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American Musicological Society Wagner, Deafness, and the Reception of Beethoven's Late Style Author(s): K. M.

American Musicological Society

Wagner, Deafness, and the Reception of Beethoven's Late Style Author(s): K. M. Knittel

Source: Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 51, No. 1 (Spring, 1998), pp. 49-82

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Wagner, Deafness, and the Reception of Beethoven's Late Style



In memoriamThomasR. Walker

n the introduction to his biography of Beethoven, Vincent D'Indy offered the following comments about the composer's three stylistic periods:

Only wouldventureto assertthatthe

present themselvesunderbut one aspect, so thatno essentialmodification

can be

insignificantvariations, closedwiththe lastfive quartets.

hewhohasneverlivedin intimatecommunionwithBeethoven'sart

productions of the genius

of the


distinguished in the courseof a career which,opening with a few

whichwould suppress the divisionof Beetho-

we canfindnoth-

ing to cite except a

the principal advocateof the "three styles." In thisletterthe celebratedvir-


and indivisible, ends by


[Liszt] possibly evenone of [his]


forthe astonishmentof

solemn mystifications

who knew

In support of the opinion

ven'sworksinto periods,strongly marked thoughtheybe,

letterfromFranzLisztto CouncilorWilhelmvon Lenz,

after having firstof alldeclaredBeethoven'screativeworkto be one

himself dividing it into two categories insteadof

entirelyarbitrary and illogicalarrangement. On all


impression of

a merefreakof humor, or



At all events, if suchwashisviewin 1852, he

twentyyears lateran opinion diametrically opposed,

lege to dwellnearhim in Weimar, andwhen

markson the subject of the threeBeethovens:"the child, the man, andthe

he utteredsuch judicious re-

whenit wasour


For D'Indy, writing in 1911, two

Beethoven's works logically subdivided into "three styles," and second,


seemed obvious: first, that

I wouldliketo thankScottBurnhamforhis encouragement, careful reading, and unfailing

sense of humor.

1. Vincent D'Indy, Beethoven:A Critical Biography, trans.Theodore Baker (Boston: Bos-

ton Music Co., 1912), 1-2; originally published in 1911 (Paris: Henri Laurens). The letter of 2 December 1852 from Liszt to Wilhelm von Lenz is in referenceto von Lenz'sBeethoven

et sestrois styles:Analyses dessonatesde piano suiviesd'unessaid'un

cataloguecritique, chro-

nologique,etanecdotiquedeBeethoven, 2 vols. (St. Petersburg:Bernard,1852; reprint of 1st ed., Paris: A Lavinee, 1855).

[Journal of the American Musicological Society 1998,

? 1998

vol. 51, no.


by the American MusicologicalSociety. All rights reserved. 0003-0139/98/5101-0002$2.00

50 Journalof the American MusicologicalSociety

that those of the third period surpassed all that came before them.2 Not- withstanding D'Indy's bemusement at Liszt's about-face, critics had not

the summit of his

creative abilities. Sir George Grove, in his article on Beethoven for the first edition of his dictionary, explained that the composer's late works-

especially the quartets-had been "misunderstood and naturallyunappre- ciated" at the time of their composition. With time and study, however, they became more highly valued until they were "by common consent of those who are able to judge placed at the head of Beethoven's composi-

always agreed

that Beethoven's last

period represented

tions."3 Underlying Grove's account is the idea that the late music was written "before its time." Gerald Abraham writes that "it took the rest of


tets. Beethoven had compressed nearly seventy years of music evolution into just over forty."4 Commentators have traditionally attributed the

