When we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point. And exactly the same thing is true in meditation. Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment. Alan Watts

Beethoven, Grosse Fuge, Op. 133 (for string quartet)

January 23rd, 2011

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

Grosse Fuge (The Grand Fugue), Op. 133, 1825

At the largely unsuccessful premiere of the original String Quartet, Op. 130 during Beethoven’s lifetime, the audience, in typical fashion, demanded an encore of two middle movements. A disgruntled Beethoven supposedly exclaimed, “And why didn’t they encore the Fugue? That alone should have been repeated! Cattle! Asses!” As mentioned earlier, Beethoven and his publisher agreed to remove the fugue substituting an alternate finale. The fugue was eventually published in 1827 as an entirely separate work bearing the opus number 133 and the title Grosse Fuge (Grand Fugue). The audience members at the premiere were apparently not the only “cattle” with regards to this monumental piece of music. Reactions from personages of high musical cultivation over time have yielded such responses as “repellent”, “incomprehensible, like Chinese”, “a confusion of Babel” and so forth. Quite a different reaction came from Igor Stravinsky who famously remarked about the Grosse Fuge, “[it is] an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever.” Recall that Beethoven wrote this fugue in 1825. « more »

Exploring the String Quartet—The First 250 Years

Exploring the String QuartetSince its birth around 1760, the string quartet has maintained a vital and profound hold on composers, players and listeners: it has been the vehicle par excellence for a rich continuum of some of the finest music composed throughout the last 250 years. Across time, nationality, and centuries of changing style, the string quartet has formed the backbone of small ensemble chamber music with a rich lore. Music for the string quartet consistently features lyrical beauty, complex harmony, intense passion, powerful rhythm and elegant formal design. From the most intimate personal expression to the most brilliant virtuosity, from the ancient and otherworldly to edgy grooves of the present day, the string quartet appears to be an infinitely flexible ensemble engaging great composers and performers in one of the richest living traditions of music in all of history. For many, if not most, however, it a rarely encountered “hidden” genre, while historically, culturally, musically, for others, it is the mother lode. Take some time to discover this stunning genre, the heart of the matter. Explore

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