Open Access Articles- Top Results for Gro%C3%9Fe Fuge

Große Fuge

"Great Fugue" redirects here. For the piece by J.S. Bach, see Great Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542.
File:Grosse Fuge Artaria title page.jpg
Title page of the first edition of the Grande Fugue, published in Vienna by Matthias Artaria in 1827 (in French, using Beethoven's French name "Louis").

The Große Fuge (or Grosse Fuge, also known in English as Great Fugue or Grand Fugue), Op. 133, is a single-movement composition for string quartet by Ludwig van Beethoven. A massive double fugue, it was universally condemned by contemporary critics. A reviewer writing for Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung in 1826 described the fugue as "incomprehensible, like Chinese" and "a confusion of Babel".[1] However critical opinion of the work has risen steadily since the beginning of the 20th century. The work is now considered among Beethoven's greatest achievements. Igor Stravinsky said of it, "[it is] an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever."[2]

The Große Fuge originally served as the final movement of his Quartet No. 13 in B major (Op. 130), written in 1825. But Beethoven's publisher, who was concerned about the dismal commercial prospects of the piece, urged Beethoven to replace the fugue with a new finale. Beethoven complied, and the Grosse Fuge was published separately in 1827 as Op. 133. It was composed when Beethoven was almost completely deaf, and is considered to be part of his set of late quartets. It was first performed in 1826, as the finale of the B quartet, by the Schuppanzigh Quartet.

Analysts describe the Große Fuge as "inaccessible",[3] "eccentric",[4] "filled with paradoxes",[5] and "Armaggedon".[6] "[It] stands out as the most problematic single work in Beethoven's output and … doubtless in the entire literature of music," writes Joseph Kerman of the fugue.[7] It is also notoriously difficult to play.

History of composition

by the Merel Quartet at Tonhalle Zürich, 3 July 2013: Mary Ellen Woodside and Julia Schröder, violin; Ylvali Zilliacus, viola; Rafael Rosenfeld, cello

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Beethoven originally composed the Große Fuge as the final movement of his String Quartet No. 13 (Op. 130). His choice of a fugal form for the last movement was well grounded in tradition: Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven himself had used fugues as final movements of quartets. But in recent years, Beethoven had become increasingly concerned with the challenge of integrating this Baroque form, that was academic and highly formalized, with the expressive impulses of Romanticism. "In my student days I made dozens of [fugues]... but [imagination] also wishes to exert its privileges... and a new and really poetic element must be introduced into the traditional form," Beethoven wrote.[8] The resulting movement was a mammoth work, longer than all the other movements of the quartet together.[9] Beethoven wrote at the top of the score, "Grande fugue tantôt libre, tantôt recherchée" (a grand fugue, sometimes free, sometimes learned), an indication of his ambition to reconcile the academic and the romantic. The fugue is dedicated to the Archduke Rudolf of Austria, a friend and patron.

File:Holz karl.jpg
Karl Holz, violinist and confidante of Beethoven. Holz was second violinist in the quartet that debuted the Große Fuge, and was charged with the task of convincing Beethoven to separate the fugue from the rest of the quartet, Op. 130.

At the first performance of the quartet, other movements were received enthusiastically, but the fugue was not a success. A review of the performance in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, one of Vienna's leading music periodicals, called the fugue "incomprehensible, like Chinese" and "a confusion of Babel".[10] Composer and violinist Louis Spohr called the fugue, and the other late quartets, "an indecipherable, uncorrected horror."[11]

Despite the contemporary criticism, Beethoven himself never doubted the value of the fugue. Karl Holz, confidante of Beethoven's, and second violinist of the Schuppanzigh quartet that performed the work, brought Beethoven the news that the audience demanded encores of two middle movements. Beethoven, enraged, was reported to have growled, "And why didn't they encore the Fugue? That alone should have been repeated! Cattle! Asses!"[12]

However, the fugue was so roundly condemned by critics and audience alike that Beethoven's publisher, Matthias Artaria (1793–1835), decided to try to convince Beethoven to publish it separately. Holz was given the task of convincing Beethoven to separate the fugue from the rest of the quartet. Holz wrote:

