Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).
The Grosse Fuge was published in 1827 as Op. 133. Originally a single-movement composition for string quartet - the massive double fugue was universally condemned by contemporary critics. It was composed when Beethoven was almost completely deaf.
In recent years, Beethoven had become increasingly concerned with the challenge of integrating this Baroque form (Fuge), that was academic and highly formalised, with the expressive impulses of Romanticism. Beethoven wrote:
“In my student days I made dozens of [fugues]… but [imagination] also wishes to exert its privileges… and a new and really poetic element must be introduced into the traditional form,”
The resulting movement was a mammoth work, longer than all the other movements of the quartet that it was attached to. Beethoven wrote at the top of the score, “Grande fugue tantôt libre, tantôt recherchée” (a grand fugue, sometimes free, sometimes learned), an indication of his ambition to reconcile the academic and the romantic.