lengthy period of time during which these pieces lay dormant to the radical

musical innovations--formal, harmonic, melodic,

the late music. Joseph Kerman, while ac-

the reasons for changing ways of comprehending "Time and time

again," writes William Kinderman,"thedrasticcontrastsof [the late] music

of mere sensuous charm"5-of

knowledging the impossibility of analyzing

musical tastes, nevertheless suggests that "new

new music have helped to illuminate the third

generic, the "disregard

a quarter of a century to grow to comprehension of those quar-



"appreciation and criticalrec-

ognition" has been acquired only "through a long

Indeed, belated recognition enhances the aesthetic value of the works: ac-

cording to Carl Dahlhaus, a late work age to which it outwardly belongs."8

is by definition "inwardly aliento the

harbour deeper unifying relationships," but


gradual process."7

What traditional explanationsoverlook, however, is the reevaluationof

Beethoven's biography that made possible this new critical appreciation of

his last compositions. Critics writing in the decades immediatelyfollowing

2. See K. M. Knittel, "Imitation, Individuality, and Illness: Behind Beethoven's Three

Styles," BeethovenForum4 (1995): 17-36.

than late to describeworks in the third period. For a discussion and history of the "latework"

aesthetic, see Anthony Edward Barone, "Richard Wagner's Parsifaland the Hermeneutics of Late Style" (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1996).

Most writersbefore

1900 used the termlast rather

3. Sir George Grove, "Beethoven, Ludwig van," in A Dictionaryof Music and Musicians

(A.D. 1450-1880), 209, at 197.

ed. Sir George Grove (London and New York: Macmillan, 1879), 1:162-

4. Gerald Abraham, "Beethoven'sChamber Music," in TheAge ofBeethoven,1790-1830,

ed. Gerald Abraham, The New Oxford History of Music 8 (London, New York, and Mel-


5. Robert Haven Schauffler, Beethoven:TheMan WhoFreedMusic (Garden City, N.Y.:

Doubleday, 1929), 355.

Oxford University Press, 1982), 255.

6. Joseph

7. William

Kerman, TheBeethoven Quartets (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), 192.

Kinderman, Beethoven (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California

Press, 1995), 299, 295.

8. Carl Dahlhaus, Ludwig van

Beethoven: Approaches to His Music, trans. Mary Whittall

(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 219.

The Reception of Beethoven'sLate



Beethoven's death drew a direct connection between

tal suffering (deafness,illness, even possible insanity) and what they viewed as the failureof the late works. In his 1870 Beethoven essay, Richard Wag-

ner made a radical and unprecedented departure from the perspective of these early critics:he proposed for the firsttime that Beethoven's late works were in fact his greatest and that his loss of hearing was beneficial, even vital, to the creative process. In so doing he made possible the elevation of

the late works to the status of genius. The immediate

essay may be seen in the writings of three important figures: Sir George Grove, Theodor Helm, and Vincent D'Indy. The lasting influence of

by many

authors) has been enormous. In this essay I shall attempt to show that Wag-

ner's romanticization of Beethoven's suffering in general and his deafness

in particular

Wagner's ideas (which have been disseminated in diverse forms

his physical and men-

impact of Wagner's

transformedthe way critics assess his life and works.

Once the

influence of Wagner'sessay has been established,however, im-

portant questions arise: What might have led Wagner to

propose such a

striking yet peculiar interpretation of Beethoven's well-known problems? Why did this reading have such immediate appeal? And why has it re-

mained compelling for later generations of scholars?In order to address

these questions, it will be necessary in

sion from Beethoven to Wagner, for as much as Beethoven is the explicit

subject of the Beethoven essay, Wagner himself is its

considered from the perspective of Wagner's personal and historical cir-

cumstances at the time of the essay,

His idealization of deafness appears to

conscious envy of Beethoven's isolation and solitude. Whatever Wagner's

motivations, he created a new Beethoven that

with greatness, an

his late music today.

final section to turn the discus-

implicit subject. When


his argument takes on new meaning.

stem at least in part from an un-


associated deafness

image that continues to underlie the value we place on

Deafness and the Early Critics

Beethoven's final works

provoked discomfort to outright condemnation,

immediately following his death. A few, like Alexander Oulibicheff, re-

in the decades



wide range of reactions, from




calling them "decadent"and "the negation of mu-

separate, fourth style:

musical experiments mercifully cut short by the composer's death.10Such

sic itself."9For him, the late

jected them completely,

quartets represented


9. Alexandre Oulibicheff, Beethoven, ses



and Paris:Brock-

haus, 1857), 164 and270. See alsoK.M.

