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see an excerpted movement from a symphony or concerto performed without its larger context.
Purely instrumental concerts are, by contrast, a common occurrence. We enjoy a higher standard
of performance than was heard in Beethoven’s day, but this is at least in part due to the
inculcation of a “museum culture” in the concert hall, in which an established body of wellknown works is the most commonly performed.
8. What are the salient features of Beethoven’s late works? How are these reflected in the
Missa solemnis, the Ninth Symphony, and the late string quartets?
Beethoven’s late works exhibit a marked degree of contrapuntal activity, a thorny and obtuse
formal structure, an uninhibited approach to scope and length, and novel orchestration. The
Missa Solemnis is a fine example of a late Beethoven work’s often staggering scale: Originally
composed for the celebration of Archduke Randolph’s installation as archbishop of Olomouc in
1820, Beethoven’s endless enlargements and expansions meant that the work was not finished
until 1823; and when complete, its impractical length made it unusable in any church service.
The Ninth Symphony, although also of immense length (typically running over an hour), is most
representative of Beethoven’s late style in its formal convolutions and innovative scoring. Its last
movement, in particular, is striking in these regards, seemingly through-composed and drawing
upon a large chorus and soloists in addition to a sizable orchestra. And finally, in the late
quartets, Beethoven provides some of his most difficult contrapuntal writing. In the original
finale to Op. 130 (which eventually became the discrete Op. 133), Beethoven composed a fugue
of such length and difficulty that its publisher, Mathias Artaria, insisted upon revision.
Beethoven, usually obstinate on such points but perhaps sensing the truth in Artaria’s
complaints, agreed.
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