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Beethoven’s ‘Thanksgiving’ in Music

Another kind of Thanksgiving, to get us in the mood for the holiday: the beautiful middle movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132, which he indicated in the score as “Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit” or “A Convalescent’s Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Divinity”. It was one of the late quartets, written after he had finished his symphonies, and after he was totally deaf; it was a grateful response to recovering from what he must have assumed was going to be a fatal illness.

Beethoven’s ‘Thanksgiving’ in Music

The slow sections of this movement, which are like prayerful chorales (and in the Lydian mode – F to F on the white keys of a keyboard, so without the B-flat that one would normally get in an F Major scale) alternate with more lively, dance-like sections in D Major, that are described in the score as “Feeling new strength”. It’s a look back to the past, in using older forms and scales – and the gratitude that Beethoven is expressing is rolled into an awareness of his mortality – which was all the more acute after recovering from his illness.

Written by:
Jeffrey Freymann
Jeffrey Freymann
Published on 11.18.2018

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