“Beethoven Complete” – part 2: from the Old to the New Complete Edition

A few weeks ago my colleague Annette Oppermann reported on the start of Beethoven’s complete editions, or rather, on the numerous attempts to publish such – the most enterprising and successful being those of Tobias Haslinger (from 1828) and Franz Philipp Dunst (from 1829) that were begun immediately after Beethoven’s death. Following up on this, I would now like to report on ventures from the second half of the 19th century, concentrating in particular on the two most important of these editions known to the world as the “Alte Gesamtausgabe [Old Complete Edition]” (AGA, 1862–65) and “Neue Gesamtausgabe [New Complete Edition]” (NGA, since 1961). Continue reading

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Beethoven and the viola

Illustrations with kind permission by the Beethoven-Haus Bonn.

Piano concertos and sonatas, violin concerto and sonatas, cello sonatas – but where are the solo works for viola from Beethoven’s pen? Was the instrument too alien to him, wasn’t he aware of the viola’s special value and timbre? This certainly can’t be the case when we think of his unique string quartets and string trios. And the fact that Beethoven himself played the viola! It’s worth taking a closer look at the matter! Continue reading

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Beethoven in film Part 2: Beethoven docus

Many of the Beethoven feature films (1) accounted for in my previous blog post are available only on DVD, but not on YouTube for copyright reasons. This is not quite the way it is with cinematic Beethoven documentaries (2) today: All the films except two that I’ve identified and rated can be viewed in full, gratis: see the filmography’s YouTube link. Continue reading

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Beethoven’s “Diabelli” variations in a new guise

Beethoven and the variation – yes, I admit it: That’s no longer a new Henle blog topic. Already in January, my colleague Dominik Rahmer contributed a comprehensive overview of the Bonn birthday boy’s variation activity, introducing the variations to you, our reader community, and especially emphasising discoveries. I can’t come up with a discovery today, because I’m supposed to be going into the famous “Diabelli” Variations op. 120. Continue reading

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“Beethoven Complete” yesterday and today – from the beginnings of the Beethoven complete edition(s) in the 19th century

With kind permission by the Beethoven-Haus Bonn

Only what we have as whole, do we truly have – that, of course, also applies to Beethoven, so it’s hardly surprising that there are an astonishing number of hits in the Beethoven year when googling “Beethoven Complete”. Searching by key terms such as “Complete Works” or “Complete Edition” quickly teaches us, however, that today Beethoven is more likely to be heard than read or played. Coming up as first hits long before Henle’s well-known scholarly complete edition are large concerto cycles or huge CD productions covering his entire oeuvre – and with Beethoven going viral over the entire world. That’s natural today – and in a time of coronavirus it is at least an opportunity to deal with “Beethoven Complete” despite closed museums, concert halls and opera houses. But what was it like before? And since when has there been this interest in “Beethoven Complete”?

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Beethoven in film. A complete overview in three parts

I can still very clearly remember how upset and outraged I was about the Mozart film “Amadeus” that came out in 1984. This was by no means the Mozart I had imagined. His infantile behaviour, his stupid laughter, his constant hypermania: no, that had nothing to do with “my” Mozart. Today, I’m much more laid-back, yes – I’m even touched when I myself  “can be in the thick of it”, when “Salieri” hears an excerpt of Mozart’s Gran Partita for the first time and immediately recognises his own mediocrity, or when to “Salieri”, “Mozart”, drenched in sweat on his deathbed, is dictating parts of his requiem, knowing that he’s soon to die – and I am shocked to witness this event.  Almost always, when Mozart’s music is played in this “Amadeus” movie, and its tremendous emotional power is reflected in the faces of the actors, my own emotion is provoked and excited, possibly more than with mere, nonpictorial listening. Mirror imaging of our own deep-seated feelings. Continue reading

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Beethoven celebrates Carnival – we celebrate, too!

Joseph Stieler, sketch in oil for Beethoven’s portrait; with kind permission of the Beethoven-Haus Bonn

When a blog post about the ‘Bonn youth’ Beethoven falls on Shrove Monday, it can only be about one thing: Carnival! In the so-called fifth season, the Rhineland already partied hard during Ludwig’s lifetime. But did you know that he actually composed carnival music?

This time we definitely don’t want to kid you as we did in our Shrove Monday’s post in 2015 when we posted a supposedly newly-discovered Beethoven carnival song (we did in fact get real orders for its printed edition!). Continue reading

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Michael Korstick Interview: Beethoven as the fixed star of my musical universe

Michael Korstick

From time to time during the Beethoven year the team of Henle blog posters would like to interview artists who have made a special contribution to Beethoven’s work and are also closely affiliated with the Henle publishing house and its Urtext editions. We are starting with Michael Korstick who recorded Beethoven’s piano works in 11 instalments for Oehms Classic in 1997–2008, including all 32 piano sonatas, the great variation sets opp. 34, 35, 120, the late bagatelles op. 126, together with the ‘Wut über den verlorenen Groschen [Rage over the lost penny]’. A truly impressive recording compendium that set new standards of interpreting Beethoven. Continue reading

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Beethoven meets Mozart. The genesis of Beethoven’s Mozart Variations WoO 40 according to Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s memoirs (first published)

The anecdote related here is, to be sure, purely fictitious, though it may well have more or less happened this way; see also the documentation in the footnotes.[i]

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)

When the sixteen-year-old Ludwig Beethoven visited us in the middle of February 1787, Master Mozart was indulging in his fond memories of Prague. Only a short time before he had returned[ii] to us in Vienna, telling us enthusiastically about his visit to the Bohemian capital. He would have been exuberantly celebrated and carried around on their hands. Master Mozart really raved about “his Prague people” who “understood” him.[iii] Even before his trip to Prague, the countess Thun[iv] had gone on and on to him about a certain “Ludwig Beethoven from Bonn”, that he “must” hear him at the piano. He was supposed to be a “divine miracle” (well, that we already know…). This Ludwig would soon be coming here to Vienna without his parents, especially to see him, Mozart. This Ludwig is so in love with his music and is utterly longing for lessons with him. Continue reading

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«Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose» – a short foray into Beethoven’s sets of variations

Dressler-Variations WoO 63, beginning of the theme

The “variations” form type plays an important role in Beethoven’s work during his entire life. His very first work to be published, by his teacher Christian Gottlob Neefe in 1782, was his 9 piano variations on a march by Dressler WoO 63. “Beethoven begins with variations,” the music critic Paul Bekker wrote in 1911, to which we could add that he also ends with variations: The Diabelli Variations op. 120 are amongst his last piano works, crowning not only his creativity, but probably equalled only by Bach’s Goldberg Variations in the history of the piano variation. Continue reading

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