Artaria...charged me with the terrible and difficult task of convincing Beethoven to compose a new finale, which would be more accessible to the listeners as well as the instrumentalists, to substitute for the fugue which was so difficult to understand. I maintained to Beethoven that this fugue, which departed from the ordinary and surpassed even the last quartets in originality, should be published as a separate work and that it merited a designation as a separate opus. I communicated to him that Artaria was disposed to pay him a supplementary honorarium for the new finale. Beethoven told me he would reflect on it, but already on the next day I received a letter giving his agreement.[13]

Why the notoriously stubborn Beethoven agreed so readily to replace the fugue is an enigma in the history of this quintessentially enigmatic piece. Historians have speculated that he did it for the money (he was notoriously bad at managing money), or to satisfy his critics, or because he simply believed the fugue stood best on its own.[14] The fugue is connected to the other movements of opus 130 by various hints of motifs, and by a tonal link to the preceding Cavatina movement (the Cavatina ends on a G, and the fugue begins with the same G[15]). The replacement last movement, on the other hand, despite also beginning on a G, is light in character and completely inoffensive. Beethoven composed the replacement finale in late 1826. In May 1827, about two months after Beethoven's death, Matthias Artaria published the first edition of Op. 130 with the new finale, and the Große Fuge as Op. 133, as well as a four-hand piano arrangement, Op. 134.[16]


Dozens of analyses have attempted to delve the structure of the Große Fuge, with conflicting results. The work has been described as an expansion of the formal Baroque grand fugue,[17] as a multi-movement work rolled into a single piece,[18] as a symphonic poem in sonata form.[19] Stephen Husarik has suggested that the relationships between the keys of the different sections of the fugue mirror what he describes as the wedge-like structure of the eight-note motif that is the main fugal subject, the "contour [that] is a driving force behind the Große Fuge."[20] All these approaches add insight into the understanding of the fugue, but, writes Husarik, "no critical analysis of Große Fuge has satisfactorily explained its compelling directionality, thus leaving even modern listeners unfulfilled.",[21]

The building blocks

The central motif of the fugue is an eight-note subject that climbs chromatically upward:

Problems playing this file? See media help.
File:Grosse Fuge Motif.pdf
The eight-note fugal subject
File:Subject of the Fugue in B minor BWV 870 from the Well-tempered Clavier by Bach.pdf
About this sound Subject of the Fugue in B minor  BWV 869 from The Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach. The climbing chromatic subject is strikingly similar to Beethoven's.

A similar motif appears in the trio section of "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" from Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice, and also, using the syncopated rhythm that Beethoven adopts, in a treatise on counterpoint by Johann Georg Albrechtsberger,[22] who taught Beethoven composition; so it, or similar motifs, were quite possibly standard subjects for the study of fugal writing. On the other hand, there is evidence that Beethoven came to the motif independently; there are hints at it in his sketchbooks.[23] Joseph Kerman suggests that Beethoven modeled the motif after Bach's fugue in B minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier.[24] Whatever the origin of the motif, Beethoven was fascinated by it. He used it, or fragments of it, in a number of places in the late quartets, most notably in the first movement of opus 132:

File:Opus 132 opening.ogg
Opening of quartet Opus 132 by Beethoven, using the same fugal subject as the Große Fuge, performed by the Pascal Quartet

In the course of the Große Fuge, Beethoven plays this motif in every possible variation: fortissimo and pianissimo, in different rhythms, upside down and backwards. The usual practice in a traditional fugue is to make a simple, unadorned statement of the subject at the outset; but Beethoven from the very beginning presents the subject in a host of variations.

In stark contrast to this simple chromatic motif is the second subject of the fugue:

This motif leaps dramatically in huge intervals – tenths and twelfths.

The third motif is a lilting melody that serves as the theme of the Andante section of the fugue:

A fourth element – not so much a motif as an effect – is the trill.

File:Grosse Fuge trills.ogg
An example of the use of trills

Beethoven uses trills extensively, simultaneously creating a sense of disintegration of the motifs, and leading to a climax.

These four elements are, essentially, all the building blocks of the entire 16-minute work.


