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The Galitzin Quartets of Beethoven

The Galitzin Quartets of Beethoven: Opp. 127, 132, 130

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    The Galitzin Quartets of Beethoven
    Book Description:

    This study is an analysis of the first three of Beethoven's late quartets, Opp. 127, 132, and 130, commissioned by Prince Nikolai Galitzin. The five late quartets, usually considered as a group, were written in the same period as theMissa solemnisand the Ninth Symphony, and are among the composer's most profound musical statements. Daniel K. L. Chua believes that of the five quartets the three that he studies trace a process of disintegration, whereas the last two, Opp. 131 and 135, reintegrate the language that Beethoven himself had destabilized.

    Through analyses that unearth peculiar features characteristic of the surface and of the deeper structures of the music, Chua interprets the "Galitzin" quartets as radical critiques of both music and society, a view first proposed by Theodore Adorno. From this perspective, the quartets necessarily undo the act of analysis as well, forcing the analytical traditions associated with Schenker and Schoenberg to break up into an eclectic mixture of techniques. Analysis itself thus becomes problematic and has to move in a dialectical and paradoxical fashion in order to trace Beethoven's logic of disintegration. The result is a new way of reading these works that not only reflects the preoccupations of the German Romantics of that time and the poststructuralists of today, but also opens a discussion of cultural, political, and philosophical issues.

    Originally published in 1995.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6420-1
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[v])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vi]-2)
  3. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Prince Galitzin was unhappy about the Eb. He had commissioned three quartets from Beethoven, and when the first one arrived at St Petersburg in 1823 what seemed like little mistakes kept cropping up in the parts during the rehearsals. Was it Db or Eb? The Prince thought it should be Db, his viola player thought otherwise; the only way to resolve the dilemma was to write to the composer himself. This was not the only notational problem that they faced; in fact quite a few such letters were written. Unfortunately, only one reply survives—or, rather, a draft of one...

  4. CHAPTER TWO Motifs, Counterpoint, and Form: THE QUARTET IN Eь MAJOR, OP. 127
    (pp. 11-53)

    Beethoven’s little motto “Es muss sein!,” inscribed above the finale of his last quartet, Op. 135, is more a cryptic epigraph than a motivic manifesto. Nevertheless, analysts—including Schoenberg, Réti, Epstein, and Cooke—have embraced it as their mandate, echoing “It must be! It must be!” to their notions of motivic analysis.¹ The work is a motivic delight, the structure riddled with inversions, retrogrades, and retrograde inversions, not merely in the finale but in the first movement as well.² And this is not all, for the motif mushrooms profusely in all the late quartets—so much so that Deryck Cooke...

    (pp. 54-106)

    Beethoven’s music had always been full of quirks, and his earliest critics were quick to accuse him of piling “one thought wildly upon another... in a bizarre manner”;¹ but now, confronted by the late works, they were stunned and could hardly find a word to say.² Out of pity for this institutional composer, some withheld their harshest invective until after his death.³ The ideas just did not connect; his “art [was] divorced from reason,”⁴ determined by the fits and starts of “his own subjective thoughts.” Such incoherent gestures were the very reverse of what E.T.A. Hoffmann had admired about the...

  6. CHAPTER 4 Rhythm, Time, and Space: THE LAST FOUR MOVEMENTS OF OP. 132
    (pp. 107-162)

    The dialectic of the Sublime involves not only the contradiction of comprehending the incomprehensible but also an interaction with the Beautiful. When Edmund Burke pitted the Sublime against the Beautiful, he set up the opposition as an allegory of political power; the effeminate beauty of the law is energized by the masculine power of the Sublime, crushing the subject into cowering admiration.¹ This dialectic, according to Burke, manifests itself in the kind of music—not unlike the A minor Quartet—in which constant contrast and transition spawns complexity and variety, and in which “harsh, shrill or deep” voices destroy the...

  7. CHAPTER FIVE Cadences and Closure: THE MIDDLE MOVEMENTS OF OP. 130
    (pp. 163-200)

    Even before he added the final touches to Op. 132, Beethoven had been scribbling down some ideas for a quartet in Bb major.¹ As early as March 1825, he reported to Charles Neate in London that the new quartet was almost ready. In fact, it had barely germinated.² At the time when the A minor Quartet was finally completed in July, only the first two movements of Op. 130 had been fixed in the sketches, and what followed appears to be more of a groping towards a finale than a clear vision of the work.³ It was probably not until...

    (pp. 201-244)

    If the quartets are critiques, then they perform their dissection of society in two radically different ways. The first way is to elicit a kind of consent, by presenting all those delectable elements of dances and tunes in the middle movements only to undermine them by making the familiarity of these forms elusive or suddenly peculiar. In such movements, analysis has to cut through the polished exteriors, forcing open the tiniest cracks to reveal the disorder within; it is a type of ‘micro-analysis’ that focusses on missing crotchets, hairline fractures, odd gaps, and minute slippages in the harmonic, motivic, or...

  9. CHAPTER 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 245-248)

    For a study that started out to explore a process of disintegration through dialectical, deconstructive, and eclectic techniques, closure itself might be an ironic gesture. But to conclude may be rendered less difficult by virtue of a certain consistency in the analyses of the quartets: the systems of motivic development, counterpoint, and variation, so critical in late Beethoven, seem to find a deeper structural significance as motifs are ‘stretched out’ beneath the variation, and interlocked in counterpoint to fill out an entire form and even a whole work. In this way the elements of musical construction are redefined and controlled...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 249-272)
    (pp. 273-282)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 283-286)