AlexanderOulibicheffas a Criticof Beethoven'sLate Style," BeethovenNewsletter8


"Divining the Enigmas of the Sphinx:


10. Oulibicheff,Beethoven,288-89.

52 Journalof the American MusicologicalSociety

vehement reactions are rare,however, and the extent to which the late mu- sic was harshly viewed during the three decades following Beethoven's death has been generally exaggerated. Even during his own lifetime, Beethoven was widely accepted as a composer of genius, as Robin Wallace

has emphasized.

led them to blame their own failings, ratherthan the music, for their am-

bivalence or even resistance to it. Karl Holz, reporting to Wilhelm von

Lenz severaldecades afterthe premiere of the

Op. 130, described the audience's reaction as "inspired, astonished, or


difficulty of separating a preoccupation with Beethoven's auditory

impairment (and other health problems) from musicaldiscussions

that, for these earlycritics, the biography and the music were intertwined.

Even the most sympathetic critics occasionally used deafness to explain or

excuse some specific

fessor at the University of Wiirzburg and author of an enthusiastic and


elaborate 1828 discussion of the Missa solemnis, attributed several

harshnesses" ("bedeutende Harten") to "Beethoven's deficiency

ing" ("Mangel an Gehor").13 Like Frohlich, Adolf BernhardMarxinvoked

the composer's malady when

from the second movement of the

insistent repetition of a single motive

rowed its way into his

auditory nerves?"But as Marx parentheticallyobserved, "It would be the

only trace of



The tremendous respect criticsheld for Beethoven often


Quartet in Bb Major,

of awe--never dismissive."12




musical problem. For example, Joseph Fr6hlich, pro-

in hear-

discussing an apparently puzzling


Quartet in F Major, Op. 135, with its

(Ex. 1): "Has this tone-picture bur- from the diseased

spirit with its buzzing, perhaps

an immediate influence of the physical on the mental in

11. Robin Wallace, Beethoven'sCritics:AestheticDilemmas and Resolutions During the

Composer'sLifetime(Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 1. Tia DeNora examines how Beethoven's reputation of genius evolved during his first years in Vi- enna; see her Beethovenand the Construction of Genius:MusicalPoliticsin Vienna, 1792-1803

(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press,


1995). On the popularity of the Burnham,"Criticism,Faith, and

the Idee:A. B. Marx's EarlyReception of Beethoven," 19th-Century Music 13 (1990): 183- 92; and idem, BeethovenHero (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995). Sanna Peder-

Identity" (19th-Century Music

studies the role that Beethoven's music played in defining a "German


works in early Beethoven reception, see Scott

son's "A. B. Marx, Berlin Concert Life, and German National

18 [1994]: 87-107)

12. Wilhelm von Lenz, Beethoven:Eine Kunststudie, 5 vols. in 3 (vols. 1-2, Cassel: Ernst

Balde, 1855; vols. 3-5, Hamburg: Hoffmann and Campe, 1860), 5:218: "Das Publikumwar

nach Umstanden begeistert, erstaunt, oder fragend,

nie absprechend."

Cited in Maynard Solomon, Beethoven (New York: Schirmer, 1977), 320.

doch aus Ehrfurcht

13. Joseph Fr6hlich, "Zweite Recension," Cacilia 9 (1828): 22-45


with the

"ErsteRecension" by Georg Christoph Grosheim); cited in Stefan Kunze, ed., Ludwig van

Beethoven:Die Werkeim Spiegel seinerZeit. GesammelteKonzertberichteund Rezensionenbis

1830 (Laaber: Laaber Verlag, 1987), 433-43,

at 443 ("ErsteRecension,"

pp. 430-33).

