Understanding the Große Fuge
February 16, 2014 § 2 Comments
I did a bit of research on this piece, I found on Reddit. Here is what I learnt.
(I suggest you hit play and immerse yourself in the music)
This is one of the final compositions of Ludwig van Beethoven, who was notably nearly deaf at the time. It is termed a string quartet, since it consists of four string instruments; two violins, a viola (different from a violin) and a cello. A string quartet was the most popular ensembles with most 18th century composers.
This particular piece, known as Große Fuge Op 133, or Grand Fugue (composed in 1825) was recorded in the famous musical theater known as the Mozart-Saal inside the Konzerthaus, Vienna, in 1989. The Opus number (Op. in short) is a publication number, indicating the chronology of each composition. In music, a Fugue is a composition technique that counterpoints two or more strands of melody, introduced either simultaneously or within a short duration of each other.
Critics had a hard time understanding this complex composition, early comments were harsh and dismissive. It was only in the 20th century that this work is considered among the composer’s greatest compositions, alongside the Ode to Joy or the Ninth Symphony. Experts now say that it is one of the most complex and technically challenging pieces, even by the great composer’s standards. It is the largest and most difficult of Beethoven’s last set of musical composition, known as the late quartets.
It is said that Beethoven was disappointed that the crowd didn’t encore the Fugue, a man usually known to be indifferent to public opinion (calling them tasteless cattle). A lot of analysis has been written on this piece, with the time scales and rhythms dynamically changing without traditional structure it continues to be a very contemporary composition even today.
For me, I barely noticed the time as the video ended, engulfed in the character and richness of the music. The music starts with an urgency, I imagine the pain and anguish of someone in a hurry, desperately looking for something but unable to find it. There is joy, or perhaps reconciliation as the piece progresses, then hope or false-hope to tease the spirits… then I like to imagine the end was happy.
Happy Valentine’s day readers!