Beethoven opens the fugue with a 24-bar overture,[25] which opens with a dramatic fortissimo unison G, and statement of the main fugal subject in the key of G major[26]

File:Grosse Fuge Opening.ogg
Opening, played by the Merel quartet

This statement of the subject disintegrates into a trill, and silence. Beethoven then repeats the subject, but in a completely different rhythm, in diminution (meaning at double the tempo), twice, climbing up the scale; and then, again silence, and again the subject, this time unadorned, in a dramatic drop to pianissimo in the key of F major.

File:Grosse Fuge Opening 2.ogg
The second statement of the motif, played by the Merel quartet

This leads to a statement of the third fugal subject, with the first subject in the bass:

File:Grosse Fuge Opening third theme.ogg
Third motif introduced, played by the Merel quartet

Thus, Beethoven, in this brief introduction, presents not only the material that will make up the entire piece, but also the spirit: violent shifts of mood, melodies disintegrating into chaos, dramatic silences, instability, and struggle. Here is the Overtura in its entirety:

File:Grosse Fuge Overtura.ogg
Overtura, played by the Merel quartet

First fugue

Following the overture is a strictly formal double fugue in the key of B major, that follows all the rules of a Baroque fugue: An exposition and three variations, showcasing different contrapuntal devices. But this is anything but a tame Baroque fugue: it is violent and dissonant, pitting awkward leaps of the second subject in iambic rhythm against the main subject in syncopation, at a constant dynamic that never falls below Forte. The resulting angular rhythmic confusion and displaced dissonances last almost five minutes.

First, Beethoven restates the main subject, broken up by rests between each note:

File:Grosse Fuge Opening First theme again.ogg
Syncopated statement of the motif, played by the Merel quartet

Then begins a double fugue - two subjects, played one against the other: the second subject in the first violin, and the first subject, syncopated, in the viola. Then the second violin and cello take up the same thing.

File:GF First Fugue expo.ogg
Exposition of the first fugue

The first variation, following the rules of fugue, opens in the subdominant key of E. Beethoven adds to the chaos with a triplet figure in the first violin, played against the quaternary rhythm of the second subject in the second violin and the syncopated main subject in the viola.

File:GF First Fugue first variation.ogg
First fugue, first variation

The second variation, back in the key of B, is a stretto section, meaning that the voices enter one after the other, To this Beethoven adds a countersubject in dactylic rhythm.

File:Grosse Fuge fuge 1 third variation.jpg
Third variation of the first fugue. The dactylic countersubject is highlighted.
File:FG First Fugue Second Variation.ogg
First fugue, second variation

In the third variation, Beethoven presents a variation of the second subject in the triplet rhythm of the countersubject of the first variation, with the main subject syncopated in eighth notes, in diminution (meaning the subject is played at twice the speed).

File:FG First Fugue Third Variation.ogg
First fugue, third variation

This last variation grows increasingly chaotic, with triplets breaking out in the inner voices, until it ultimately collapses – each instrument finishing on a different part of the measure and ending inconclusively on a final fermata, leading to the next section in the key of G.

Meno mosso e moderato

This section is a complete change of character from the formal fugue that preceded it and the one that follows it. It is a fugato, a section that combines contrapuntal writing with homophony. "After the strenuousness of the B Fugue [first section], the effect is of an almost blinding innocence," writes Joseph Kerman.[27] Analysts who see the fugue as a multi-movement work rolled into one view this as the traditional Andante movement.[28] It opens with a statement of the third subject, against a pedal tone in the viola, and continues with the third subject in the second violin, against the main subject cantus firmus in the viola.

File:Grosse fuge Fugato opening.ogg
Opening of the Fugato section, played by the Merel Quartet

The counterpoint becomes more complex, with the cello and first violin playing the main subject in canon while the second violin and viola pass the third subject between them.

File:Grosse Fuge Meno mosso subject in canon.png
Meno mosso section. The main subject, played in canon by the first violin and cello, is highlighted.
File:Grosse fuge Fugato development.ogg
Fugato section, played by the Merel Quartet. Cello and first violin play the main fugal subject in canon, while the third subject is distributed between second violin and viola.

