would get paid extra for another piece. This was not a large amount, I forgot the exact number but I read that it was roughly equivalent to Beethoven's expenses for one month, certainly not as much as a full additional quartet would have been paid for. It seems unlikely that the moderate amount of extra money would have easily swayed the usually stubborn composer. So we have to accept the possibility that he was convinced by the other argument.
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Offline Madiel

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1921 on: October 14, 2021, 05:28:51 AM »
In fact op.130 is already a case of a quartet having a movement that wasn't originally meant for there. The 'alla danza tedesca' wasn't written for op.130, it was written as an option for op.132 and was in A major.

Beethoven decided not to use it in op.132. He ended up transposing it into G major to use it in op.130.

And people don't blink an eyelid at that, but insist that the Grosse Fugue is sacrosanct! And this is only talking about the things that were complete movements, not the sketches and ideas that didn't work out in their first home and got re-used later (there's one of those in op.130 as well).

As far as I'm concerned, the musical arguments for the replacement finale make perfect sense, and that's exactly why I adopted Jo498's original comment on that aspect. And the reason that I asserted this is what Beethoven wanted is because I think Beethoven was a great musician and, quite frankly, I find it puzzling that people don't hear how much better the replacement finale fits the mood and tone of the rest of the work.  The Fugue isn't kept for musical reasons, it's kept for ideological ones about what kind of music is suitably "Beethovenian". An ideology that has frequently left all of the lighter music that Beethoven wrote, throughout his entire career, out in the cold in favour of his most dramatic and towering works.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2021, 05:37:02 AM by Madiel »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1922 on: October 14, 2021, 08:44:08 AM »
I think Beethoven was a great musician and, quite frankly, I find it puzzling that people don't hear how much better the replacement finale fits the mood and tone of the rest of the work.  The Fugue isn't kept for musical reasons, it's kept for ideological ones about what kind of music is suitably "Beethovenian". An ideology that has frequently left all of the lighter music that Beethoven wrote, throughout his entire career, out in the cold in favour of his most dramatic and towering works.



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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1923 on: October 14, 2021, 09:01:26 AM »
Quote
Quote from: Madiel on Today at 08:28:51 AM
I think Beethoven was a great musician and, quite frankly, I find it puzzling that people don't hear how much better the replacement finale fits the mood and tone of the rest of the work.  The Fugue isn't kept for musical reasons, it's kept for ideological ones about what kind of music is suitably "Beethovenian". An ideology that has frequently left all of the lighter music that Beethoven wrote, throughout his entire career, out in the cold in favour of his most dramatic and towering works.


+1  +  +1  ;)

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Offline Maestro267

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1924 on: October 14, 2021, 11:30:36 AM »
My evidence is the entirety of human history. It's littered with people who were so forward-thinking their work wasn't fully understood for decades afterward.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1925 on: October 14, 2021, 12:17:16 PM »
But this is neither here nor there. The fugue was not thrown into the bin. It was just published separately, arguably getting more attention by receiving its own opus number.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline vers la flamme

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1926 on: October 14, 2021, 12:37:46 PM »
What are some great standalone performances of the Große Fuge, in transcriptions for ensembles other than string quartet? I'm curious now...

Offline André

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1927 on: October 14, 2021, 12:45:27 PM »
What are some great standalone performances of the Große Fuge, in transcriptions for ensembles other than string quartet? I'm curious now...

Well, it’s been played for full string sections countless times by every major orchestra. It was especially revered as a standalone piece in Germany. A friend of mine who is obsessed by the piece downloaded and burned on CD a dozen historical versions for my enjoyment. Let’s say that I found that too much of a good thing… ;D.

Offline Madiel

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1928 on: October 14, 2021, 01:25:50 PM »
My evidence is the entirety of human history. It's littered with people who were so forward-thinking their work wasn't fully understood for decades afterward.

See above. That’s not evidence, that really IS ideology.
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Offline amw

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1929 on: October 14, 2021, 02:57:20 PM »
What are some great standalone performances of the Große Fuge, in transcriptions for ensembles other than string quartet? I'm curious now...
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.

Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1930 on: October 14, 2021, 05:48:55 PM »
There is something where we all concur with: the Grosse Fuge is an authentic masterpiece.

Just heard the performance with the Melos Quartett on DG. No matter if some people claim it's an "ugly" work. For me, it's Beethoven at his most neurotic, rigurous, tense, gesticulating. The way he provides calm in the right moments is quite assertive. Tension-relaxation symbiosis with expert craftsmanship. I can't get enough of it.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2021, 06:54:57 PM by Symphonic Addict »
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Offline krummholz

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1931 on: October 15, 2021, 04:38:40 AM »
I think it may depend on one's take on the rest of the quartet as a whole. Movements II and IV, and for some, III as well, are more divertimento-like and the "official" finale is certainly more in keeping with the character of those movements. For me, those movements are there for contrast and perspective, and the "essential" movements are I, III, and V. So how does one balance the promise of those movements - especially I and V (the famous Cavatina)? For me it has nothing to do with ideology - the "official" finale just doesn't cut it IMHO and sounds more like a dismissive, even somewhat ironic rounding off of the work. The Grosse Fuge is admittedly almost TOO much - but with that piece as the finale the work as a whole has IMO better balance and, as someone said, even an "epic" dimension.

YMMV as always!  :)

Offline amw

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1932 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.

Offline Madiel

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1933 on: October 16, 2021, 01:32:54 AM »
I think it may depend on one's take on the rest of the quartet as a whole. Movements II and IV, and for some, III as well, are more divertimento-like and the "official" finale is certainly more in keeping with the character of those movements. For me, those movements are there for contrast and perspective, and the "essential" movements are I, III, and V. So how does one balance the promise of those movements - especially I and V (the famous Cavatina)? For me it has nothing to do with ideology - the "official" finale just doesn't cut it IMHO and sounds more like a dismissive, even somewhat ironic rounding off of the work. The Grosse Fuge is admittedly almost TOO much - but with that piece as the finale the work as a whole has IMO better balance and, as someone said, even an "epic" dimension.

YMMV as always!  :)

This is an argument I can respect, even if I don't agree with it.
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Offline krummholz

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1934 on: October 16, 2021, 07:27:20 AM »
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.

Interesting take (and in-depth analysis!) on the replacement finale! Admittedly it has been literally decades since I listened to that finale and must revisit it soon... thanks for the thoughtful post.

Offline Spotted Horses

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Re: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
« Reply #1935 on: October 16, 2021, 09:04:53 AM »
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.

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.)

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.

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.