Monday, March 9, 2009
So, I must confess that there are string quartets out there that bore me to tears. However, as I type this, I'm listening to Beethoven's string quartet No. 16 in F, Opus 135, and it does not bore me to tears. It's too much fun.
And now, stand back, because I'm going to tell you why. :o)
At the top of the score of the last movement of this quartet, Beethoven wrote the words "The Difficult Decision" (except he wrote them in German). Then, he wrote the words, "Muß es sein?" ("Must it be?"). The cello and viola open the movement with three notes that seem to be asking that question: "Must it be?" As the movement continues, you can hear the violins and the cello/viola repeating the question, sometimes passing it back and forth to each other. All the instruments sound very worried about it, very full of angst.
Then, a bit later on, right where the piece jumps back into happy, cheerful F major, Beethoven seems to have made his decision, for he wrote the words "Es muß sein!" into the score. ("It must be!") The whole sound of the movement changes, and you can hear the two violins answering, yes, "It must be! It must be!" Yay!
If you listen to it here on youtube, you'll hear the "Must it be?" at the very beginning, and then listen for "It must be! It must be!" at 1:52 exactly.
This was the last string quartet Beethoven ever wrote -- in fact, I believe it's the last composition of any kind he ever completed, though if I'm wrong about that, please correct me -- and he died before he ever got to see it performed. I wish he could go to a performance today, his hearing restored, and hear what a beautiful thing he did. The first three movements are also wonderful, of course. I'm particularly partial to the second (I tend to like fast movements, and this is one of the most fun ever). Here are one, two, and three by the same performers, the Hagen Quartet. (What I like about whoever filmed this performance is that you can really see the way Beethoven has all the instruments talking to each other.)
The funny thing is that no one knows what Beethoven was talking about with all that "Must it be? It must be!" stuff. What did he insist so passionately must be? Angst? Suffering? Unicorns? Beef and barley soup for dinner? What must be?
No, really, I'm asking you. In your opinion, what, in life, must be? (If you're reading this post somewhere other than my actual site and don't see the full poll below, please click here.)
Finally, a friendly reminder that I don't see comments posted in LiveJournal, on Amazon, or anywhere other than my blogspot.
And extra points today if you recognize what movie I'm referencing in my post title :o)