14. Adolf Bernhard Marx,Ludwig van Beethoven, Lebenund Schaffen, 2 vols. in 1 (Berlin:

The Reception of Beethoven'sLate Style


Example 1

48. The passage continues to m. 189, making a total of forty-seven repetitions of the motive.

Beethoven, String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135, second movement, mm. 142-







$II #J












I j.i.J



#j ^J^J'





deafness merely to excuse a few

deafness merely to excuse a few

later compositions, other commentators discovered more


judge his own works becausehe could not hearthem. A review of the Opus


hile Frhlich and Marx appealed to

While Frohlich and Marx appealed to

anomalies in the

pervasive musical problems


and attributedthem to Beethoven's


premiere, for example, suggested that the work's "Babylonian

avoided if only

sion" would have been

1830, a lengthy review by Francois-Joseph Fetis of the Quartet in CO Mi-

"certainharmonic successions found in the last

works" to Beethoven's "most complete deafness.'16

clopedia entry on Beethoven-where


etition, incoherent development, unclear melodic ideas, and harshness of


nor, Op. 131 directly linked

Similarly, in his ency-

Beethoven could have heard it.15In

he introduced his idea of the three

of the late works: excessive

listed the musical problems

harmony, all of which "testify to the weakness of his

memory of sound."l7

An anonymous English reviewer of the last piano sonatas speculated that

ware die einzige Spur eines

Beethoven) im Geiste sausend

unmittelbaren Einflusses des Physischen auf das Psychische bei

eingenistet?" (p. 313).

15. Review of the premiere of Opus 130,Allgemeinemusikalische Zeitung (hereafterAmZ)

cited in Kunze,

Ludwig van Beethoven, 560.

28 (1826): 310-11;

16. Francois-Joseph Fetis, "Bulletin d'analyse: Les Derniers Quatours de Beethoven

(oeuvre 131e)," RevueMusicale (1830): 279-86 and 345-51;

cited in Kunze, Ludwig van


l'effet des sons?

considere certainessuccessions harmoniques repandues

Beethoven, 581-89:

une longue suite d'annees, finit-elle C'est ce qui est vraisemblable, si l'on

dans ses dernieres productions" (p. 581).

"La prolongation de cette infirmite [la surdite la

plus complte],

par lui faire oublier jusqu'a certain point

17. Francois-JosephFetis, "Beethoven

(Brussels:Meline, Cans et Compagnie, 1837),

(Louis van)," in Biographie universelledesmusiciens

2:111: "Les redites des memes pensees furent

avaitchoisi alla quelquefois jusqu'a la

qu'elle etait plus reveuse; l'har-

poussees jusqu'a1'exces; le developpement du sujet qu'il

divagation; la pensee melodique deviit moins nette a mesure

monie fut empreinte de plus de durete, et semblade jour en jour temoigner de l'affaiblissement de la memoire des sons."

54 Journal of the American MusicologicalSociety

Beethoven's loss of hearing "at once accounts for some of the com-

binations,-the crudities, as Dr. Burney would have called them-which

the review, the author

which confirmed for him

that Beethoven's deafnesshad caused the loss of his "discriminatingjudge-

ment, which he had possessed in so striking a degree before his sense of hearing was impaired."19

had received a

appear in his later publications."'8 While writing

of the "Diabelli" Variations,


For other critics, the

change in Beethoven's music resultednot from his

deafness per se, but ratherfrom

that presumably accompanied it. Some suggested that Beethoven lost his will to compose along with his hearing, which accounted for the inade-

quacies of the laterworks. Ludwig Rellstab, for example, seemed reluctant

to dismiss the Quartet in Eb Major,

enced so much emotional distress during its composition:

the depressed or altered psychological state


127 because Beethoven experi-

Whatever may seemto us strange,dark, andmuddledin it, hasits

capable of thinking his way

capable of


and necessity withinthe soul of the creator, andthereinmustwe seekin-

struction.He who is

whoforfourteen sufferingyears stands lonely in theworldof lifeand joy; he

who is

our sourceof even the most


thatthe aural memory would weaken, thatthe living colorsof soundmust



the noblest,purestpleasure of the spirit; he who grasps that

into the soul of the man,

imagining himselfwithoutthat sense, fromwhicharises


eventually succumbto fate,

evenfor one suchas Beethoven,


person would also wish,

For Rellstab, writing in 1825,

logical state had become crucial one must overlook the surface (the

pathize with the circumstances surrounding the creation of such a work.

