Double Fugue in G Major, Hess 243 nr.6 (mp3)

Double Fugue in G Major, Hess 243 nr.6 (mp3)
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Performer: Mark S. Zimmer
Length: 2:12
Double Fugue in G Major, Hess 243 nr.6
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Author: Mark S. Zimmer
Length: 2:08
4 Part Double Fugue in G Major, Hess 243 nr. 6 (1794)

This double fugue is found in the A 75 autograph held by the Gesellschaft der Musikfeinde in Vienna, part of Bundle II/7, labelled "Double Counterpoint in der Decima" at folio 30b, recto and verso. Unpublished by Nottebohm and Seyfried, it is presented here for the first time, performed by string quartet. Oddly, the fugue is not on one of Albrechtsberger's themes set forth in these studies, and it apparently is an original theme by Beethoven, and is labeled "pour l'harmonie, Melodie et Rihtme" (sic).

It is open to question whether this fugue has been catalogued correctly; in all other double fugues for Albrechtsberger the two themes appear simultaneously starting from bar 1, which is not the case here, and continue to appear together throughout the fugue. Albrechtsberger was rather strict about a clear and logical arrangement of the exposition of double fugues ---- and indeed, Beethoven apparently adhered to that view, since he would adopt the same procedure in his late double fugues, like opus 133, the one in the finale of the Ninth Symphony, and also the one in the Diabelli variations. A further example is the fugue from the Weihe des Hauses. Here, too, the two subjects occur from the start, simultaneously.

In the case of the double fugue in the Finale of the Ninth, it should be noted that Beethoven sketched the "Freude schoener Goetterfunken" and the "Seid umschlungen" themes together --- clearly he intended from the start to combine these two themes in a double fugue, and sketching them together is the best way to ensure that that would be possible.

The question is : can what appears in bars 5 - 8 in the soprano be regarded as a second theme, or is it mere counterpoint ? The 2 middle bars of this idea appear unchanged against the entries of the 3rd voice (bar 10 & 11) and 4th voice (bar 14 & 15) -- but its first and 4th bars are changed, which is unacceptable if one wants to call it a theme.

That said, this counter idea appears in parallel decimes in bars 18 and 19, a technique which Beethoven learned in connection with double counterpoint and double fugues. That's to say, after the Hess 238 simple fugues (I'm following Nottebohm's narration, which suggests a strict chronology : this may, of course, turn out to be wrong!)

If one ignores the C from the soprano, bar 5 (which is a problem in more than one way), then the 4 occurrences of the first bar of the counter subject become the same. The deviation of the 4th bar in its second appearance (bar 12) can perhaps explained away as a result of the "Wiederschlag" mechanism (although it shouldn't be so, in Willem's opinion).

Willem's other objection, the counter subject not already occuring in bar 1 -- of this one can say that it does not belong to the definition of a double fugue, but is just a peculiarity of Albrechtsberger's. However, if this is Beethoven's 6th double fugue, then he should have grasped his teachers demands by now. The rests in bar 1 - 4 are not written out, so one can speculate that he might have added the counter subject there, in one of the voices, later on --- but that's just speculation. The handwriting suggests however that he had no such intention.

There is a second Albrechtsberger peculiarity present here, which Beethoven adopted later on : namely, the fugue answer occurring on the subdominant, rather than dominant. That's to say, Albrechtsberger thought these subdominant answers to be just as correct as dominant answers. However, modern text books follow slavishly Bach's practice, so that answer on the dominant has become something of a dogma. It was a great eye-opener to see that Albrechtsberger accepted these subdominant answers, and he was of course totally right: subdominant answers do the job just as well as dominant answers --- and our modern understanding is no more than just half of what is possible.

There are many Beethoven fugues that answer on the subdominant (Eroica variations, C# minor Quartet) -- and seen from a limited text book view, one can understand where the opinion "Beethoven never knew how to write a correct fugue" comes from. Therefore it must be stressed that Albrechtsberger and Beethoven did have a more profound understanding than the modern text books.

Regardless of its proper classification, this is a hauntingly beautiful and heretofore lost Beethoven composition deserving of wide notice. Another world premiere for The Unheard Beethoven, this fugue is presented in both midi and mp3 forms, the latter using Garritan Personal Orchestra samples.

Hess: 243

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