Op. 111 marks the culmination of a process across the last three sonatas by which the trill acquires an increasing autonomy from its conventional ornamental function. Among the quartets, it is perhaps only the Grosse Fugue that matches the Arietta’s transformation of the trill. As the fugue subject is fragmented, the trill is cut off from its conventional resolution. Trills then begin to saturate every note in the texture such that their functional potential is entirely eclipsed by their conversion into pure sound. This enjoyment of the trill for its exclusively timbral quality, rather than its capacity to signify harmonic closure, harks back to Beethoven’s idiosyncratic overuse of superfluous ties in the syncopations of the fugal exposition, and in the ...
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