View Poll Results: What do you think of the Grosse Fugue?

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  • One of my favorite pieces of music.

    171 52.29%
  • Brilliant, but not "on my playlist."

    115 35.17%
  • I don't get it.

    22 6.73%
  • Beethoven must have been way deafer than we thought.

    11 3.36%
  • Grosse what?

    8 2.45%
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Thread: Grosse Fugue - What do you think?

  1. #1
    Senior Member nefigah's Avatar
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    Default Grosse Fugue - What do you think?

    Beethoven's infamous work, sure to incite quite the diverse range of opinions.

    Where do you stand?

  2. #2
    Senior Member opus67's Avatar
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    I don't get it. That's what I voted for. Having said that, I must also mention that I never listen to Op. 130 with the "requested" finale, nor do I listen to the fugue as a standalone work. Beethoven intended it to be the last movement, and that's how I will listen to the quartet.


    P.S.: Oh, and please use Grosse Fuge (Große Fuge, if you want to really go with the German thing) or Great Fugue. Not a mixture of the two, please.
    Regards,
    Navneeth

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  3. #3
    Junior Member Mendelssohn's Avatar
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    Throughout the years of classical music listening i've come to hate Beethoven...of course not of his music (all of it) but for his fans...they just think that music begins with and ends to Beethoven (at least some I've met).That led me for a long period indeed to stay away from his music (except from a couple of late sonatas for my piano studies)...

    After that time,i re-connected to Beethoven after I bought his complete works by Brilliant...When i opened it and looked at the list in the inside,I found Grosse Fugue,a work of his that I've listened only in fragments in the movie "Copying Beethoven".So,it was the first CD that i listened from that collection...

    I was, if I may say, shocked.I don't find any meaning in this work...Or it is such a clever and enlightened work that my mediocre ears don't catch it, or it has indeed no meaning.As it is a work of Beethoven,I suspect it is the first, but again...i don't know...

    For me, it hardly has a melody, a lyrical line...Its orchestration (or as others prefer to say for this piece,instruments' movement) is quite weird for my tastes...And it is too heavy, overloaded both in music and "emotion".Those in favor of Beethoven and his Grosse Fugue, of course, suggest that it is an innovating work of art, that it opens a new era in music,that it is the first step to Romanticism (and especially late-Romantic ---see Scriabin),that...that...that...

    The only thing I have to say for Grosse Fugue (and for that I may be criticized by other members of the forum) is that ,although a giant step for the science of music, it has much the same result as fitting wheels to a tomato...It doesn't make any sense...
    The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety.

    Felix Mendelssohn

  4. #4
    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    I sometimes wonder what exactly people mean by "I don't get" or "I do get" this piece of music or that composer. Can you "don't get" a piece but still like it? Can you "get it" but nevertheless hate it? Or if you like it, does it automatically mean that you are "getting it"? Stupid questions, maybe, but sometimes I wonder what exactly people mean by all this "getting" and "not getting" it.

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  6. #5
    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    I sometimes wonder what exactly people mean by "I don't get" or "I do get" this piece of music or that composer. Can you "don't get" a piece but still like it? Can you "get it" but nevertheless hate it? Or if you like it, does it automatically mean that you are "getting it"? Stupid questions, maybe, but sometimes I wonder what exactly people mean by all this "getting" and "not getting" it.
    I think getting it can easily lead to liking it but not necessarily. Anyway, my take on this piece is actually of some import to questions, I hope.

    I don't get it, but I do think it's brilliant, if not really on my playlist. And I don't particularly "like" it, really, but I think it is still brilliant and it has its place.

    So, to try to make my statement make somewhat more sense, I think it's great but I don't care for it.
    You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.

