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Siete qui: Home Festival Festival 2013 Beethoven’s last quartets: genius brings order to chaos (I)
Beethoven’s last quartets: genius brings order to chaos (I) PDF Print E-mail

With all the dramatic impetus of his character, Beethoven burst onto the musical scene of his time with unprecedented effect, wherever he played any sort of central role: linguistic, ethos, music as an element of culture in the fabric of society.
Under this “shock effect” the sonata form, which identified the works of his great predecessors from the Viennese school, was stretched almost to its limits. If his 32 Piano Sonatas were a laboratory for experiments, the monumental corpus of the 17 String Quartets provided the perfect territory not only for formal developments but also for the composer’s own absolute introspective concentration and human and spiritual travails. Beethoven’s whole artistic ethic has left its mark particularly on the last cycle of quartets, composed between 1824 and 1826. His extraordinary vision and his straining towards new frontiers of composition must have seemed abstruse and unintelligible to his contemporaries.
Quartet No. 15, op. 132 is a metaphor of inner release from external suffering – the central slow movement is entitled: A Convalescent’s Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Divinity, in the Lydina Mode. This contemplative search starts with a motif on the cello, G sharp, A, F, E, leading us immediately to the play on the name BACH (B flat, A, C, B) in the enigmatic Art of the Fugue.
The program reminds us of the inadequacies of the human mind when faced with the highest peaks of speculative thought. This is perhaps where the imposing Grand Fugue op. 133 best expresses the revolutionary reach of Beethoven’s thought in his incandescent expressive treatment of the musical material, that unexpectedly accelerates over a whole century, but still remains hinged to an exquisitely baroque style.
Beethoven uses the Fugue as if it were an archaic instrument with all the potential of the musical language of the future within itself. Originally written as the last movement of Quartet No. 13, op. 130, it starts with an Overtura [sic], followed by three ample sections building up the most complex and daring counterpoint structure Beethoven ever invented. The startling radicalism of its rough, austere style led Stravinsky to define it “the perfect miracle of all music… contemporary music that will remain contemporary for ever”.

Federico Scoponi