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

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

  1. #1
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Default Beethoven's op.130: Original or Alternative Finale?

    As we know, the movement initially written as the finale of the sprawling op.130 B-flat major string quartet is known today as the Große Fuge, and is typically played as a separate work. I believe the story goes that Beethoven's publisher attempted (in the end, successfully) to convince him that the public would not understand such a massive, fugal finale, and that an alternative finale should be written for the quartet. Nowadays, the quartet is almost always performed with the resulting alternate finale, written significantly later on.

    Do you think Beethoven was right to rewrite the finale here? Or do you prefer the Große Fuge as a finale? Personally, I am a fan of the alternative final movement, but I must disclaim that the quartet is mystifying enough to me as it is, without the Große Fuge on the end. Maybe Beethoven should have never second guessed himself.

    This brings up further questioning, though: are both variants of the quartet valid? Does one tell a different story, impart a different experience, from the other...? Or do you, the listener, feel that only one or the other version really speaks to you?

    Very curious on everyone's thoughts here. This is a poll thread, but I would like to see some discussion as well.

  2. #2
    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    The Große Fuge is such a wonderfully overpowering work that I think it works better as an individual work.

  3. #3
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    To me, it doesn’t matter much. I agree with Kerman, who found the Op. 130 to be a very dissociated work without much unity or overall design (in contrast with the Op. 131). So with the Fugue as the finale, it’s one beast; with the replacement finale, it’s another – or at least we can hear it that way and convince ourselves that it’s true.

    BTW I’ve been under the impression that most live performances use the Grosse Fuge as the finale. I mean, what quartet doesn’t want to strut its stuff?


  4. #4
    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    I like the agitation and the capriciousness of Grosse Fuge. It may not be the best fugue ever written, but it's arguably the best parody on the fugue form. The alternative finale is also good, I like Grosse Fuge a bit better.

  5. #5
    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    To me, it doesn’t matter much. I agree with Kerman, who found the Op. 130 to be a very dissociated work without much unity or overall design (in contrast with the Op. 131). So with the Fugue as the finale, it’s one beast; with the replacement finale, it’s another – or at least we can hear it that way and convince ourselves that it’s true.

    BTW I’ve been under the impression that most live performances use the Grosse Fuge as the finale. I mean, what quartet doesn’t want to strut its stuff?
    Never thought of it that way, but you’ve got a point!

  6. #6
    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    To me, it doesn’t matter much. I agree with Kerman, who found the Op. 130 to be a very dissociated work without much unity or overall design (in contrast with the Op. 131). So with the Fugue as the finale, it’s one beast; with the replacement finale, it’s another – or at least we can hear it that way and convince ourselves that it’s true.

    BTW I’ve been under the impression that most live performances use the Grosse Fuge as the finale. I mean, what quartet doesn’t want to strut its stuff?
    I understand where you and Kerman are coming from, but I'm not sure I agree. I hear a satisfying overall pattern in the replacement version, specifically, a systematically organized dialogue of dance and song. In movements two through six, the even numbered movements evoke dances, while in the odd ones a lyrical, quasi-vocal style prevails. The pattern is set up by the thematic opposition in the first movement, which begins with a sort of halting recitative style theme but is soon countered by a brighter, highly rhythmic idea — not quite song versus dance, but nevertheless an apt setup for the dialogue to come. The movement seems to be about first contrasting and then integrating these two modes of being.

    Anyway, it works for me and reinforces one of the things I like most about Beethoven: his willingness to experiment with different forms of organization, sometimes inventing entirely new approaches for individual works, as I think he did for Op. 130.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Oct-07-2019 at 23:01.

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  8. #7
    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    I think the fugue overpowers the rest of the quartet, so B. I don't really think that late in Beethoven's career he would have changed the 6th movement of 130 for anything but artistic reasons.

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    I knew the members of a young professional quartet for most of their existence (15 years) and towards the end one asked me for a recommendation for a shortish festive piece to play for an occasion and I suggested the alternative Op 130 finale. I was floored when he said they didn't know it "We've never played it." All well and good to always play the fugue, but for a professional quartet to never have even run through a complete late quartet movement by Beethoven surprised the hell out of me!

  10. #9
    Senior Member Baron Scarpia's Avatar
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    I like the quartet with the replacement finale. The Grosse fugue is a work of genius that stands on its own.

    I've never heard the work live, and in the great majority of recordings both movements are included and you can choose to listen to it however you wish. There are a few Beethoven cycles where the quartet has failed to record the replacement finale at all, which I find inexcusable. (For instance, the Artemis Quartet cycle.) It was a movement for string quartet written at the height of Beethoven's late period and is worth hearing, whether or not you think the grosse fuge is a better finale for the quartet.

  11. #10
    Senior Member Janspe's Avatar
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    For me - and I stress that this is only a personal opinion - the Große Fuge at the end of the quartet is essential. 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. However, the replacement movement is a stunning work, worthy of the careful attention of every serious music lover. So at the end of the day, I'm happy with both versions. I definitely expect quartets to record both finales in their traversals.

    One famous case where Beethoven was recommended to replace a movement is the middle movement of the C major Waldstein piano sonata. I don't think anyone in their right mind would claim that the original Andante favori should be preferred over the middle movement we are used to hearing, which is one of the most magical creations of Beethoven - especially the way it leads into the final movement. Where does one draw the line? I vastly prefer hearing the quartet with the big finale but would never wish to hear the C major sonata in its original form, though I like the Andante favori as it is, a beautiful little piece.

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  13. #11
    Senior Member Eva Yojimbo's Avatar
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    I agree with those who say the Grosse fuge overpowers the rest of the quartet so I prefer the replacement.

  14. #12
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    The poll is neck and neck. I will have to listen again to this quartet, this time with the fugal finale, and see what I think. These are all interesting thoughts. It could very well be that the quartet with the Große Fuge as a finale is equal to or better than the final form.

  15. #13
    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    I find the Große Fuge over-powering to the rest of the SQ and believe that it’s much more effective being played separately. But I also believe it’s in the spirit of the string quartet with his exuberance and joy. It took me a while to understand it but I finally concluded that Beethoven’s Fuge is a great outburst of exuberance and celebration. He’s ecstatic and happy. But the problem is that I don’t think it’s always played that way. I’ve heard performances where the GF is hacked to death and roughly played. When it’s played that way I feel it sounds horrible. It needs to be played forcefully but with some sense of finesse. To me, this sounds like Beethoven in a very special dimension but one that is not without gratitude.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Oct-08-2019 at 13:14.
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  16. #14
    Senior Member Janspe's Avatar
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    I also feel like the Große Fuge has something of the contrast in it that I find so essential in Beethoven's art. I'm just listening to the quartet inspired this thread (Quartetto Italiano) and the opening of the last movement after the cavatina is simply earth-shattering...

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

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  18. #15
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    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. In the 9th symphony, he takes a lot of trouble to prepare the ground before the choral music, here we seem to be just thrown in.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-08-2019 at 15:13.

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