Markand Thakar, Looking for the “Harp” Quartet, An Investigation into Musical Beauty

One thing you will not find in this rather brief (210pp.) but concentrated book is a recommendation of what recording of Beethoven’s “Harp” Quartet to buy, or a reminiscence of some outstanding performance of the work. When first perusing the book, I was naive enough to think that some bit of this kind of information might crop up in an appendix or in a footnote. But no, the only performances of the quartet mentioned in the book are nameless ones at the beginning—one great, one mediocre, and one terrible—as well as a performance by music students, which still remains in the future at the conclusion of the narrative part of the book.
The only complete analysis of the quartet as entire movements, in fact, occurs out of order: first the Adagio ma non troppo in the final section of Chapter Eight, and the rest in the appendix, which is a discussion of certain musical forms: dance form, theme and variations, sonata form, and fugue, which means that the Scherzo (third movement), finale, and first movement are discussed in that order, following other examples of their forms. There is no fugue in Op. 74—although there is one in the first movement of Op. 131, which is analyzed. Hence you should not expect to find Tovey-like analyses of the “Harp” Quartet either. You may reasonably conclude that this book is not really about the “Harp” Quartet, but about the “looking for” it—the search musicians and listeners become enmeshed in once they become conscious of a work they believe to be a great one, a classic…or perhaps, less promisingly, a teacher tells a student that it is part of the basic repertory and assigns it to study for performance.

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