Beethoven's string quartet in C-sharp minor, op. 131

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Oxford University Press,, New York, NY, United States,, 142 pages : (2021)

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Includes bibliographical references and index.Re-hearing Op. 131 -- Popular and early reception -- "A new kind of part writing" -- "Like an overly large fantasy" -- Op. 131 and the Rise of attentive listening."Beethoven's String Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131 (1826) is firmly a part of the modern-day canon, and also makes its presence felt in popular culture, notably in film (for example, A Late Quartet, 2012). Yet in recent times, the terms in which the work is discussed and presented tend to undermine the work's power. Although it is held up as a masterpiece, Op. 131 has often been understood in monochrome terms, as a work portraying tragedy, struggle, loss, and lack. This book takes the modern-day listener well beyond these categories of adversity or deficit. It goes back to early reception documents, including Beethoven's own writings about the work, to help the listener reinterpret the work and re-hear it. Analyses are geared towards allowing the reader to access earlier modes of listening and interpretation, those of listeners who celebrated the work precisely for its plenitude, its richness of invention or fantasy (in Beethoven's own words). As connoisseur listeners of Beethoven's day implied, Op. 131 is filled with diverse musical ideas (just like a fantasia), and with a new kind of string quartet writing that is calculated to promote sustained, engaged listening. Placing this work in the context of an emerging ideology of silent or 'serious' listening, in Beethoven's Europe, I consider how this particular 'late' quartet could speak with special eloquence to a highly select but passionately enthusiastic audience. I also examine how and why the reception of Op. 131 has changed so profoundly from Beethoven's time to our own"--