Для струнного квартета.
Время создания: май-декабрь 1825 года
Посвящено: эрцгерцогу Рудольфу Австрийскому.
Beethoven's Grosse Fuge was originally to have served as the finale to the String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op. 130 (1825); in fact, that work was first performed with this monumental creation as its sixth and concluding movement. However, the Grosse Fuge, a complete entity in its own right, proved too difficult for the performers and for some members of the audience. Moreover, it seemed an outsized finale for the relatively modest quartet. Beethoven subsequently produced a new final movement for the quartet, an attractive Rondo more in keeping with the spirit of the entire work.
The Grosse Fuge, eventually published as an independent work, is one of Beethoven's crowning achievements in the medium of chamber music. The work opens with an introduction, or "overtura." Here the mood is dramatic, effectively setting the stage for the whole work. The main theme—heroic and defiant, powerful and self-confident—is presented in four different versions. First, it is played fortissimo, in an emphatic, assertive manner, which will reemerge as its definitive guise in the coda. The subsequent accounts of the theme gradually become calmer and quieter.
The first fugal section is a double fugue marked Allegro. Here the main theme competes against another subject, which is also fiery and assertive. Their struggle, which includes substantial development, continues fortissimo. The second section, marked Meno mosso e moderato, is also a double fugue, its lyricism providing effective contrast to its predecessor. Here a new theme emerges from the counterpoint of the main melody. The third section, marked Allegro molto e con brio, features further struggle in which the theme eventually falters and seems to disintegrate. The second subject from the first fugal section emerges and appears to take control. Eventually, the main theme is rejuvenated in a passage marked Meno mosso moderato, and the signs of struggle fade in the two Allegro subsections that follow. The coda features the main theme in its original version, but now expanded and clearly triumphant. The mood turns reflective and mysterious, and suddenly the second subject appears, supported by the main theme. The work ends powerfully and magnificently.
(All Music Guide)
On 21 March 1826 Beethoven's String Quartet in B-flat Major op. 130 was given its first performance, with a great fugue as the last movement. It was especially this final movement that proved difficult for his contemporaries to understand - too difficult as the publisher Mathias Artaria explained to the composer. Although the parts had already been prepared for printing, in September 1826 Artaria suggested "removing" the fugue and printing it separately. And Beethoven should write a new last movement for op. 130. Beethoven agreed surprisingly quickly, the new finale was composed in autumn 1826.
The fugue was published with the opus number 133. Beethoven had already given some thought to the formulation of the title "Grande fuge, tantôt libre, tantôt recherchée" in December 1826 (when he was already bedridden). Parallel to the original version for string quartet, Artaria also planned an arrangement for piano four hands. The publisher believed that this would make the work more accepted and better understood - and also therefore better sales. Beethoven was also in agreement with this suggestion. Artaria commissioned the pianist Anton Halm to arrange the fugue as early as April 1826. However, the result did not please the composer at all. As a result Carl Czerny was considered as an arranger but then also discarded. Although Beethoven had first of all strictly refused to do so, he finally decided to do his own arrangement. At the beginning of September he handed over his version of the Große Fuge for Piano Four Hands to Karl Holz, to be handed on to the publisher. <a href="/node/924">The canon "Da ist das Werk, sorgt für das Geld" ("Here is the work, give me the money") WoO 197</a> which he sent with it, underscored the autonomous nature of this version.
Both the original version for string quartet as well as the arrangement for piano appeared at the same time in May 1827.