Rellstab even hoped that the suffering composer would soon forget the

"strange,dark, and muddled") and em-

to the listener's experience of the work:

an understanding of Beethoven's psycho-

18. TheHarmonicon1 (1823): 112-13;

19. Ibid., cited in Kunze, Ludwig van Beethoven, 417.

cited in

Kunze, Ludwig van Beethoven, 374.

20. Ludwig Rellstab, review of Opera 127, 130, and 132, Berliner allgemeine musikalische

Bestimmungen unterliegt und unterliegen muf:


sich in die

der wird auch wiinschen, dai

(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989),

and those who lose their hearing later in life.



fade in those whose deafness followed the ac-


Zeitung 2 (1825): 165-66; cited in Kunze, Ludwig van Beethoven, 550: "Wasuns auch darin

fremd, dunkel, verworren erscheinen mag, es hat seine Klarheitund

Nothwendigkeit in der

Seele des Schaffenden, und dort miissen wir Belehrung suchen. Wer es

Seele des

Mannes zu denken, der seit vierzehn leidenvollen Jahren einsam in der Welt des

Lebens und der Freude steht, wer es vermag, sich ohne den Sinn zu denken, aus dem uns der




reinste Genufi des Geistes entspringt; wer begreift, dai selbst der gewaltigste

selbst einem Beethoven die Erinnerung des Ohrs schwacher werden, die lebendigen Farben

der Tone nach und nach erblassenmussen." Oliver Sacks, in his book Seeing Voices:A Journey

into the World of the Deaf

distinguishes those born deaf

Sacks, memories of sound do not

quisition of language. See especiallypp. 1-11. An examination of these issues in relation to

Beethoven could be revealing in terms of his actual experience of musical composition.

The Reception of Beethoven'sLate Style


experience of music altogether so as to diminish the pain of its loss.

Whether mental anguish or gradually weakening

counted for the "strangeness" of the music, Rellstab did not say, but for

him compassion was necessary for an understanding

The anonymous author of an 1829 article about the last works con- cluded that Beethoven's depression and withdrawal from the external

world caused him to forget that music was meant to be heard:


memory" ac-

of the music.

Unfortunately, Beethovenlostthemostinvaluabletreasureof the musician,


fromthe outer world, heardno more music, he only saw,andthe longer it

continued, the morethe

the morewouldthe resultbecome apparent in hisworksfromthenon

theideas appearedvery clear onpaper and pleased the eye,


places to me, howeveroftenI hearthem.21

hearing!-Becoming gloomy

and bleak, he withdrewmore and more

memory of the truecharmof music paled forhim,




wild jumble, andas suchhis lastworks appear in

As the "true charm"of music faded,

to this author, Beethoven

could no longer distinguish between what looked good

good; indeed, he

perhaps one of the most sympathetic critics of

Beethoven's last music, also

chological condition, which ultimately gave rise to the musical eccentric- ities of the third period:

suggested that deafness precipitated a new psy-


and what sounded

seemed indifferent to the perceptions of his audience.

Wilhelm von Lenz,

Thesoleinhabitantof thevast city thathe

surrounded byhigh cliffsatthefoot of whichhe foundsolacefromtheout-

side world, his

his memoriesand the fantasticalworld of his soul; the thirdmannerof

Beethoven, fruitof an immenseand

hasandwill haveforeverthe in-



unceasinglybuilt, thathisdeafness

thought musthavebecomeconfused by theconflictbetween

unprecedentedmeditation, no longer

spontaneity of the first two, but it

showinggenius at oddswith reality.22

21. "Einige Wortezu denvielen iiber Beethoven'sletzteWerke,"AmZ31



citedin Kunze,Ludwig van Beethoven, 626: "LeiderverlorBeethovendas

73, at 271-72;

unschatzbarsteKleinodfir den Musiker, dasGehor! -Triib

mehrundmehrvonderAussenweltabund zuriick, hortekeinMusik mehr, sahsienur noch,

eigentliche ReizderMusikerb-

leichte,je mehrwurdendie Folgen


und je langer das dauerte,je mehrin der


undduster werdend,zog

Erinnerung ihmder

davonin seinenvon nunanaufeinandererscheinenden

(italics in the original).

