Beethoven’s 1826 String Quartet No. 14 was among his favorites,
representing “a new manner of part-writing” that integrated virtually every element set forth at the outset, using a technique of “progressive modulation” within its seven movements, which move from C# Minor to C# Major. The finale quotes the opening fugue theme of mvmt #1 in its second theme, a kind of cyclic approach Beethoven used in his Fifth Symphony. B utilizes motivic material from his own Missa Solemnis, so the textures cast a religious aura about the whole. The opening fugue has been called “the most melancholy sentiment expressed in music.” The 4th mvmt is central to the work, set in A Major with a group of seven variations. The following Presto is in E Major, a scherzo in duple time, with the instruments playing in their highest register, pianissimo sul ponticello, (pianissimo on the bridge), a sound inconceivable to a deaf person except in his musical imagination. The G# Minor Adagio slowly proceeds to the Finale: Allegro, a sonata-form of violent rhythm and soaring melody, in the home key but moving to a major mode as a kind of spiritual victory. Bartok scanned this work religiously as nighttime reading.