We’ve talked a little about the best openings in classical music, but what about the best endings: the ones that are so satisfying, or so enigmatic, the ones where you find yourself with the broadest smile… or tears rolling down your face?
Which are your favourites?
My all time favorite ending is the last measure of the Schubert cello quintet in C major. For the entire piece, he's done his usual wander through all the related keys (and some unrelated), but instead of simply ending on a C chord to hammer home the tonal center, he inserts a D-flat appoggiatura, catching everyone by surprise and referencing the tension between light and dark woven through the rest of the piece. A bit of Schubertian profundity to close out his last published work.
Listen to as many recordings as you can of this movement, and notice how long the different ensembles lean on this note. Some of them spring off right away, while others really milk it!
I’d forgotten what a great work that quintet is! Thank you, @odalisque. Am listening now to all the different treatments of the appoggiatura, and also of the lovely crunch just before it… and smiling, too, at how easy it is, with streaming, to do these comparisons 😊
By coincidence, one of my favourite endings is of another work by Schubert, the F minor Fantasia for four hands, played here by Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu:
I’ve not looked at a score to see exactly what’s going on in those last few bars, but it’s both surprising and very, very satisfying!
A few other favourite endings:
the spectacular final moments of Firebird Suite;
the poignant sigh, and the unexpected question that marks the end of Britten’s 3rd string quartet (it was premiered two weeks after his death);
and, in a live performance, the whole of the last chorus of Bach’s St Matthew Passion always sees me reaching for the tissues… and the final cadence is simply delicious.
What about the last two notes of Bach's cantata 106? So simple. So appropriate.
And at the other extreme don't forget Dudley Moore's never-ending Beethoven parody.
Can’t let this topic go by without mentioning Beethoven’s Ninth. I can’t listen to a live performance without getting chills and tears.
(Although, @hugh, not such good fodder for the great and long-lamented Dudley Moore.)
Beethoven certainly knew how to compose exciting endings. 😀 I also particularly enjoy the final pages of his 3rd and 5th symphonies and the Egmont overture. In a similar vein the end of Sibelius's 5th symphony springs to mind.