die [Gedanken] standenaufdem Papiereganz klarda und vergniigten

inder Ausfiihrung aberwirdesoft einwustes Gewirr, undalseinsokheserscheinen

sein Auge,

mirin seinenletztenWerkenviele Stellen, so oft ichsie auchhore"


Von Lenz, Beethovenetsestrois styles 1:55-56: "Solitairehabitantdelavastecite

spontaneite desdeux premieres, maiselleaet


pieddesquellesexpiraientpour conflitde ses souvenirset du

elevaitsans cesse,que sasurditeentouraitdehautesfalaisesau

lui les agitations du monde, sa pensee dut se compliquer du

monde fantastique deson ame; fruitd'uneimmensemeditationdontil

troisiememanierede Beethovenn'a plus la

a jamais l'interetde montrerle genie aux prises avecles realites."

n'y a pasd'exemple, la


56 Journalof

the American MusicologicalSociety

Like Rellstab, von Lenz implied that the listener might not in fact be able to comprehend the agony of the "fantasticalworld of [Beethoven's] soul,"

products of such anguish. The less

generous C. T. Seiffert, writing in 1843 about Beethoven's piano sonatas

and symphonies, excluded from discussion those sonatas written after

Opus 90 because "with this one Beethoven's sonatas end, so to

are more the results

later ones no

but even so must sympathize with the



longer breathe the poetic feeling-they

of experiments and meditations-written, as for example Op. 106, in the most dismal time of his life."23

raised an even more sobering possibility: that Beethoven

had lost his mental faculties altogether, judging from his obliviousness to


the effect his pieces had on the hearing world. "The current confusion

Herr B has convinced me that the good man has fallen into a disoriented

state of mind, or must have at least a constant touch of high fever," wrote

an anonymous German author.

poser's plight-the


concluded that Beethoven could compose only with his

eyes: "What appears wonderful on paper sounds very

Oulibicheff, citing the same

135 that had troubled Marx

(Ex. 1), insisted that it proved "Beethoven was not a madman, but an id-

iot."25For French critic Henri Blanchard, Beethoven,

riod, had become-like

and discouragement

stage of premature senility,

ratherthan by his actual age." And

ities in the last quartets, he noted the absence of Beethoven's characteristic

formal excellence: "His idea wanders in a waste of formless develop-

Some critics

Although he urged sympathy

for the com-

"poor man"is

"deaf, from what one understands"-he

nasty to the ear."24

during his last pe-

passage in Opus


sublime madman":"He had reached a

brought on by illness

though he still found praiseworthyqual-


23. C. T. Seiffert, "Characteristikder Beethoven'schen Sonaten und Symphonien,"AmZ

Beethoven's Sonaten gewissermaien

Op. 106, geschrieben."

45 (1843): 437: "Op. 90, E moll. Mit dieser schliessen

ab. Die spatern athmen nicht mehr die poetische Fiille, sie sind mehr Ergebnisse des For-

schens und Sinnens, in der triibsten Zeit seines Lebens, wie z. B.

24. Review of Beethoven's recent works, in the form of a letter ("Lieber Herr Wolde-

mar!"),Minerva (published as an insert with the journalAllgemeinermusikalischerAnzeiger) 1

"Der heutige Wirrwarrdes Herrn

B. hat mich von neuem

Geistesverirrunggerathen seyn,

oder wenigstens jedesmal

gung gereicht es freilichdem

blofi mit den Augen componiren kann. Auf dem Papiere scheint manches wunderschon, das dem Ohre sehr widerwartig klingt."

daf3er (dem Vernehmen nach) taub ist, und also

einen Anfall von hitzigem Fieber haben muf." "Zur Entschuldi-

(1827): 240; cited in Kunze, Ludwig van Beethoven, 610:

iiberzeugt, datfder gute Man in eine

armen Manne,

25. Oulibicheff, Beethoven, 282: "Beethoven ne serait

26. Henri Blanchard, "Silves musicales," Revue et GazetteMusicalesde Paris,


un fou, mais un idiot."