Despite the growing complexity of the fugal writing, Beethoven instructs the players sempre piano – always quiet. Leonard Ratner writes of this section, "[This] comes as a wonderful change of color, offered with the silkiest of textures, and with exquisite moments of glowing diatonism.[29]"

The polyphony gradually dissipates into homophony, and from there into unison, finally tapering into a dying, measured sixteenth-note tremolo, when the next section bursts in in the key of B.

File:Grosse fuge Fugato end.ogg
Conclusion of the fugato section, played by the Merel Quartet

Interlude and second fugue

Beethoven shifts gears: from G to B, from Script error: No such module "Su". to Script error: No such module "Su"., from pianissimo to fortissimo. The fortissimo descends immediately to piano, for a short interlude before the second fugue. This interlude is based on the main subject in diminution, meaning in double time. On top of this, Beethoven adds a lilting, slightly comic melody; analysts who see the fugue as a multi-movement work consider this section the equivalent of a scherzo.[30]

File:Grosse Fuge Interlude.ogg
Interlude before second fugue, played by the Merel Quartet

In this interlude, Beethoven introduces the use of trill (hinted at at the end of the Meno mosso section). The music grows in intensity and shifts into A major, for a new learned fugue.

In this fugue, Beethoven puts together three versions of the main subject. There is the subject in its simple form, but in augmentation (meaning half the speed):

There is the same subject, abbreviated, in retrograde (that is, played backwards):

File:Grosse Fuge second fugue subj 1.ogg
Main subject in retrograde

And there is a variation of the first half of the subject in diminution (that is, double time):

File:Grosse Fuge second fugue subj 2.ogg
Variation of main subject in diminution

Together, they sound like this:

File:Grosse Fuge Second Fuge exposition.ogg
Exposition of second fugue, performed by the Merel Quartet
File:Grosse Fuge Second fugue.png
Second fugue (viola and violin parts shown). Main subject highlighted in orange. Variant of main subject in diminution, green. Main subject in retrograde (backwards) in purple.

Here Beethoven starts to use trills intensely. This adds to the extremely dense texture and rhythmic complexity. Kerman writes of this fugal section, "The piece seems to be in danger of cracking under the tension of its own rhythmic fury."[31]

In the second episode of this fugue, Beethoven adds in the triplet figure from the first variation of the first fugue:

File:Grosse Fuge Second Fuge variation 1.ogg
First variation of second fugue, performed by the Merel Quartet

The trills become more intense. In the third episode, in the dominant key of E major, Beethoven uses a leaping motif that recalls the second subject of the first fugue:

File:Grosse Fuge Second Fuge variation 2.ogg
Second variation of second fugue, performed by the Merel Quartet

The fourth episode returns to the key of A. The cello plays the main subject in a way that harks back to the Overtura. More elements of the first fugue return: the syncopation used for the main subject, the tenth leaps from the second subject, the diminuted main subject in the viola.

File:Grosse Fuge Second Fuge variation 3.ogg
Third variation of second fugue, performed by the Merel Quartet

All leading back to...

Recapitulation and coda

... a restatement of the Meno mosso e moderato section. This time, though, instead of a silky pianissimo, the fugato is played forte, heavily accented (Beethoven writes F on every sixteenth-note group), march-like. Analysts who see the fugue as a variation of sonata-allegro form consider this to be part of the recapitulation section. In this section, Beethoven uses another, complex contrapuntal device: the second violin plays the theme, the first violin plays the main subject in a high register, and the viola plays the main subject in inversion – that is, upside down.[32]

File:Grosse Fuge Recap.jpg
Recapitulation of the Meno Mosso section. The main subject in first violin is highlighted in pink. The main subject in inversion (upside down) in the viola is highlighted in blue.
File:Grosse Fuge recap 1.ogg
Recapitulation of the Meno mosso section, as a march, performed by the Merel string quartet

A series of trills leads back to the home key of B, and a restatement of the scherzo section.

