This paper, taking its cue from the movement’s heading, reads the “Heiliger Dankgesang” from Beethoven’s String Quartet, op. 132, in terms of spirituality, divinity, and death, following a formal narrative understood in terms of Eastern-influenced conceptions of death and afterlife found in Beethoven’s Tagebuch. It has often been noted that the movements of op. 132 present extremely strong contrasts with one another, and this paper draws connections between the narrative shapes of the various movements and several of the quite varied spiritual perspectives explored by Beethoven. Viewed in this way, op. 132 synthesizes two of the areas in which Maynard Solomon has argued that Beethoven was open to multiple contrasting and even contradictory possibilities—the musical and the spiritual. The contrasts and conflicts among the movements and among the spiritual narratives that they suggest add new dimensions to inter-opus connections as well, giving new depth to the intertextual relationship between the String Quartet, op. 132, and the Ninth Symphony.
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