String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, No. 14, Op. 131, b) Allegro molto viviace (second movement)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 8 Track 70
A composition teacher of mine once said that the problem with much music is simply that nothing happens. Though I feel I could write a book about the preceding fugue, given the money, it is, like the music my teacher complained about, a work free of pinnacle. Like the authors of Romantic tone poems, Beethoven took advantage of the multi-movement form to allow some of the movements, that fugue for example, to explore their potential without conforming to the necessities of drama. Eventually, as Beethoven knew, something does have to happen.
And that happening is the second movement. Whereas the previous movement had little rhythmic interest and focused the listener's attention on motivic entanglement, Beethoven rewards our kind attention with the promised 'D.' It arrives in gallant six-eight meter. This slow-fast arrangement is one that I usually associate with Romantic solo pieces. And I always like the opening slow movement best.
Yet this folksy scene was not carelessly constructed. I especially like the unison passage that signals the denouement. The value of monophony, known by the ancients, will increase after Beethoven's life. For instance, as it is heard in the Quartet for the End of Time