4 Part Fugue in D minor, Hess 238 nr.2 (mp3)
This fugue appears as Nr.2 in Nottebohm's Beethovens Studien, Chapter VI, p. 100, as corrected by Albrechtsberger. It is based on theme nr.10 from Albrechtsberger's list, and dates from about 1794-95. Here scored for ocarina, clarinet, bassoon and trombone.
Although Beethoven had already reached considerable heights in his own music at this time, in these fugues we see him surrender his creative powers in order to conform to the strict, and often petty, rules of his teacher. He did so because he understood that he had to learn things which were of the essence for his art: polyphony. That taught him not only to improve his voice leading, counterpoint is also, and has been throughout the centuries, the main engine behind harmonic innovation. Rather than playing the arrogant genius who rejects all outside influence, Beethoven is eager to learn from a style which is, viewed superficially, diametrically opposed to his own.