Day 237: String Quartets Op. 127 & 131

BeethovenCD42I’m not a musicologist. I have no idea just by listening to a piece of music what key it’s in.

I couldn’t even tell you its time signature.

Oh, I could get out my guitar and finger the frets to find the key something is in. But I doubt I could count out a time signature.

So I’m always amazed to discover Beethoven’s music is much more complicated than one might think.

For example, from its entry on Wikipedia, there’s this about String Quartet No. 12 in E Flat Op. 27:

The first movement is twice interrupted – just before the development of the sonata form begins, and when that section is almost but not quite over – by recurrences of the opening’s Maestoso music.

The immense second movement is in the subdominant key of A♭ major. It consists of a set of six variations and a coda. The first variation is in 12/8 meter with darker harmonies and quick changes in dynamics. The second variation increases the tempo to andante con moto and adjusts the meter to 4/4. Here, the two violins engage in a dialogue over staccato accompaniment. he third variation shifts to E major, enharmonically the flat submediant, and the tempo shifts to a hymn-like adagio molto espressivo. The fourth variation returns to 12/8 and drops a half-step to the dominant key of E♭ major. This variation has a codetta which transitions the key to D♭ major in preparation for the next variation. The fifth variation is sotto voce and has been called a “mysterious episode” and begins in D♭ major and transitions to the parallel C♯ minor. The recapitulatory sixth variation returns to 12/8, presents only half of the theme and connects directly to the coda.

Uh, yeah.

The Wiki article goes on and on and on about the intricacies of this piece of music, which I find fascinating on one, probably really deep, level. Probably the same level that enjoys knowing who the producers, musicians, and recording-studio antics were for important albums from my teen years, albums like Live Album by Continue reading