  7. #6
    Senior Member opus67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    I sometimes wonder what exactly people mean by "I don't get" or "I do get" this piece of music or that composer. Can you "don't get" a piece but still like it? Can you "get it" but nevertheless hate it? Or if you like it, does it automatically mean that you are "getting it"? Stupid questions, maybe, but sometimes I wonder what exactly people mean by all this "getting" and "not getting" it.
    Speaking for myself, when I say I don't get a piece of music, I don't understand the "musical" reasons behind it. I can not analyse it in terms of the musical structure, cannot follow the score and what not - and it bugs me a lot! (It's like reading a popular science article versus understanding a textbook.) That's actually true with every other work, not only of Beethoven's but of all composers; but in the case of Beethoven's Op. 130, he seems to fly from the seeds of Romanticism to the beginnings of Shostakovich and the twentieth century in an instant. It shocks even someone without a knowledge of music. I have not familiarised myself very well with his late piano sonatas, but I wonder if there's something at this level in any of his other works from the latter period of his life.

    To answer your other questions,

    Can you "don't get" a piece but still like it?
    Sure. It's true of every piece I like.

    Can you "get it" but nevertheless hate it?
    I don't get it.

    Sorry.

    I don't see that happening now.

    Or if you like it, does it automatically mean that you are "getting it"?
    No.
    Regards,
    Navneeth

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  8. #7
    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    I sometimes wonder what exactly people mean by "I don't get" or "I do get" this piece of music or that composer. Can you "don't get" a piece but still like it? Can you "get it" but nevertheless hate it? Or if you like it, does it automatically mean that you are "getting it"? Stupid questions, maybe, but sometimes I wonder what exactly people mean by all this "getting" and "not getting" it.
    'Getting' and 'not getting' seem, for me, to be related to a certain sense of alienation that arises from incomprehension; it's like listening to a conversation in a foreign language that I have no knowledge of at all. Late Beethoven fits that category. I neither like, nor dislike it; it's just 'sounds', going on, neither pleasant nor unpleasant (well, mildly unpleasant, perhaps, with a slightly depressive air) to which my response is mere puzzlement.

    I remember asking a friend to help me 'get' it, once; he rambled on about Beethoven being a great genius, and his later works being 'pure music'. All of which just puzzled me more. I'm perfectly happy to tick the 'genius' box on the basis of what others so obviously discover in works like this, but I have little hope of ever seeing it for myself.

  9. #8
    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by opus67 View Post
    Speaking for myself, when I say I don't get a piece of music, I don't understand the "musical" reasons behind it. I can not analyse it in terms of the musical structure, cannot follow the score and what not - and it bugs me a lot! (It's like reading a popular science article versus understanding a textbook.) That's actually true with every other work, not only of Beethoven's but of all composers; but in the case of Beethoven's Op. 130, he seems to fly from the seeds of Romanticism to the beginnings of Shostakovich and the twentieth century in an instant. It shocks even someone without a knowledge of music. I have not familiarised myself very well with his late piano sonatas, but I wonder if there's something at this level in any of his other works from the latter period of his life.
    I think that liking a piece of music has more to do with what is usually referred to as "personal taste" and the way we respond to it on an emotional level than theoretical knowledge though. I mean, opinions about music and composers are just as divided among people who can read a score than among those who can't. Speaking for myself here, and it's entirely possible that I'm wrong, but I don't think that if I was capable of reading a score that my tastes would change very much (or at all). The only difference I think would be that I could explain better WHY I like or don't like something.

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  11. #9
    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    To answer the poll question, I like the "Grosse Fugue" - regardless of whether I'm "getting it" or not. Maybe because I first got familiar with the transcription for string orchestra before I heard the quartet version.

  12. #10
    Senior Member opus67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    I think that liking a piece of music has more to do with what is usually referred to as "personal taste" and the way we respond to it on an emotional level than theoretical knowledge though.
    Exactly. In Copland's terms, I'm missing out on the "musical plane."

    Speaking for myself here, and it's entirely possible that I'm wrong, but I don't think that if I was capable of reading a score that my tastes would change very much (or at all). The only difference I think would be that I could explain better WHY I like or don't like something.
    Generally speaking, I agree with that also. Moreover, I would like to know why a certain work or set of works is considered great, revolutionary, and what makes that composer a visionary. That is why you would never [perhaps seldom is the right word to use here] see me declare something as being the greatest or the worst. At the least I try to avoid putting forward such statements. All I can speak of are works that are my most or least favourite.


    Of course, the task of evaluating recordings for myself is also something I would like to learn.
    Regards,
    Navneeth

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  13. #11
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    After an opening of isolated phrases, or of phrases that consist of both notes and silences, there's an extended section of fugal writing, not the one line then the next then the next as one used to get in Bach, but all the staggered lines all at once. (And it's a double fugue, too, note, one theme long and lyrical,* one theme short and syncopated. ) Then there's a lyrical section in which the lines are presented a bit more transparently, and without the propulsive energy. After a charming little bit that's almost a rustic dance, the propulsive, contrapuntal section returns--not quite as propulsive; it's broken up from time to time, or rather one could say that it incorporates silence as part of the line again.

    All in all, it not only uses the same materials throughout, but even returns to the treatment of those materials, the closing being an expansion of the opening. All of which sounds pretty meaningful to me. ("Meaning" in music often defined as having something to do with repetition and development.)

    That leaves one really puzzling comment, that the Grosse Fuge has weird instrumentation--it's a string quartet!

    *read "melodic"!

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  15. #12
    Senior Member David C Coleman's Avatar
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    Well I happen to like the Grosse Fugue Finale to the Op 130 String Quartet. I think it goes to show that Beethoven was just a little bit of a rebel. A little bit of a non-conformist. Which you find throughout his career really.
    He always pushed the boundaries of music, and I admired him for that.
    I might "not get it" but then I don't "get a lot of Wagner and lot of 20th century music. But I do prefer it to the rather inferior and ordinary thing that replaced it..

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  17. #13
    Senior Member SPR's Avatar
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    laugh. I remember this topic coming up in a different thread recently.

    Having only spent a few years seriously listening to classical music - one can certainly take my commentary with a few grains (or pounds) of salt.

    It is complete rubbish from my perspective of wanting to actually listen and enjoy music. It is interesting structurally (maybe), what of it. It is the musical equivelant of studying differential equations and abstract math to get a better understanding of the universe, as opposed to gazing into the heavens with your own eyes and seeing beauty of a different sort. It is, basically, a waste of my time.

    Many seem to want to trip over themselves using this as evidence of LVBs brilliance. Yeah, it is interesting in a peverse sort of way... just like a road accident. 'rebel', 'challenging', 'difficult', 'pushing the envelope', 'visionary'. All well and good, but it still remains an assault on the ears as well as the (correction 'my') sensibilities.

    I tend to be in the group saying it is "as incomprehensible as Chinese" or an "indecipherable, uncorrected horror." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grosse_Fuge

    Other than that, I have no strong feelings about the piece. Obviously, I am only fit to listen to predictable, tonal (sneer), muzak, fit for the great unwashed masses.

    I just listened to Haydn String Quartet in D maj op.76/5- II. Largo ma non troppo, cantabile e mesto. Good little piece, that one - makes me weep nearly. Grosse fuge? Just plain Gross, though it too makes me weep.

    Last edited by SPR; Dec-07-2008 at 04:27.

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    Senior Member SPR's Avatar
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    I found this laying out there...

    Of the Grosse Fugue, Beethoven wrote, "When the instruments have to struggle with monstrous difficulties...when each has different figures to cut across each other... amid a host of dissonances... when the Babylonian confusion is complete, the result is a concert only Moroccans can enjoy."

    I say: Babylonian confusion? 'exactly'. Good for him.

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  21. #15
    Senior Member jurianbai's Avatar
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    heard this pieces in internet several times but not owned a recording.

    I vote "i don't get it" maybe because it's simply difficult to enjoy. it sound like an atonal stuff from nineteen century. i read in wikipedia and other internet resource that the late string quartet is one whole piece and Grosse Fuge become the final of the pieces.

    btw, reading posts in this thread also give enlightment to the works.

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