Beethoven's Equale

The choral sublime - a history of Beethoven’s Equale

ABSTRACT. The Drei Equale for four trombones by Ludwig van Beethoven could have been passed into history as insignificant occasional pieces but instead they were chosen to be performed at Beethoven’s funeral, and were thus saved from an opus-less obscurity. This paper considers the historical association of the trombone with the voice of God and imageries of the afterlife, Beethoven’s sublime style and its relation to a choral tradition (as suggested by Nicholas Mathew), and a formal analysis of the Equale, to suggest a fresh approach to understanding and performing these pieces.

KEYWORDS. Beethoven, trombone, Equale, choral, sublime, historically informed performance