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euphony131
01-25-2001, 09:25 PM
Ok, stepping away from the symphonic fuss, I wanted to venture into the mystical realm of Opus 131, String Quartet in C sharp minor.

Widely heralded as possibly B's greatest masterpiece (singled out by the Maestro himself as his finest quartet), and a work I'm still trying to grasp fully with my puny mind. If ever there was a musical definition for the word, "Transcendent" this has to be it.

My favorite movement is the 1st, one that makes you feel like you've entered a holy shrine. Wow. J.W.N. Sullivan (author of "Beethoven's Spiritual Development") called it, "the completely unfaltering rendition into music of what we can only call the mystic vision." And boy, is it ever.

Also find the playful fifth movement Scherzo to be very compelling, coming as it does in the mist of a work that's otherwise full of gravity.

For me, this work has depths I may never be able to fully plumb. It makes you want to believe in some Higher Power, the Spiritual Plane, the idea that we may not be alone or mere defective mortals after all. Maybe there really is some ultimate purpose to everything?

I'm curious how the rest of you have personally reacted to it.

Here's something else. Been reading "Beethoven and the Spiritual Path" by one David Tame. Some of you may blow this book off as so much "voodoo hogwash" but I find it very interesting. He notes how the middle quartets are in sequential keys -- ABC as well as sequential movement numbers: 5 movements (Op. 132) then six movements (Op. 130) and then finally 7 movements (Op. 131). And all three quartets contain the "mysterious fugue motto" as started by Opus 132 , and reaching a kind of high point with Opus 130's Grosse Fugue. He names one Marion Scott as suggesting these relationships are "body, soul, and spirit, or past, present, and future."

Truly some heady stuff is at work here. That all this is mere coincidence can not be epecially coming from such a purposeful Giant like Beethoven.

What do you all think?


[This message has been edited by euphony131 (edited 01-25-2001).]

[This message has been edited by euphony131 (edited 01-25-2001).]

Rod
01-26-2001, 11:48 AM
Originally posted by euphony131:
Ok, stepping away from the symphonic fuss, I wanted to venture into the mystical realm of Opus 131, String Quartet in C sharp minor.

Widely heralded as possibly B's greatest masterpiece (singled out by the Maestro himself as his finest quartet), and a work I'm still trying to grasp fully with my puny mind. If ever there was a musical definition for the word, "Transcendent" this has to be it.

My favorite movement is the 1st, one that makes you feel like you've entered a holy shrine. Wow. J.W.N. Sullivan (author of "Beethoven's Spiritual Development") called it, "the completely unfaltering rendition into music of what we can only call the mystic vision." And boy, is it ever.

Also find the playful fifth movement Scherzo to be very compelling, coming as it does in the mist of a work that's otherwise full of gravity.

For me, this work has depths I may never be able to fully plumb. It makes you want to believe in some Higher Power, the Spiritual Plane, the idea that we may not be alone or mere defective mortals after all. Maybe there really is some ultimate purpose to everything?

I'm curious how the rest of you have personally reacted to it.

Here's something else. Been reading "Beethoven and the Spiritual Path" by one David Tame. Some of you may blow this book off as so much "voodoo hogwash" but I find it very interesting. He notes how the middle quartets are in sequential keys -- ABC as well as sequential movement numbers: 5 movements (Op. 132) then six movements (Op. 130) and then finally 7 movements (Op. 131). And all three quartets contain the "mysterious fugue motto" as started by Opus 132 , and reaching a kind of high point with Opus 130's Grosse Fugue. He names one Marion Scott as suggesting these relationships are "body, soul, and spirit, or past, present, and future."

Truly some heady stuff is at work here. That all this is mere coincidence can not be epecially coming from such a purposeful Giant like Beethoven.

What do you all think?



Along time ago I had something to say about 'Beethoven and the spiritual path' and none of it was particularly nice, as you may expect. All this searching for metaphysical cross-references in B's music misses the point of the true spiritual nature inherent in B's compositions such as these. Either way, I don't think Scott's analogy is correct. The book is fanciful in the extreme.

I once commented that the scherzo in op131 is the most amusing piece Beethoven ever wrote, funnier still if you see it played live. I wonder what Scott would make of this suggestion!

Rod

Michael
01-26-2001, 04:12 PM
Marion Scott believed that the "ABC" quartets "replaced Beethoven's intention of composing three masses, and it seems possible .... that the C sharp minor Mass - projected and apparently abandoned - became the C sharp minor Quartet. The three quartets might well symbolise body, soul and spirit... it would be like Beethoven to use C sharp minor here - the enharmonic equivalent of D flat, seen from the other side. Whatever his meaning, one thing is sure: we are always safe in knowing that with Beethoven it will be the greater, not the lesser idea."
A lot of this may be "hogwash" but whether we view those quartets strictly as music or as an "ABC" of this world and the next, there is no music anywhere remotely to compare with them.

Wagner, of course, went over the top in describing the C sharp minor. According to him, the fugal first movement is a prayer of penance, uttered upon waking, in melancholy apprehension of the day ahead. The composer's prayer is answered: the D major second movement is a lovely consoling memory. And now Beethoven sets to work. In the transitional third movement he turns to his magic world and in the ensuing variation movement he fully exercises his restored magical compositional powers. He turns his gaze outward in the Presto, illuminating the outer world with his inner happiness. Next he sinks into contemplation (sixth movement) about how he might "create the dance of the world itself", (last movement), standing above this wild storm of heaven and hell.....