File:Grosse Fuge recap 2.ogg
Recapitulation of the "scherzo" section, performed by the Merel string quartet

There follows a section that analysts have described as "uneasy hesitation"[33] or "puzzling" and "diffused".[34] Fragments of the various subjects appear and disappear, and the music seems to lose energy. A silence, and then a fragmentary burst of the opening of the first fugue. Another silence. A snippet of the "Meno mosso". Another silence. And then a Fortissimo restatement of the very opening of the piece, leading to the coda.[35]

File:Grosse Fuge recap 3.ogg
Fragments of preceding sections, before the coda, performed by the Merel string quartet

From here the music moves forward, at first haltingly, but then with more and more energy, to the final passage, where the first subject is played in triplets below the soaring violin line playing a variant of the second subject.

File:Grosse Fuge recap 4.ogg
Finale, performed by the Merel string quartet

Understanding the Große Fuge

Analyses of the Große Fuge help to understand the structure and contrapuntal devices of this mammoth piece. But, writes David Levy, "Regardless of how one hears the piece structurally, the composition remains filled with paradoxes that leave the listener ultimately dissatisfied with an exegesis derived solely from a structural perspective."[36] Since its composition, musicians, critics and listeners have tried to explain the tremendous impact this piece has.

File:Beethoven am Totenbett Litho.JPG
Lithograph of Beethoven on his deathbead, by Josef Danhauser

It "is one of the great artistic testaments to the human capacity for meaning in the face of the threat of chaos. Abiding faith in the relevance of visionary struggle in our lives powerfully informs the structure and character of the music," writes Mark Steinberg, violinist of the Brentano Quartet. "More than anything else in music... it justifies the ways of God to men," writes Leonard Ratner[37]

But, beyond a recognition of the hugeness and almost mystical impact of the music, critics fail to agree on its character. Robert Kahn says "it presents a titanic struggle overcome.",[38] Daniel Chua, on the contrary, writes, "The work speaks of failure, the very opposite of the triumphant synthesis associated with Beethovenian recapitulations."[39] Stephen Husarik, in his essay "Musical direction and the wedge in Beethoven's high comedy, Grosse Fuge op. 133", contends that in the fugue, Beethoven is actually writing a parody of Baroque formalism. "The B Fuga of op.133 stumbles forward in what is probably the most relentless and humorous assertion of modal rhythms since 12th century Notre Dame organum."[40] Robert Kahn disagrees indignantly: "...the comparison to comic music is surprising. There is nothing comic about the Grosse Fuge..."[41]

Certainly, in many discussions of the piece, the issue of struggle is central. Sara Bitloch, violinist of the Elias quartet, says this sense of struggle informs her group's interpretation of the fugue. "Every part has to feel like it's a huge struggle ... You need to finish the Grosse Fuge absolutely exhausted."[42] She calls the piece "apocalyptic." Arnold Steinhardt of the Guarneri quartet, calls it "Armageddon... the chaos out of which life itself evolved."[43]

Perhaps the best way to describe the feelings aroused by the Große Fuge is through poetry. In her poem "Little Fugue", Sylvia Plath associates the fugue with death, in a melange of hazy associations with the Yew tree (a symbol of death in Celtic Britain), the Holocaust, and the death of her own father:[44]

He could hear Beethoven:
Black yew, white cloud,
The horrific complications.
Finger-traps--a tumult of keys.

Empty and silly as plates,
So the blind smile.
I envy big noises,
The yew hedge of the Grosse Fuge.
Deafness is something else.
Such a dark funnel, my father!
I see your voice
Black and leafy, as in my childhood.

Sylvia Plath, from the poem "Little Fugue" (1965)

The poet Mark Doty wrote of his feelings on listening to the Große Fuge:[45]

What does it mean, chaos
gathered into a sudden bronze sweetness,
an October flourish, and then that moment
denied, turned acid, disassembling,
questioned, rephrased?

