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[ String Quartet "Grosse Fuge" (Grand fugue) by L. van Beethoven. Op.133 B-flat major ]

L. van Beethoven composed two large fugues in his last years. One of them is the finale of the piano sonata No.29. (op.106, "Sonate für das Hammerklavier"), which is probably well-known among many pianists. And the other is this -- string quartet op.133. If you would like to listen MIDI data without reading the following explanation, please select here.

This "Grosse Fuge Op.133" was once the finale of the thirteenth string quartet (op.130), but Beethoven's friends complained to the finale's largeness and complexity. Beethoven accepted their complainant. He separated this huge finale from op.130, and wrote new finale for op.130. The separated old finale have been called "string quartet 'Grosse Fuge'". But recently, in modern concert or recording device, we can sometimes listen it as the finale of op.130. Perhaps the respect to Beethoven's original idea makes these actions.

As you know, "fugue" is a production of quite abstract thinking of composer. So people who approach fugue, they must recognize its structure -- what is theme, what is counter-subject, and whether there are strettos or not etc.

In addition, you should know that this "Beethoven's Grosse Fuge (grand fugue) for string quartet" is very long (about 15 minutes) and it has complex structure. The theme is presented in four different forms(types). And each form(type) of theme has each fugal development. This music is certainly far from "easy to listen". But if you grasp the structure of this music, it will bright in front of you. I will describe the structure of this long fugue. Oh? Do you presuppose that I will go to "grand dissection" series? No, no. It will be nothing but simple introduction. But I hope it will help you to listen, grasp and enjoy this music.

[Theme in various types]

Like other most fugues, the theme of this fugue is only one. But you should recognize that the theme appears in four different types. And each type of theme has its own fugal development.

Theme (Type 1)

The type 1 theme is as following.

[Theme (Type 1) (Theme1.gif, 1.56KB)]

The character of this theme is combing many "leading note" motions and disjunctive motions between these "leading note" motions. The type 1 is the basic type of theme in the latter development. Music starts with playing this theme by all instruments' unison.

Theme (Type 2)

The type 2 theme is following. It is played just after the type 1.

[Theme (Type 2) (Theme2.gif, 795Byte)]

It is the rhythmic change of the type 1 theme.

Theme (Type 3)

After the exposition of the type 2, the prediction of the type 3 theme appears in the 1st violin. The reason why I use "prediction" is its melody is slightly different from the "correct" theme. The "correct" exposition appears after the prediction ends, and it is in cello part with the counterpoint of other strings.

[Theme (Type 3) (Theme3.gif, 3.62KB)]

All notes of the type 3 theme are quarter notes. But its melody is completely same as the type 1 and 2. This counterpoint will be developed later.

Theme (Type 4)

This is played after the exposition of theme of the type 3 and just before starting of fugue. The melody is same as the type 1, but each note of theme is divided with quarter rest.

[Theme (Type 4) (Theme4.gif, 1.22KB)]

[The disposition of each development]

Each type of theme is developed in each development. I will describe these. The number in parentheses shows the time in this MIDI file.

Overture(Start - 00:57.00)

This is exposition of theme in each types. Type 1 and 2 appeared unison of all instruments. Type 3 is once predicted with chords and appears in cello with counterpoint of other instruments. The type 4 theme is played only by the 1st violin with pianissimo.

1st Development(00:57.00 - 05:18.07)

The development of this fugue starts just after the type 4 theme is played by the 1st violin with pianissimo. (On the music sheet, there is a description of "FUGA" just after the type 4 theme by the 1st violin with pianissimo.) This "1st development" is the development of the type 4 theme. It has particular "counter-subject".

[Combination of type4 theme and counter-subject (Dvlp10.gif, 3.02KB)]

These two items -- type 4 theme and this "counterpoint" (I temporarily call it.) -- are mainly developed. Especially, this "counterpoint" is important item and sometimes used later developments. So I distinguish it from other counterpoints and call it "counter-subject". During development, other types of counterpoint appears, but they are not so important.

2nd Development(5:18.07 - 7:46.20)

This is the development of the type 3 theme. It has also particular counterpoint. This counterpoint is derived from the counterpoint when type 3 theme was played by cello in "Overture".

[Combination of type3 theme and counterpoint (Dvlp20.gif, 1.93KB)]

These two items are mainly developed here. The counterpoint always appears when theme appears. And counterpoint is sometimes played without theme.

3rd Development(7:46.20 - 11:43.23)

This development is long and has complex structure. The beginning of it is the development of the type 2 theme. It has simple counterpoint. (In following sheet music, red notes belong to the motions of theme. Other notes can be regarded as counterpoint.)

[Exposition of type2 theme (Dvlp30.gif, 2.13KB)]

After the type 2 theme is developed, The key suddenly changed from B-flat major to A-flat major(08:22.08) and new section is started. The type 1 theme is played by cello, while new counterpoint derived from the inverse of the type 2 theme is played by the 2nd violin.

[Exposition of type1 theme and its counterpoint (Dvlp31.gif, 2.61KB)]

This combination firstly appears in regular fugal form, i.e., Dux(subject) - Comes(answer) - Dux(subject) - Comes(answer). But after this regular fugal exposition, theme and counterpoint are gradually broken (08:54.28 - ). And then, new counterpoint mainly consist of eighth notes appeared with modified (reduced) theme.(09:32.09 - )

[Modified theme and its counterpoint (Dvlp32.gif, 2.58KB)]

After that, almost complete theme reappears(9:50.12 - 9:58.18), and then trill motions are mainly developed and music reaches to the perfect cadence of E-flat major.(10:29.27)

From this moment, we meet new technique of development. Extremely modified theme appears with new counterpoint which comes from the "counter-subject" in the 1st development.(10:32.02 - )

[Extremely modified theme and its counterpoint coming from the counter-subject in the 1st development (Dvlp33.gif, 2.32KB)]

This combination firstly appears in regular fugal form -- Dux(subject) - Comes(answer) - Dux(subject) - Comes(answer) -- and furthermore is developed. The last part of this development is mainly developing the material of the counter-subject in the 1st development.

4th Development(11:43.23 - 12:45.23)

This is short development of the items used in the 2nd development. But as you can see below, the material of the counter-subject in the 1st development is also used.

[The beginning of the 4th development (Dvlp40.gif, 4.85KB)]

5th Development(12:45.23 - 14:45.18)

Begining is the same as the 3rd development -- exposition of the type 2 theme. But after that, music becomes free episode.(13:14.13 - ) In this episode, chromatic motions are often used. The figure of theme in pizzicato can be listened.(13:44:04 - )

Coda(14:45.18 - 16:11.08(End))

In coda, the 1st development and 2nd development are shortly recollected. And then the type 1 theme slightly extended appears with unison of all instruments like the beginning of this music. And the type 2 thme shortly reappears. After repeating trill motions, the music goes to the last section. (15:47.28 - ) The last section of this music is combination of theme (by the 2nd violin and cello), and the counter-subject in the 1st development (by the 1st violin).

[The end section of fugue (Dvlp50.gif, 4.66KB)]

Finaly eighth note and the figure of counter-subject only remain and this long fugue ends.

[ References and other remarkes ]

Reference : S.Moroi "Beethoven Gengaku Shijuusoukyoku Sakkyokugakuteki Kenkyuu" 1965, Ongaku-no-tomo-sha (In Japanese)

Reference : "Zen-on score Beethoven String Quartets Vol.6" 1994, Zen'on Gakufu Shuppansha (In Japanese)

The sheet of music in this page are made with "MusicTime Deluxe for Windows 3.1 and 95" ((C) 1996 Passport Designs Inc.)

[ Used Synthesizer ]

Roland SC-88Pro. Probably GS will be OK to listen.

[ Track Table ]

Roland SC-55 map is used for all tracks.

Track table of the MIDI data
Track Channel Bank Patch
1 1 SC-55 Map Capital Tones Violin
2 2 SC-55 Map Capital Tones Violin
3 3 SC-55 Map Capital Tones Viola
4 4 SC-55 Map Capital Tones Cello
5 5 SC-55 Map Capital Tones Pizzicatostr
6 6 SC-55 Map Capital Tones Pizzicatostr

[ Notes ]

When you use the following material(s), please read "requirements to use" in "Free MIDI Libraries" page.


MIDI Data (88.2KB)

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