Beethoven’s six late quartets have had a profound impact on my life and work and the Grosse Fugue (opus 133) expanded and amplified my perspective when, at about age ten, I first heard its impossible-for-me-to-describe intense humanity.
Images instantly start flashing through my mind and ear when I recall the music of his great double fugue: ...motivated blocks, colorful braids, spontaneous streams, radiant sparkling stars, vast spaces, dramatic unfoldings, punchy rhythmic cells, virtuosic calisthenics, a mammoth arch with extensive development of musical material, themes, and motifs, remarkable textures, teamwork, colorful modulation through many keys, loaded silences, lyric outpourings... all woven together by Beethoven who reached beyond the Classical and Romantic eras into a ever-new, ever-fresh music which feels eternal.
Beethoven said, “Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” The Grosse Fugue cuts right to the depths of the soul and exemplifies the fact that the history of civilization is written in art, whose creation and appreciation is universal across continents, cultures, and languages and, at the same time, is intensely personal. Beethoven’s individual vision allowed him to further music’s flexible, diverse capacity, and innate power. The energy and inner force that he gave to and in his music remains vivid.