View Poll Results: Do you prefer the Große Fuge or the alternative as the finale to the op.130 quartet?

Voters
32. You may not vote on this poll
  • I prefer the Große Fuge. Beethoven never should have second guessed himself.

    11 34.38%
  • I prefer the alternative finale. Beethoven's publisher knew what was best for him.

    10 31.25%
  • I like both equally. Each incarnation of the quartet is valid in its own right.

    11 34.38%
  • I dislike both equally. Beethoven should have written an alternative to the alternative.

    0 0%
Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 12
Results 16 to 29 of 29

Thread: Beethoven's op.130: Original or Alternative Finale?

  1. #16
    Senior Member Janspe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Helsinki, Finland
    Posts
    871
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    These contrasts that you think are an essential part of Beethoven, where else do you find them?

    You say that the transition from the cavatina to the fugue is "earth shattering", but I think it runs the risk of being a absurd and pointless jolt -- unless there's a way for the musicians to prepare the ground.
    Where do you not find them? For me, the Große Fuge as the finale of Op. 130 is no more contrasting than many other moments in the late quartets and sonatas. I've always felt like the sublime cavatina, one of the strongest movements of Beethoven in my opinion, needs an equally strong counterpart to finish off the work. It feels totally convincing to me - this might of course be the case because I've heard the work in the original version most often. An absurd and pointless jolt? A possible interpretation of course. I fully disagree.

    I'd like to emphasize even still that I'm a huge fan of the replacement finale as well. I just think it doesn't give the work as satisfying an ending as does the fugue.

    I might be putting my hand on a beehive here, but I can't help but wonder if most listeners who comment that the big fugue is not a fitting finale would think the same had they always heard it that way. I'm totally ready to admit, though, that most quartets seem to prefer to play the GF separately as well. So what do I know?

  2. #17
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Posts
    6,048
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I like both/either. But you need a less than overstated Grosse Fugue to work with it as the last movement. With the GF as a standalone a string quartet can really pull out all the stops.
    Last edited by Enthusiast; Oct-08-2019 at 17:41.

  3. Likes BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist liked this post
  4. #18
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    6,096
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Janspe View Post
    Where do you not find them? For me, the Große Fuge as the finale of Op. 130 is no more contrasting than many other moments in the late quartets and sonatas. I've always felt like the sublime cavatina, one of the strongest movements of Beethoven in my opinion, needs an equally strong counterpart to finish off the work. It feels totally convincing to me - this might of course be the case because I've heard the work in the original version most often. An absurd and pointless jolt? A possible interpretation of course. I fully disagree.

    I'd like to emphasize even still that I'm a huge fan of the replacement finale as well. I just think it doesn't give the work as satisfying an ending as does the fugue.

    I might be putting my hand on a beehive here, but I can't help but wonder if most listeners who comment that the big fugue is not a fitting finale would think the same had they always heard it that way. I'm totally ready to admit, though, that most quartets seem to prefer to play the GF separately as well. So what do I know?
    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    . . . to work with it. . .
    How do you feel the fugue? Or rather, what feeling do you think it should be given in performance? Angry, grumpy, tough? That’s what I get from pretty well every performance I’ve heard I think.

    I’m just wondering if there’s an overarching structure of affects in the quartet, that each movement was supposed to express something and that the emotional plan isn’t random.

    I don’t know about c19 style enough to know whether this is a valid way of approaching the music. It’s the sort of thing you might do for a cycle of Italian madrigals, but for a thing by Beethoven? I’m not sure.

    Anyway, he must have had some thoughts about what the music was supposed to express when he composed it all, I suppose. I wonder if he made any comments about this sort of thing in the notebooks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Janspe View Post
    Hearing the piece without the massive final movement would be for me like hearing the great B-flat major Hammerklavier sonata without the concluding fugue.
    Same issues there . . . it's so very difficult to go beyond the expression of a personal preference. But it should be possible, these things were presented as wholes, it would be surprising if they were just a hotch potch.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    . . . overpowers . . .
    Can you spell that out a bit for me? The more I think about it the less I feel I understand what you're getting at.

    Quote Originally Posted by Janspe View Post

    With the two different finales the quartet is bascially two different pieces. The difference in the effect between the movements is so huge!

    This may be related to Eva's concept of overpowering, because you seem to want to say that the fugue has a retro-effect -- it changes the listener's perception of the previous movements and of the meaning of the whole. It could be right, I'm not sure.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-08-2019 at 17:29.

  5. #19
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    the Deep South
    Posts
    3,357
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    This is exactly the sort of riveting discussion I was hoping to incite by opening this thread. Unfortunately, I am not well versed enough in late Beethoven to speak intelligently on this quartet one way or the other. In any case I will have to listen to it again with the Große Fuge finale ASAP. I usually listen to the GF as a separate piece.

  6. #20
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    SoCal, USA
    Posts
    19,714
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    This may be related to Eva's concept of overpowering, because you seem to want to say that the fugue has a retro-effect -- it changes the listener's perception of the previous movements and of the meaning of the whole. It could be right, I'm not sure.
    I remember reading in some program notes one quartet's statement that they would actually play the preceding movements differently depending on which finale was being used.