Mark Doty, from the poem "Grosse Fuge" (1995)

Reception and musical influence

performed by the Canto String Quartet (Eduardo Canto Arce and Guillem Cabre Salagre, violin; Marton Vineter, viola; Teodora Nedyalkova, cello) at Lutherse Kerk, Groningen, Netherlands, December 16, 2013. The quartet quotes the main subject.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

After the first performance in 1826, the fugue was not known to have been performed in public again until 1853 in Paris by the Maurin Quartet.[46] One hundred years after its publication, it still had not entered the standard quartet repertoire. "The attitude of mind in which most people listen to chamber music must undergo a radical change" in order to understand this piece, wrote Joseph de Marliave more than a century after its publication.[47] "this fugue is one of the two works by Beethoven—the other being the fugue from the piano sonata, Op. 106—which should be excluded from performance." Even as late as 1947, Daniel Gregory Mason called the fugue "repellent".[48]

But views were changing. By the 1920s some quartets were including the fugue in programs.[49] Since then, the fugue has grown greatly in the eyes of musicians and performers. "The Great Fugue... now seems to me the most perfect miracle in music," said Igor Stravinsky.[50] "... It is also the most absolutely contemporary piece of music I know, and contemporary forever... Hardly birthmarked by its age, the Great Fugue is, in rhythm alone, more subtle than any music of my own century... I love it beyond everything." Pianist Glenn Gould said, "for me, the 'Grosse Fuge' is not only the greatest work Beethoven ever wrote but just about the most astonishing piece in musical literature."[51]

Some analysts and musicians see the fugue as a first assault on the diatonic tonal system that prevailed in Classical music. Robert Kahn sees the main subject of the fugue as a precursor of the tone row,[52] the basis of the atonal system developed by Arnold Schoenberg. "Your cradle was Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge," artist Oskar Kokoschka wrote to Schoenberg in a letter.[53] Composer Alfred Schnittke quotes the subject in his third string quartet. There have also been numerous orchestral arrangements of the fugue, including by conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, and by Felix Weingartner.


Performers approaching the Große Fuge have a number of daunting challenges to face. Besides posing Olympian technical difficulties, the piece requires a number of interpretive decisions.

The first of these is: in what context to play the fugue? As the finale of Opus 130, as it was originally written, or as a separate piece? Playing the fugue as the final movement of Opus 130, rather than the light, Haydnesque replacement movement, completely changes the character of the quartet, note analysts Robert Winter and Robert Martin[54] Played with the new finale, the preceding movement, the "Cavatina", a heartfelt and intense aria, is the emotional center of the piece. Played with the fugue as the finale, the Cavatina is a prelude to the massive and compelling fugue. On the other hand, the fugue stands alone well. "Current taste is decisively in favor of the fugal finale," conclude Winter and Martin.[55] A number of quartets have recorded Opus 130 with the fugue and the replacement finale on separate disks, so that listeners can hear the work either way and make up their own minds.

A second issue facing performers is whether to choose a "learned" interpretation – one that clarifies the complex contrapuntal structure of the piece – or one that focuses primarily on the dramatic impulses of the music. "Beethoven had taken a form that is basically an intellectual form, where the emotions take second place, compared to the structure, and he has completely turned that around, writing one of the most emotionally charged pieces ever," says Sara Bitloch of the Elias Quartet.[56] "As a performer that's a particularly difficult balance to find... Our first approach was to find a kind of hierarchy in the themes... but we found that when we do that we're really missing the point of the piece."

After deciding on the overall approach to the music, there are numerous local decisions to be made about how to play particular passages. Perhaps the most notable of these issues concerns the peculiar notation that Beethoven uses in the syncopated presentation of the main subject – first in the overtura, but later, throughout the piece. Rather than writing this as a series of quarter notes, he writes two tied eighth notes.

File:Statement of the subject of the Grosse Fuge, written in tied eighth notes.JPG
Statement of the subject, written in tied eighth notes, a peculiar and paradoxical notation

What did Beethoven mean by this? David Levy has written an entire treatise trying to explain this.[57] Performers have interpreted it in various ways. The Alban Berg Quartet plays the notes almost as a single note, but with an emphasis on the first eighth note to create a subtle differentiation. Eugene Drucker of the Emerson quartet plays this as two distinct eighth notes. Mark Steinberg of the Brentano quartet sometimes joins the eighth notes, and sometimes separates them, marking the difference by playing the first eighth without vibrato, then adding vibrato for the second eighth note.

