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Violin Sonata No 10, Op. 96 | String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat major, Op. 130

Screenshot from the DVD Anne-Sophie Mutter: A Life with Beethoven
Deutsche Grammophon, 2000

Beethoven detail of 1804-05 portrait by Joseph Willibrord Mähler

Beethoven in his mid-thirties | Detail of a portrait by Joseph Willibrord Mähler

Part Five Chapter 1

My God, why did I wear white? Your father at the wheel, his new wife beside him and you on the back seat, you make your way home from the Lucerne Festival where, from the turn of the opening trill to the wit of the adagio-presto coda, your performance of Beethoven’s tenth violin sonata had been a triumph: A happiness that would soon belong to another lifetime. Between your legs the stain spreads, dissolving your dream of ambivalence. So red is the colour of reality, so red marks my limits. God, what a cataclysm! Thus you came to understand that the exterminating angel is female; yes, that even for you, the other sex is feminine.

Part Ten Chapter 15

Turning towards you I take your hand and hold it in mine on the armrest. At the sight of your feet in their domino-square socks, resting on the footrest –

Wrap a baby in plastic,
Keep him at one remove from the world.
Never look into his eyes,
Never touch him.
Give him nothing
But a wall to bang his head against.
Then see if he doesn’t drown
In the least tenderness.

– I am touched: In your living room overlooking the southern edge of Hampstead Heath, I sat opposite you as you knitted them. We were listening to the second of Beethoven’s late quartets, and I vividly remember, when the cavatina emerged from the danza tedesca, looking at you and saying to myself, ‘I have no right to this happiness’. I was not wrong.