Sunday, October 28, 2007

Beethoven Grosse Fuge Analysis

ok well this thing is pretty much a beast, so I must admit, I had a little help from Jstor...
so this is a basic overview of what I found.

What I would call the "main subject" of the piece occurs prior to the exposition in measures 2, 11, 14, 17, 21 and 26.

The exposition begins in E flat major with the pick-up to m. 31 in the 1st violin. The main theme comes in m. 31. The answers to both themes come around m. 35. The subjects of both themes come back in m. 39 and the answers again at m. 43. Then, a third statement of the subjects come at m. 50. There are then a few episodes that occur with a triplet accompaniment or what may be a temporary counter-subject. These episodes are at mm. 58, 62, and 68.

The main theme can be found in mm. 79, 111, 115, 139, 141, 145, 159, 167, 176, 187, 193, 194, 199, 201, 203, 209, 233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 242, 248, 253, 255, 257, 260, 263, 266, 275, 280, 288, 296, 320, 350, 354, 358, 362, 363, 370, 378, 380, 387, 389, 395, 397, 416, 420, 424, 428, 432, 436, 440, 444, 446, 493, 501, 502, 533, 535, 538, 544, 549, 551, 556, 559, 597, 599, 609, 663, 682, 683, 691, 717, and 718.

It is a possibility that there is a second fugue beginning in m. 273. The main subject is included in mm. 275, 280, 288, 296, and 320. There are two counter-subjects. One is the descending eighth-quarter-eighth motive and the other is three ascending dotted quarter notes that occur many, many times between mm. 273 and 350.

The piece begins mostly in E flat, after short periods in G major and F major. It then cycles through Gm, Dm, and B flat before an abrupt change to G flat in m. 159. It switches briefly back into B flat, accompanying the time signature change to 6/8. There is another abrupt key change to A flat major in m. 273 to set apart the possible second fugue. It touches briefly on Fm and then changes back to E flat at m. 414 only to go back to A flat in 453 and back into B flat at m. 533.

There is a statement in the Jstor article-- "The 'Grosse Fuge': An Analysis" by Sydney Grew that this may be a "sonata fugata" or a sonata where each of the two themes is a fugue. I think that is a very good possibility.

I have scribbles all over my score that I don't think I can make any sense of here, but I hope this is some help or...something.


Anonymous said...


your analysis looks very thorough. i always appreciate the detail you put into the analysis and it makes it easy to follow.

I personally have spent the past hour trying to figure out where the recordings i have found correlate in relation to the score i have without success. So, I am hoping that we can all talk about it tomorrow in class.


Jonathan Schorr said...


I do not blame you for seeking help from the JSTOR. What you have written is accurate (as usual my bar numbers are off from yours)

I went through and looked at where you found the main themes - they all looked accurate. I think just in your writing you could be maybe a little more specific to which voices the answer comes in as when you stated where the main theme was. But that is no big deal I'm just being annoying.

I would agree with your analysis thinking there is a second fugue - I had a hard time figuring out what the main theme / subject is - but that is something hopefully we can clarify in class.

I am not sure but is there any possibility that this could also be a triple fugue? The material later on around the m. 430 mark seemed to contain some of the original material - but not exact anyways - could be - maybe - who knows.

Shelley Scarr said...

Thank you for your organized and well presented analysis. You are very clear with your findings. I agree with your analysis and can't say that I disagree with you on any point. Beethoven would be someone to write a sonata fugata. I think it is! Looking forward to talking more about it in class.

Ryan Atkinson said...

ummmmm, so i got the String quartet no. 13, op 130 movement 6 which is supposed to be the Grosse Fugue correct? but i listened to the piece and it is cleaerly not the same piece. However if you found an article on jstor about it, i'm sure it is correct.

Ben said...

Just received the piece this morning from John Schorr and haven't gotten a good chance to really look into your analysis Sarah, but I agree with the others, thorough job as always.

Shelley Scarr said...

Maybe be more specific with the entrances and which voice they come in at. Otherwise, like my previous post, well organized! Is there another episode of triplet notation in m. 147 in the 1st Violin? Is there another main theme in m. 369 right before the trill in viola? Or are my measures just off. I think that there is a second fugue presented at m. 273. I believe it is a sonata fugata too.

Ben said...

Now that I've had a decent look at the piece, I'd like to comment once more before class tommorrow.
I agree, Eb Major (Ab in first violin) at Exposition's beginning, pickup to mm.31.
Main subject I believe is mm.5-10.
Second theme/motive/subject is mm.26.
I lean towards Jon's theory, I think this is a triple fugue because I see what could be an entirely new subject starting on page 13 beginning at G. The rhythm of this new motive is dotted quarter tied to a dotted quarter, eighth rest, quarter, eighth rest, a trill on a dotted half note followed by two sixteenths and a quarter. This motive fills the entire page and presents itself on 14 as well. I also see signs of this motive on 21 and 22. There's a large section that has long held out trills as well, not sure what the significance of this is. Hope this is of help to someone, see you guys tomorrow.

SamanthaW said...

Sarah you did an awesome job, I am still confused about a big part of the details of the subjects and answers, so I decided to look at the possibility of a sonata form. To comment on Ben's comment I think the trills are the transition into the recapitulation, which I believe starts at what I have as mm. 414 in my score (but could be 416 if I miss measured).

I figure the development probably starts where Sarah thinks that there is a second fugue at 273. If not there I would venture mm. 233..

Also I think there is a kind of CODA either at 657 or 663 that Beethoven uses to tie in all of the subjects that he used.

Daniel White said...

All I can say is, "Kudos to you!" The analysis is very thorough, and made a lot of sense. I found the detailed list of measure numbers to be very useful, and made my journey through the Grosse Fugue, less gross (no pun intended). As usual, I couldn't find anything I disagree with, however that's subject to change when Dr. King rocks our world with the technical analysis. Nice job!

Jonathan Schorr said...


Well after looking at the proper score your analysis looks good. The entrances and where you have noted the subjects are accurate. There are some places like what Sam said that after looking over the score she allowed me to photocopy I understand her confusion. I look forward going over this in class today.

Jonathan Schorr