Arrangement for piano four-hands

File:Grosse Fuge Manuscript.jpg
Manuscript of the Große Fuge arranged by Beethoven for piano four hands

In early 1826, the publisher of the Op. 130 String Quartet, Mathias Artaria, told Beethoven there were "many requests" for a piano four-hand arrangement of the Große Fuge.[61] This was well before any discussion of separating the fugue from the main body of the quartet. Artaria asked Beethoven to prepare the arrangement, but Beethoven wasn't interested, so Artaria instead asked Anton Halm to prepare it. Beethoven was not satisfied with Halm's work and subsequently made his own note-for-note arrangement of the quartet. Beethoven's arrangement was completed subsequent to the C minor String Quartet, Op. 131 and was published by Artaria as Op. 134.[62]

Rediscovery of manuscript

In July 2005 an authentic 1826 Beethoven manuscript titled "Grande Tugue [sic] á quatre mains" was found[63][64] by a Pennsylvania librarian at the Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. The manuscript was authenticated by Dr. Jeffrey Kallberg at the University of Pennsylvania and by Dr. Stephen Roe, head of Sotheby's Manuscript Department. This was the four-hand piano arrangement of the Große Fuge, Op. 134. The manuscript had been missing for 115 years. It was auctioned by Sotheby's Auction House on 1 December 2005; it was bought for GBP 1.12 million (USD 1.95 million) by a then-unknown purchaser, who has since revealed himself to be Bruce Kovner, a publicity-shy multi-billionaire who donated the manuscript—along with 139 other original and rare pieces of music—to the Juilliard School of Music in February 2006. It has since become available in their online manuscript collection.[65] The manuscript's known provenance is that it was listed in an 1890 catalogue and sold at an auction in Berlin to a Cincinnati, Ohio industrialist, whose daughter gave it and other manuscripts including a Mozart Fantasia to a church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1952. It is not known how the Beethoven manuscript came to be in the possession of the library.


