Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 March 2021
BEGINNINGS, MIDDLES, AND ENDS
We have several instances of Beethoven's struggles with endings. The most well-known are the endings of the String Quartet, Op. 130, and the last movement of the Ninth Symphony. Beethoven was persuaded to remove the Grosse Fuge as the finale of Op. 130, publish it separately, and write a completely new last movement. The vacillation over the last movement of the Ninth is shown in his sketches for an instrumental finale, even labeled as such in Beethoven's hand. A letter in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung of 1864 reported the following: “Sometime after the first performance of the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven, within a small circle of his most devoted friends … said that he realized he had committed a blunder with the last movement of the symphony; he wanted, therefore, to discard it and in its place write an instrumental movement without voices.” Another big fugal finale also gave Beethoven pause: he authorized the publication of his “Hammerklavier” Sonata, Op. 106, in four different ways, two of which would omit the fugue. In the end the Viennese edition came out complete, and the London edition in two parts, with the finale separately. But there are other instances. He discarded his first attempt at a last movement for the Violin Sonata, Op. 30 No. 1 (it later took its place as the last movement of the Violin Sonata, Op. 47 [the “Kreutzer”]). And he made substantial alterations to the endings of movements even as he was writing out the “final” version in fair copy. The autographs of the String Quartets, Op. 59 Nos. 1 and 2, display alterations in six of the movement endings, and Beethoven contemplated five different movement plans for the String Quartet, Op. 131. The autograph scores of the Fifth and Eighth Symphonies show multiple variants for endings.
Then there is the “absence” of an ending. The Piano Sonata, Op. 111, has only two movements, of which its second is the “Arietta” variation movement, Adagio molto semplice e cantabile. Friends and publishers were puzzled, but it is clear that Beethoven intended no additional finale.