Arthur Kaptainis: Which is the grand finale? A Beethovenian debate

The main event of the Montreal Chamber Music Festival is a traversal in six concerts by the Dover Quartet of Beethoven’s 17 works for string quartet. Or should that be 16 with a kicker?

One might suppose the matter can be easily settled, but the standard count of 17 has been challenged by a tendency to play the fearsome Grosse Fuge Op. 133 as a finale to Op. 130.

This is how Beethoven originally wrote Op. 130 and how the six-movement work was first performed on March 21, 1826. Contemporary accounts suggest that the inner movements were better received than the finale. One biographer reports the composer’s reaction to the reaction as: “Cattle! Asses!”

Whatever his species, Beethoven’s publisher also was troubled by […]

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