Thursday, August 26, 2010

8/26 String Quartet Opus 131 Finale

Beethoven's String Quartet Opus 131 Finale Analysis
This quartet finale is exciting as heck, which is why I wanted to analyze it.  Little did I know that the intrinsic substance of this movement is intimately tied to most of the preceding movements in this string quartet.  So I guess this will be like a movie review with just the spoilers.  Damn you Louis!

Performed by the Guarneri Qrtt
Alternate Youtube link
Notes:  My analysis is helped greatly by Donald Francis Tovey's analysis.  
A1 is called Anapaeste bcause the rhythm of the first figure is similar to "an-a-paeste".  The Scissor theme is a 2-accent figure, like the sound scissors make.  The 2nd theme (Sweetness) is in the relative major instead of the dominant.  The Development features explicit references to elements found in the preceeding movements of this quartet, such as the earlier fugue movement.  The "vibrations" at the end of C2 echo a few measures into the Recap.  In the Recap the Sweetness theme is in the flat supertonic, which mirrors the first movement's harmonic motion.  It's also twice as long, despite the Anapaeste motif trying to disperse it.  The Coda seems to me to be almost a 2nd development section, but Tovey calls it a Coda;  I compromise and call it a 2nd recap.

Comments by Guarneri Quartet:
Soyer: It's savage - utterly savage - the culmination of the entire work.
Dalley: Grotesque and wild!  It has invincible energy.
Tree: A relentles dance, a demonic dance - and yet, what wonderfully tender moments, what an enormous emotional range!
Steinhardt: He's shaking his fist at destiny. It's terrifying - but suddenly everything is released and it overflows with joy, with ecstacy.
Dalley: You want to bark like a dog.
 Manuscript Sketch Images from

Here are some other analyses to compare:
Lewis Lockwood's book
Barbara Barry's book.


  1. THANK YOU SO MUCH. I've been listening to this movement a lot lately, and have had some trouble dividing it up. incredible amount of help.

  2. Your welcome. I have to admit, I went through 4 books before I could find an adequate structural analysis for my purposes. Tovey to the rescue....