Wednesday, November 24, 2010

11/24 My 1st Grosse Fugue Analysis

If look around this blog you will find the Grosse Fuge, Opus 133, Beethoven's most "difficult" work, popping up several times.  I've had a real "love/fear" relationship with it.  The first time I heard it I was amazed and just blown away by the sheer audacity.  Later on it made me feel uneasy and anxious every time the fugue exposition started.  After awhile I approached it warily, like some kind of wild beast, attacking it from different angles....well I finally decided to work on a dedicated analysis and I think I have the crazy thing somewhat under control...for now.

I know that music students get tested on their skills at music analysis but if any professor gives the Grosse Fuge as an assignment then he must be pretty mean since there's virtually no definitive way to analyze this.  I looked at 4 published sources and none of them agreed for the most part, and in my personal final analysis I deviated drastically from the experts.  So if any readers use today's post as a source for some assignment - expect a "D"!  However the way I broke it down makes the sense to me so that's how I'll present it.  Because this is a "Grand Fugue" many writers use fugue terminology such as subject, counter-subject, counter-exposition, stretto, episode, etc....I'm going to analyze it in a somewhat less technical fashion based on what I hear and not so much what I can circle in the score....besides one could say the whole thing is just a massive variation of the first 10 bars....
String Quartet Op.133 "Grosse Fuge" (1826) 
Performed by the Takács Quartet, one of my favorite modern quartets.

(The numbers in ( ) refer to the theme number, C = counter-theme, I = inversion. Letters refer to the score sections)

Overture (with 4 main theme subjects)
(1) : note the end trill, also the 1st bar grace motif, Allegro, 6/8, GM
(2) : irregular zigzag shape, 6/8, GM
(3A) : even zigzag w. (3B) countersubject 2nd time), Meno mosso, 2/4, FM (dominant)
(4) : restrained here, but explodes in Part I, Allegro, 4/4, BbM (tonic)

Part I: Double fugue on (4) and (4C). (4C) is derived from (1), Allegro, 4/4
 Exposition: Subject entrances, followed by "Codetta" variation
  Pt 1 - 8th triplets, scalar variations, (Letter A)
  Pt 2 - big interval leap version of (4), (Letter B)
  Pt 3 - Cross-accents, hybrid triplet/duple rhythm, (Letter C)
  Pt 4 - (4C) triplets vs (4) straight duple, (Letter D)

Part II: Double fugue on (3), Meno Mosso E Moderato, GbM
Exposition: Subject entrances
  Pt 1 - several (3B), (3A) entrances
  Pt 2 - (3B) fragments varied
  Pt 3 - (3A) Variations, (3B) become unison, (Letter E)

Part III: MARCH using (2) with "jaunty" counter-theme, Allegro, 6/8, BbM

Part IV: GROSSE DEV w 3 fugue STAGES
STAGE 1. Double Fugue on (1), (2) inverted, AbM (Letter F)
... trill frag of (1) leads to rhythmic unison, (Letter G)

STAGE 2. (1), (2i), BbM…(Letter H)
... trill unisons leading to key change to EbM (Letter I)
...(2) variations; Bar 1 motif, EbM

STAGE 3. (4C), (1) further variation, AbM, (Letter J)
...(1) fragment becomes descending 3 note sequence, (Letter K)
...Reprise of Part II more forcefully, (3B), (1), Meno Mosso E Moderato, AbM,
...Transition w Drifting chords; low trills

Part V: MARCH (recap) (2), Allegro BbM

Part VI Codas
Coda 1, 2nd theme (high slurrs), Bb, (Letter L)
...(2) in cello, pizz
...(1), wistfully, (2), (Letter M)
Coda 2, Reminiscence of previous themes (4C, 3B, 1, 2, March, low trilling), Allegro (1) trills, (4C) fragment, (Letter N)

Every time I review this analysis I see something I missed - but I have to stop now, it seems to be getting out of control again....
M.A.M. image.
Some helpful books for today's analysis included Lewis Lockwood's "Music and Life" as well as Alan Rich's book.
Some more Grosse Fugue "opinions":
OK...don't expect alot of thought for the next 2 days :)

1 comment:

  1. It's a very good idea to divide the sections with colours to simplify the work. Congratulations for the analysis! :)