Had Beethoven flipped his Lud-wig? Listeners first thought so when they heard the Grosse Fuge, one of the composer's most notorious, wildly complex works. Widely scorned by audiences of his day, misunderstood by generations who followed, and only in later times fully embraced for its revolutionary stature, it's the monumental final movement to one of the composer's last string quartets. You can hear it this Sunday, October 14 as the conclusion to the ChamberMusic@Beall performance by the Juilliard String Quartet.
"One of the things Beethoven was accused of in his lifetime was the he couldn't write a fugue," says the JSQ's violist, Samuel Rhodes, in this trailer to a new Beethoven documentary by Michael Blackwood. But despite its initial rejection by audiences, the Grosse Fuge proved Beethoven's genius. "Harmonically and expressively it reaches out in a way that no piece of music ever did before," Rhodes says.
Click the video above for the full trailer. Hint: fast forward to 3:56 for an excerpt from the fugue. Then make plans to see one of America's great ensembles perform this rare work of genius.