  7. #21
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    the Deep South
    Posts
    3,357
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    I remember reading in some program notes one quartet's statement that they would actually play the preceding movements differently depending on which finale was being used.
    I’d be curious to know what adjustments would be made, any idea?

  8. #22
    Senior Member Baron Scarpia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    California
    Posts
    1,492
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    I’d be curious to know what adjustments would be made, any idea?
    I vaguely remember the same program note. I think the issue was playing the end of the cavatina so that it dove-tailed well with the start of the next movement, Fuge or replacement finale. They might even have recorded a version of the cavatina for each circumstance. Can't remember what ensemble it was or where I read it.

  9. #23
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    SoCal, USA
    Posts
    19,714
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I don't remember which quartet it was, but the reference was clearly to the entire work preceding the final movement, not just to the transition from the Cavatina (which is nicely managed by Beethoven in both finales). I do remember that the statement made my BS detector tingle, just a little.


  10. #24
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    6,096
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    It was the Tokyo Quartet in the essay for their first recording. I think.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-08-2019 at 18:57.

  11. #25
    Senior Member Baron Scarpia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    California
    Posts
    1,492
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    It was the Tokyo Quartet in the essay for their first recording. I think.
    Where would we all have seen that? (I have the first Tokyo recording, but in a cheap re-issue which has no booklet.) I have a vague feeling it was in some review or press material for a new recording of the quartets.
    Last edited by Baron Scarpia; Oct-08-2019 at 19:06.

  12. #26
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    6,096
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    Here it is

    A century after the late quartets entered the repertory, they are still shrouded in mystery and awe (as are the late piano sonatas—witness the discussion of Op.111 in Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus). During our conversation, Peter Oundjian sometimes referred to them as "a kind of bible, about which your feelings are always strong, but your interpretations are always changing. You can spend a lot of time in recording sessions playing very badly because you're struggling to make a certain transition. You get so disappointed if you don't get it ideally, just the way you want it. And then a year or two later you see it quite differently." For performers, there is mystery enough in technical matters. Op.130 has created the greatest debate; for it has two final movements.

    The Great Fugue, Op.133, was originally written as the sixth and final movement of Op.130. It is a huge piece, as long as any movement in the quar-tets, and almost twice as long as the first movement of Op.130. Its beginning, marked "Overtura," presents an angular chromatic theme; what follows is a set of fugal workings-out of that theme. The fugal sections are in several keys and tempos; the theme is inverted, distorted, and accompanied in myriad ways in the 741 measures of the piece. Beethoven's publisher urged him to exchange the movement for a simpler one; though he had vowed never to replace the Fugue, the composer finally did supply the more modest Rondo, half as long as the Fugue and lacking its shocking dissonances, strange textures, brash ges-tures, and rhetorical sweep.

    Which version should a modern quartet play, both to respect the composer's wishes and to make the musical statement the quartet itself prefers? After years of playing both endings, the Tokyo Quartet has a definite opinion.

    Kikuei Ikeda: "We have tried it both ways. The more we play it, the more strongly we feel that the Grosse Fuge has to be the last movement."

    Sadao Harada: "Each movement of the quartet has its own very strong char-acter, forming a chain of contrasts. The first movement, with its contrasting tempos (Adagio ma non troppo and Allegro), is itself a study in contrasts; and not only is the pacing of the tempos in that movement important, but it leads to the whole chain of contrasts between the movements."

    Peter Oundjian: "The greatest contrast of all comes between the Cavatina and the last movement—whichever one you choose. For us, the Rondo has a feeling of apology, almost. Perhaps that's not the right word—but when we're doing the Rondo we feel that we're playing a divertimento type of piece, and that the last movement is another dance movement (like the Scherzo and the Alla tedesca). When we're playing it with the Fugue, there's almost a sense of anticipation in these divertimento movements, and the Cavatina shines like a jewel—something perfect and quite simple, but opening the door for the huge statement to be made at the end. What comes before, the middle movements, isn't as profound, but they too are leading up to the finale. When you play the Rondo, you have to make more of the middle movements."

    Sadao Harada: "Either way, how you get out of the emotional state of the Cavatina is the key to me. I feel, when I'm playing the Cavatina, that the sense of divertimento is already done; to return to the dance of the Rondo afterward is very difficult."


    Yet the Tokyo Quartet sometimes plays the Rondo as the last movement, usually out of concern for the balance of the program as a whole. They, like their au-diences, are seeking not solutions to problems but, rather, a personal way of understanding each quartet, a middle ground that takes account of aesthetic preferences and needs, as much as the evidence of the notes on the printed page. The Great Fugue is but one of many open questions that serious listeners of these quartets must come to terms with: there is also the mysterious inscrip-tion in words and notes ("Must it be? It must be! It must be!") over the last movement of Op.135; the "story" of recovery from illness that Beethoven al-ludes to in Op.132; and even the mysterious direction "beklemmt" (literally, "strangled" or "oppressively") that accompanies the penultimate phrase of the Cavatina of Op.130. None of these has a simple, universal interpretation.