Personally, I find this stuff appalling. Any arbitrary programme can be set to any piece of music if you put your mind to it. I prefer J.W.N. Sullivan and Marion Scott to this tripe.

Taking the piece as just music (just music!), I agree with Rod about the Presto - it is actually very funny but it is followed by what I consider the single saddest piece of music that Beethoven ever wrote - the adagio that leads into the last movement. Not even the "Cavatina" from the B flat is as despairing as this, I think.

Lastly, is it a coincidence that the only other work B wrote in C sharp minor also has an unusual number of movements, begins with an adagio and ends with a sonata-form movement? Need I say what it is?

Michael

PDG
01-26-2001, 09:03 PM
Michael,

After I read Euphony`s post, I was about to post exactly the same response; ie, that the magical 2 minute adagio is THE single movement, among all the 5 last quartets, which best sums up, in condensed form, our hero`s state of mind, during his final 2 years. Sad is an understatement; acceptance is my preferred adjective.

Rod
01-27-2001, 03:53 PM
Originally posted by PDG:
Michael,

After I read Euphony`s post, I was about to post exactly the same response; ie, that the magical 2 minute adagio is THE single movement, among all the 5 last quartets, which best sums up, in condensed form, our hero`s state of mind, during his final 2 years. Sad is an understatement; acceptance is my preferred adjective.

Have you read the book in question? I certainly have. Regading the adagio suming up B's last 2 years, how, then, do the later op135 and the new allegro for op130 fit into this picture. I suggest that the 'acceptance' you mention may have been the result of B bringing a little Handelian 'inner calm' to his compositions, for it is only in Handel to I get something of this late Beethovenian feeling, which is perhaps what endears me (and Beethoven?) to the earlier composer.

Rod

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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

PDG
01-27-2001, 08:36 PM
Originally posted by Rod:
Have you read the book in question? I certainly have. Regading the adagio suming up B's last 2 years, how, then, do the later op135 and the new allegro for op130 fit into this picture. I suggest that the 'acceptance' you mention may have been the result of B bringing a little Handelian 'inner calm' to his compositions, for it is only in Handel to I get something of this late Beethovenian feeling, which is perhaps what endears me (and Beethoven?) to the earlier composer.
Rod


First of all, yes, yes, acceptance is a noun, not an adjective (hope I got away with that one!).

Rod,

I`ve read none of the books mentioned in this chain, & from the sounds of them, neither do I want to. I think Beethoven`s realisation that his life was nearing its end is revealed in the other-worldliness of the last quartets, &, as I perceive it, there is much despair on show. But, despite his phenomenal spirit, there must have come a point where he accepted his fate, & let go - he was only human, after all. I suggest that it was after this point that he wrote the upbeat, even cheeky op.135 & rondo for op.130. For me, the clincher in this theory is that he relented, & compromised his artisic judgement in agreeing to replace the finale of said op.130. If he`d had the strength of his slightly younger self, then I do not think he would have entertained the idea. I know that Peter completely disagrees with my assertion on this, & that`s fine. This is just how I see it; acceptance & despair turning to acceptance & gratitude.

Rod
01-29-2001, 08:32 AM
Originally posted by PDG:
First of all, yes, yes, acceptance is a noun, not an adjective (hope I got away with that one!).


Hadn't noticed a problem! English language was never my strongpoint, I have trouble spelloing my own name.

Originally posted by PDG:

Rod,

I`ve read none of the books mentioned in this chain, & from the sounds of them, neither do I want to. I think Beethoven`s realisation that his life was nearing its end is revealed in the other-worldliness of the last quartets, &, as I perceive it, there is much despair on show. But, despite his phenomenal spirit, there must have come a point where he accepted his fate, & let go - he was only human, after all. I suggest that it was after this point that he wrote the upbeat, even cheeky op.135 & rondo for op.130. For me, the clincher in this theory is that he relented, & compromised his artisic judgement in agreeing to replace the finale of said op.130. If he`d had the strength of his slightly younger self, then I do not think he would have entertained the idea. I know that Peter completely disagrees with my assertion on this, & that`s fine. This is just how I see it; acceptance & despair turning to acceptance & gratitude.

I'm sure B was increasingly aware of his mortality in later years, but we all have that - I am getting it already as a 30-something! But the temptation to find a valedictory note in these late works is not particularly justified in my opinion. B, even in his death-bed was full of ideas for the future, it was only during the very last day or so he accepted the inevitable. The emotions evoked in these last works are essentially the same those of the early late works that apperared between 1814-1817 - have you heard the sublime elegaic song op118 for vocals with quartet, or the string quintet fugue and prelude from these years? This is serious stuff, but B had plenty of years left in him when these were composed, which is why I suggested B's 3rd period style was more of an artistic 'new direction' than a sudden change in B's state of mind. If B had died after the Moonlight was written, would writers not be discussing the valedictory nature of the adagio?

I agree with you about B's spirit and strength as found in these works, for no composer lived through his music more than Beethoven. Which is why no matter what bold rhetoric B would throw at us, we all know it is true and sincere, whereas with later attempts to immitate it, such rhetoric is rather too conspicious and unjustified in its context. About op130 I would also question your position as B did precisely the same in his younger days. Though the whole issue is a matter for conjecture, hard evidence being limited, but still an interesting one.

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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin