This is the beginning of a paper on two of Beethoven’s String Quartets.
Matthew Guerrieri talks about many different topics in the second chapter of his book, “The First Four Notes” which include the idea of Fate related to Beethoven, the ideas of fate in his “Tagebuch”, Beethoven’s interest in “Eastern thought” with relation Masonic ideals, as well as the relationship to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony with Hegel, Marx, Engels, and Nietzsche.
The story of “Fate knocking at the door” first came from Anton Schindler. Schindler’s biography is a primary source for stories about Beethoven even though some of them maybe over exaggerated.
Beethoven’s ideas about fate varied depending on his mood. It is said that it was also affected by his progressing deafness. It came from poetry of “Christ” as well as the idea of heroism. The idea of heroism expresses the idea that strength comes by embrassing death which there for leads to heroism and relates to Beethoven embrassing his deafness. Beethoven was really into the Bible but there are hints that the Koran and the Hindu scriptures played some role on Beethoven’s ideas about fate.
Beethoven was very interested in “Eastern thought” as he took quotes from the Hindu scriptures, “Sanskrit Vedas” and from other Eastern sources. Beethoven has close contacts with Freemasonry which supported the Eastern images and ideas. Beethoven never joined a lodge but his friends and teachers like Neefe, were Masons. The idea of the fate/door image can be related to a Masonic source. It is said that the 5th symphony may have a connection with the Masons and that it was a way for Beethoven to prepare for his initiation that never happened. The idea of fate can be related to the Eastern idea of Karma.
Beethoven’s first four notes can be interpreted differently as it can be entertainment or through the idea of “superstition”. There are so many images that can go with the first four notes as well as how it is played that affects how philosophers look at the notes. These notes are a frame work that allows for others to look at it in varying ways but Hegel is trying to connect the images with the sound of the music.
Marx came up with the idea of Sonata- Allegro form and this was formed with the idea of Beethoven’s 5th as the key reason for it being formed. As the author puts it, it “put Beethoven’s music in a privileged position vis-à-vis history.” Once the sonata form was created, the Hegelian process would no longer matter or apply to 5th Symphony but even Beethoven pushed the idea of this sonata form with his music.