    There are also clear, intriguing correspondences between the quartets. Certain styles, certain musical issues reappear, each time in a unique treatment. Pestelli writes: "The idea of song according to a commonplace model [is] given ever more prominence by the cantabile nature of the string instrument": the Cavatina of Op.130, the "Dankgesang" of Op.132, the Adagio of Op.127, the Lento of Op.135 "are the peaks of a transfiguration of instrumental song that had always been pursued by Beethoven; never, however, had the art of 'melodic consolation,' through appoggiaturas and suspensions, managed to such an extent to make even the individual interval fruitful...melodies of a popular character plumb the depths with their foreignness."3 Oundjian, noting that all the slow movements are in major keys, adds that "despite the note of tragedy in these pieces, their serenity allows them to end in a kind of triumph."

    Some of the correspondences and recurring devices point to the vast differ-ences between the individual quartets. In chronological order, the Great Fugue at the end of Op.130 was composed just before the fugue at the beginning of Op.131. Joseph Kerman notes the essential differences created by the subjects of the two movements: "The Great Fugue serves, or originally served, as termi-nation for Beethoven's most dissociated composition. The C-sharp minor Fugue heralds his most perfectly integrated one. The subject of the Great Fugue pushes up the scale to the supertonic. The subject of the C-sharp minor Fugue droops down the scale to the minor sixth degree and past it. From these two sets of opposite facts the opposite characters of the two compositions evolve."4

    Like Wagner, whose picture of Op.131 served only to describe the memory of the piece and not to accompany a hearing, every performer and every listen-er requires a direct, personal engagement with each piece; the initial awe and incomprehension and even fear must give way to a tentative resolution and the need for another hearing. Perhaps these works are ideally suited for modern electronic reproduction, the only medium that allows rehearing at will. (Compact discs even allow one to compare the two endings to Op.130 in con-text!) And this rehearing can occur in private, for the quartets that only the best professionals can play are also works for the true amateurs who, like Schumann, devote themselves to a personal understanding, behind closed doors. —ROGER L. LUSTIG


    SOURCES

    Anton Schindler. Biographie von Ludwig ran Beethoven, 3. Autl. (I860): English tr. Constance S. Jolly. ed. L W. MacArdle (1966)

    2 Robert Schumann, "Zweiter Quartett-Morgen." Neue Zeitschrift ftir Musik V111/49 (June 19, 1838)

    3 Giorgio Pestelli, The Age of Mozart and Beethoven, tr. Eric Cross (1984)

    4 Joseph Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets (1967)
    "When we're playing it with the Fugue, there's almost a sense of anticipation in these divertimento movements, and the Cavatina shines like a jewel—something perfect and quite simple, but opening the door for the huge statement to be made at the end. What comes before, the middle movements, isn't as profound, but they too are leading up to the finale. When you play the Rondo, you have to make more of the middle movements."
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-08-2019 at 19:10.

  13. Likes Baron Scarpia liked this post
  14. #27
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Estonia
    Posts
    117
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I tend to prefer the alternative finale although I feel I should give a listen to the quartet with Grosse Fuge instead of the alternative ending. I agree with the earlier comments that Grosse Fuge might overpower the rest of the quartet. It’s already significantly longer than any other movement and as it feels to consist of smaller movements itself then I think it works pretty well as an independent piece.

  15. #28
    Senior Member Eva Yojimbo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    1,176
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Can you spell that out a bit for me? The more I think about it the less I feel I understand what you're getting at.
    The Grosse fuge is one of the most radical works ever composed, and not just for its time as it still sounds modern today (as Stravinsky said it would). It's the only classical work I ever played as a youngster that caused my mother to burst into my room in exasperation and ask what the hell that noise was. This is all a way of saying that the movement makes an impact that consumes all the listener's attention and reaction. If you put it at the end of that quartet it's a bit like traveling along a gorgeous countryside full of beautiful and interesting sights, but up ahead there's a 100-foot tall colossus beast that's waiting to step on your vehicle. Sure, you can enjoy the views along the way, but you know you're about to be in for a cataclysmic finale that's going to make the whole experience quite different. The replacement finale doesn't have this effect and I actually think it helps to bring balance to the piece that vacillates between light, happy, playfulness and reflective, somber, even melancholic tones. The fuge after the cavatina is like an apocalypse after a depression; it's too much, and together they lay waste to any joy found in the previous movements. The allegro, however, restores equilibrium, helping to balance out the tones and moods of the piece.

  16. Likes Mandryka liked this post
  17. #29
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    6,096
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    Yes, we come back to a question I posed earlier, the correct affect of the fugue. I don’t think it’s inevitably ferocious - the Fitzwilliam Quartet, for example, seem to play it in a more poised way.

    And if it is taken ferociously, can the ground be prepared?

    I’ll just mention that I can’t hear anything modern about the music, it doesn’t sound any more modern than Bach’s Wedge Fugue.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-09-2019 at 15:06.

Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 12

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •