Muss es sein?

In a musical interlude, the first half of yesterday’s morning name; the second half is, of course: Es muss sein! The motifs:


From the 4th (and last) movement of the String Quartet No. 16 in F major, Op. 135, by Ludwig van Beethoven; written in October 1826, it was the last major work he completed.

From the LA Phil site, in program notes by John Mangum:

Before the finale, a brief slow introduction followed by an energetic allegro, Beethoven wrote “Der schwer gefasste Entschluss” (the decision reached with difficulty, or the difficult resolution). Beneath it, he wrote the three-note motif of the slow introduction with the words “Muss es sein?” (Must it be?), followed by the two three-note motifs that make up the Allegro’s principal theme, underlaid with the words “Es muss sein! Es muss sein!” (It must be! It must be!).

I just love the Allegro “Es muss sein!” section. Surprisingly, for the last part of the last movement of Beethoven’s last major work, it’s sprightly and joyous, and could imaginably have been written by Haydn in one of his celebratory moments.

You can listen to a fine performance of the movement here (#2) — either by the Budapest String Quartet (according to the on-line notes) or the Prazák Quartet (according to the information at the beginning of the video itself).

But why was Muss es sein? in my head when I woke up yesterday? My first suspicion turned out to be right: I checked the iTunes log for the night and discovered a set of late Beethoven string quartets on it, including Op. 135. I’d heard it in my sleep, and subconsciously connected the motifs above with the words Beethoven wrote on his score. The mind is an amazing thing.

Now, as to what Beethoven meant by these words (and by Der schwer gefasste Entschluss), that’s a puzzle, which Mangum surveys compactly (and others have written on at length). There’s a lot about Beethoven that’s enigmatic.



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