1844; quoted in Joseph de Marliave, Beethoven's Quartets, trans. H. Andress (Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 1928; reprint, New

hand, argued in 1853 that the only true third-period works were those influenced by

pains, produced by the disorder in his ear."Unlike many of the critics cited, he proposed a

direct link, unmediated by mental anguish or

works were the product of physicalpain ("The Periods of Beethoven's Compositions," Cocks's

York: Dover, 1961), 229-30.


Carl Czemy, on the other


between deafness and the music: the

The Reception of Beethoven'sLate Style


a connection between the musical

characteristicsof the third period and Beethoven's deafness and failing

the exact nature of the relationship depended on the

reach a


writer. That the critics themselves acknowledged their inability to


vre, or their

fact of his authorship, seems clear

from an anonymous review of Opus 127:

Without exception, all critics posited


regarding the position of these final works in Beethoven's oeu-

value beyond the simple

This quartet is one of the lastworksof the recently deceasedfamouscom-

noteworthyappearance. But

thiscanalsobe seenin another light. The judgements of theselastworksof

themasterare verydifferent, andoftencontradictthemselves.Some say one


nothing andthatit is as

No, it is

to be extracted, in

when he

rules; the composer-deaf in any case-must

poser van Beethoven, andforthisreasonalonea



magnificent thanthe above quartet,

offer;however, others say:

as anything musicalarthasto

completelyvague,entirelychaotic; therearealsono clear thoughts

every measuretherearesins

against the generallyaccepted

have been


brought this work to life.27

MusicalMiscellany 1 [1853]: 137). Likewise, Paul Scudo explicitlyequated physical decline to

musical decline, citing Beethoven's "exaggeratedprocedures" of

("Une Sonate de Beethoven," Revue desdeux mondes8 [1850]: 92).

the "decadent"third period

27. S., review of Opus 127,AllgemeineMusikzeitung 1 (1827/28): cols. 303-4; in Kunze,

Ludwig van Beethoven, 557: "Dieses Quatuor ist eine der letzten Arbeiten des nunmehr heimgegangenen beriihmten Tonmeisters van Beethoven, und schon aus diesem Grunde eine

bemerkenswerthe Erscheinung. Aber auch noch in andererHinsicht kann dieses

Urtheile tiber die letzten Werke dieses Meisters sind iiberhaupt sehr verschieden, ja nicht

selten sich selbst widersprechend. Die Einen sagen, man k6nne nichts Schoneres und Herr- licheres finden, alsnamentlichdieses hier genannte Quartett, es sei das H6chste wohl mit, was die Tonkunst aufzuweisen habe; die Anderen hingegen sagen: Nein, es is hier Alles undeut- lich, Alles Wirrwarr; da ist auch gar kein klarerGedanke herauszubringen, da ist ja in jedem Tacte gegen die allgemein angenommenen Regeln gesiindigt; der ohnediefl taube Tonsetzer muf ja wahnwitzig gewesen sein, als er dieses Tonstiick ins Leben rief."

quartets. An expla-

nation for this phenomenon may lie in the availability of various works. For example, the last

piano sonatas (Opera 101, 106, 109, 110, and 111) were accessibleto

The Missasolemnisand Ninth Symphony were performed fairlyoften, as the number of con-

piano transcriptions.

cert reviews cited by Kunze attests; those pieces were also availablein

(For a more detailed look at reactionsto the Ninth Symphony, see Ruth A. Solie, "Beethoven

Nineteenth-Century Criticism,"


as SecularHumanist: Ideology and the Ninth Symphony in



References to deafness are more numerous in discussions of the late

anyone with a piano.

Explorations in Music, the Arts, and Ideas: Essays in Honor of LeonardB.

Meyer, ed. Eugene

Narmour and Ruth Solie [Stuyvesant:Pendragon Press, 1988], 1-42.) Piano arrangements were for a long time the only way to hear the last quartets, however. As Ivan Mahaim has

shown, performances of the late quartets were

Beethoven:Naissanceet RenaissancedesDerniers Quatours, 2 vols. [Paris: Desclee de Brouwer,

infrequent until a