Fragment of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis &
Grosse Fuge

"Since I am an atheist I've kept myself away from this, but it is impossible."

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Text from J.W.N. Sullivan's wonderful book
 Beethoven: His Spiritual Development  




The Credo of the Mass in D has an overwhelming note of authenticity; the words doubtless expressed something of which Beethoven was passionately convinced; but his conviction was probably better express in the mystical sentences he was fond of copying down from Eastern literature. Such phrases as, “I am that which is. I am all that was, that is, and that shall be,” part of a creed that Beethoven copied out in his own handwriting and kept permanently framed on his desk…

J.W.N. Sullivan, Beethoven: His Spiritual Development


Grosse Fuge Op. 133

In which Beethoven liberates the music from the box it comes in.



Originally written as the final movement of the Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130, it was disliked by both audiences and musicians. Uncharacteristically, Beethoven agreed to requests to replace the final movement with a more accessible piece; but Beethoven believed that the music world would eventually understand this starkly modern piece, which carries the seeds of much of the music that was to come after it.

Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker*: "...the Great Fugue is more than a piece; it’s a musicological Holy Grail, a vortex of ideas and implications. It is the most radical work by the most formidable composer in history, and, for composers who had to follow in Beethoven’s wake, it became a kind of political object. Arnold Schoenberg heard it as a premonition of atonality, a call for freedom from convention. (“Your cradle was Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge,” Oskar Kokoschka once said to Schoenberg.)"

It's been a long time coming, but only recently is the quartet often performed the way Beethoven conceived it.

*Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise, The New Yorker, Feb. 6, 2006