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Quartet No.16 in B-flat major, op.133

Form schemeThe beginning of the work - denoted as "Overtura" in the autograph - introduces the fugue theme in its 4 different shapes, which we are going to encounter later on. General pauses separate the theme variations from each other. The characteristic element of the theme ("interval theme") is its basis on two special intervals: either a minor second or the great steps (seventh and sixth).


bars 1-11
Fugue theme 1.
Bestimmend für das Fugenthema 1 ("Intervallthema") ist, daß es nur aus zwei charakteristischen Tonschritten besteht: entweder aus einer kleinen Sekund oder aus großen Intervallschritten (Septim, Sext).

bars 12-17
He develops fugue theme 2 by transforming fugue theme 1, but with the same interval steps.

bars 18-26
Fugue theme 3 is another transformation of fugue theme 1.

bars 27-31
Fugue theme 4 is another, final transformation of fugue theme 1.

Section 1

bars 31-48
The fugue - entitled "Fuga" by Beethoven - is a double fugue, i.e. the theme of the fugue is given a countersubject, which counterpoints the fugue theme with its interval steps. The theme of the countersubject sounds bizarre and rugged. This effect is produced by big interval steps (e.g. a tenth and even more distant intervals) and a strict, unchanging rhythm. This rhythmic energy gives the countersubject a kind of preponderance. After the fugue exposition the countersubject is joined by another voice in triplet rhythm. The unbending fortissimo of this energetic and terse 1st section creates an unrelenting densi ty.

Section 2

bars 166-174
The 2nd part of the fugue "Meno mosso e moderato" presents the theme in a rhythmically simple form, joined by a voice in melodic sixteenth note counterpoint. This part has a slow pace, the dynamic notation says "pianissimo". As the 1st part is pure fortissimo, the "meno mosso" of this section makes a striking difference.

bars 192-198
The fugue theme is played by cello and 1st violin in stretto. By "stretto" we mean that the theme is already imitated by another voice while it is still being presented.

Section 3

bars 233- 253
"The heading is "Allegro molto e con brio". At the beginning fugue theme 2 is presented in abridged form. Augmentations broaden the theme to its original shape.

Section 4

bars 272-305
Fugue theme 1 appears in its original form so that each note fills a whole bar. As counterpoint he uses the head of theme 2 - inverted but also augmented by using 3/8 notes.

Section 5

bars 493-501
In "meno mosso e moderato", now in 2/4 time, fugue theme 3 appears in its original shape, counterpointed by its inversion. The cello resonates the dotted theme of the double fugue.

Section 6

bars 533 - 549
Fugue theme 2 is played in "allegro molto e con brio". This part of the fugue is characterised by the assignment of the theme to various voices.


bars 663-682
The last part of the fugue opens with fugue theme 1 - played unisono and fortissimo by all 4 instruments (all 5 groups of instruments in the orchestral version).

bars 722-747
The work closes with the fugue theme and its countersubject.

The 2nd violin and the cello play fugue theme 1, the 1st violin takes up the augmented countersubject, both rise to a fortissimo. A difficult string composition reaches a majestic ending.

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