  1. ^ Solomon (2003), p. page=35
  2. ^ Stravinsky and Craft (1963), p. 24.
  3. ^ B.H. Haggin, quoted in Chamber Music Northwest
  4. ^ Kinderman (1997), p. 306
  5. ^ Levy (2007), p. 130
  6. ^ Steinhardt, in Miller (2006), p. 40
  7. ^ Kerman (1979), p. 279
  8. ^ Alexander Wheelock Thayer: Ludwig van Beethovens Leben. quoted in Husarik (2012), p. 54.
  9. ^ The fugue is 741 measures long; the total number of measures in the other movements is 643.
  10. ^ Solomon (2003), p. 35
  11. ^ Service (2008)
  12. ^ Solomon (1977) p. 447
  13. ^ Thayer' Ludwig van Beethovens Leben. quoted in Solomon (1977), p. 449
  14. ^ For the differing opinions on this, see Solomon (1977), p. 449, Marliave (1928), p. 257, Winter and Martin (1994), p. 239.
  15. ^ Bitloch (2012)
  16. ^ Lockwood (2006), pp. 459–461
  17. ^ Kirkendale (1963)
  18. ^ Rosen (1972), Levy (2008)
  19. ^ Radcliffe (1978)
  20. ^ Husarik (2012)
  21. ^ Husarik (2012)
  22. ^ Kirkendale, p. 18.
  23. ^ Kerman (1979), p. 276.
  24. ^ Kerman (2008), p. 167.
  25. ^ This analysis is based on the analysis by Vincent d'Indy, as transcribed by Joseph de Marliave (1923), pp. 293–295. The D'Indy analysis is considered the classic analysis.
  26. ^ Musical examples are from the recording of the Fugue by the Merel quartet (Mary Ellen Woodside and Julia Schröder, Violins, Ylvali Zilliacus, Viola' Rafael Rosenfeld, Cello), live in performance at Tonhalle Zürich, 3/7/2013.
  27. ^ Kerman (1979), p. 287
  28. ^ See, for example, Kinderman (1995) or Kirkendale (1963)
  29. ^ Ratner (1995), p. 288
  30. ^ See Kinderman (1995) or Kirkendale (1963)
  31. ^ Kerman (1979), p. 283
  32. ^ Kirkendale, p. 21.
  33. ^ D'Indy in Cobbett (1929), p. 104.
  34. ^ Winter and Martin (1994), pp. 243–4
  35. ^ Most analysts consider this unison the beginning of the coda, though Beethoven himself, in the autograph copy, writes "Coda" at bar 493 (key change to B).
  36. ^ Levy (2007)
  37. ^ Ratner (1995). Ratner attributes this quote to J.W.N. Sullivan's book Beethoven: His Spiritual Development (1927), however, the quote (a paraphrase from John Milton's Paradise Lost) does not appear in Sullivan.
  38. ^ Kahn (2010)
  39. ^ Chua (1995), p. 240
  40. ^ Husarik (2012), p. 58
  41. ^ Kahn (2010)
  42. ^ Bitloch (2012)
  43. ^ Steinhardt, in Miller (2006), p. 40
  44. ^ Sylvia Plath, Collected Poems (1981) Turtleback Books
  45. ^ Mark Doty, "Grosse Fuge" in Atlantis (1995) Harper Perennial, ISBN 0-06-095106-0
  46. ^ Winter and Martin (1994), p. 239
  47. ^ de Marliave (1928), p. 220
  48. ^ Kerman (1979), p. 294
  49. ^ Winter and Martin (1994), p. 239
  50. ^ Kirkendale, p.14.
  51. ^ Page, p. 459
  52. ^ Kahn (2010), p. 155
  53. ^ Brand and Hailey p. 3
  54. ^ Winter and Martin (1994), p. 238. The word "Haydnesque" it theirs.
  55. ^ Winter and Martin (1994), p. 238.
  56. ^ Bitloch
  57. ^ Levy (2007)
  58. ^ Alban Berg Quartet (Gunter Pichler, violin, Gerhard Schulz, violin, Thomas Kakuska, viola, Valentin Erben, cello), Recorded live at the Mozart-Saal, Konzerthaus, Wien, June 11, 1989
  59. ^ Emerson Quartet (Eugene Drucker, violin, Philip Setzer, violin, Lawrence Dutton, viola, Paul Watkins, cello), from their album "LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN: The Late String Quartets" (Deutche Gramaphon, 02 May 2003)
  60. ^ Brentano Quartet (Mark Steinberg, violin, Serena Canin, violin, Misha Amory, viola, Nina Lee, cello), recorded live in concert, Princeton University, April 2012
  61. ^ Solomon (1977), p. 449. Considering the unpopularity of the piece, Solomon speculates that this was a ploy to convince Beethoven to separate the fugue from the rest of op. 130.
  62. ^ Cooper (2008), p. 364
  63. ^ Wakin (2005)
  64. ^ CBC article (2005)
  65. ^ [1]




  • Brand, Juliane; Hailey, Christopher (1997). Constructive Dissonance: Arnold Schoenberg and the Transformations of Twentieth-century Culture. University of California Press. ISBN 0520203143. 
  • Kahn, Robert S (2010). Beethoven and the Grosse Fuge: Music, Meaning and Beethovens Most Difficult Work. Scarecrow Press Inc. ISBN 978-0-8108-7418-3. 
  • Miller, Lucy (2006). Adams to Zemlinsky<span />. Concert Artists Guild. ISBN 1-892862-09-3. 
  • Ratner, Leonard G. (1995). The Beethoven String Quartets: Compositional Strategies and Rhetoric. Stanford Book Store. ISBN 1 887 98100 4. 
  • Stowell, Robert, editor (2003). The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80194-X. 
  • Winter, Robert and Martin, Robert, ed. (1994). The Beethoven Quartet Companion. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-20420-4. 

Journals and other sources:

  • Husarik, Stephen. "Musical direction and the wedge in Beethoven's high comedy, Grosse Fuge op. 133". The Musical Times. Autumn 2012: 53–66. 
  • Kirkendale, Warren. "The ‘Great Fugue’ Op.133: Beethoven’s ‘Art of Fugue'". Acta Musicologica 35: 14–24. doi:10.2307/931606. 
  • d'Indy, Vincent (1929). "Beethoven". Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music. 

External links