A fresh look at Bach’s piano partitas

Johann Sebastian bach (1685–1750)

Many readers (and pianists!) will already have noticed that we are gradually revising our Urtext editions of the Johann Sebastian Bach piano works. Valid here, too, as with all the editorial department’s more recent revisions, is that the original Urtext available up to now is by no means either wrong or bad. The music text is revised only if research on the respective composer has brought to light new knowledge (for example, if new sources have emerged) or if the edition’s commentary needs updating to the latest scholarly state. A few years ago my colleague Annette Oppermann posted on the blog on the subject of “Revision”, to which I would implicitly like to refer. Continue reading

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Camille Saint-Saëns – a portrait for the 100th anniversary of his death

Whereas in 2020 the music world’s focus was on Beethoven’s 250th birthday, we can salute another anniversary celebrant at the start of this new year: Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921), although as with that of his precursor, his actual anniversary date falls only in December. ‘But just a moment now,’ you, dear blog reader, will say: ‘Beethoven and Saint-Saëns – they’re not to be compared with each other!’ No, of course not, in terms of the substance of their works and its importance for posterity, Beethoven is, so to speak, in a different league than the Frenchman. It’s certainly undeniable, though, that Saint-Saëns is still one of the most underrated of composers. So, high time to turn the spotlight on him, illuminating a bit more closely his personality as well as his work. Continue reading

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Christmas Blog

Christmas is just around the corner, though nothing this year is otherwise at all as usual. We’re missing Christmas markets, happy get-togethers and, of course, especially singing and making music. COVID-19 has thwarted all our plans for this.

Beyond any doubt – the Beethoven Year was badly hit by the pandemic, and many much-anticipated concerts could not take place.  We hope, nevertheless, that you did not miss out on Beethoven this year, that perhaps our Beethoven blog was able to provide some new and interesting insights. Continue reading

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Beethoven in the “home office” – Composing in the “truly admirable confusion”

Beethoven Year 2020 is coming to an end, and there is no doubt about it: We had certainly imagined it as otherwise…. The COVID-19 pandemic has nixed most of the worldwide celebrations, concerts, congresses and other events devoted to Beethoven. The motto “Seid umschlungen, Millionen” [Be embraced, millions] is disallowed owing to social-distancing, and kissing the entire world is not to be shared at the moment, either. Continue reading

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Beethoven love letters? A contribution to perhaps his oeuvre’s smallest work group

In Beethoven’s just as extensive as impressive chamber music oeuvre, four pieces have for decades been vainly awaiting company in the Henle catalogue under the heading Mandolin and Piano. They occupy a special position in several respects, based, first of all, on their slightly exotic scoring, then, furthermore, in conjunction with the Prague Countess Josephine von Clary-Aldringen, one of the not so few women in Beethoven’s life with whom he was possibly associated, and not merely artistically. At the same time, these pieces, comprising just 16 score pages altogether, also combine a surprising number of interesting questions about matters of their history and editing that make taking a closer look at this fringe repertoire definitely worthwhile.

 

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Abandoned, alas! – Beethoven’s unfinished works

In the run-up to the Beethoven anniversary year, I kept getting enquiries from musicians looking for unknown Beethoven compositions, that is, rejected or fragmentary works to record or programme in concerts. Understandably so, for in 2020 they would want to explore the appeal of the “unknown Beethoven” in addition to the well-known core repertoire. The new Beethoven works’ catalogue has been an indispensable aid in answering such questions – which were often also about scoring and authenticity. Whereas the first volume of the catalogue is devoted to works with opus numbers, the second contains information on all compositions not assigned an opus number either during Beethoven’s lifetime or posthumously. This second volume is divided into works without opus numbers (WoO), unfinished works (Unv) and an appendix (Anh) with spurious or dubious works. Separate sections are furthermore devoted to Beethoven’s numerous plans for operas and oratorios. Continue reading

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Genuine Beethoven – or not quite? Questions of authenticity with Beethoven

The Beethoven Year is slowly coming to a close, almost everything has already been discussed on our editors’ blog, from Beethoven in films to his discovery of the trombone for the symphony. What hasn’t the man created, renewed, inspired…. High time for the question: Is everything attributed to Beethoven really genuinely Beethoven? Or more professionally formulated: Where are there doubts about the authenticity of works handed down under his name and how do we deal with these today? Continue reading

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Beethoven’s change of dedication – a small search for motives

George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1778–1860)

Last week I had the great pleasure of making the (virtual) acquaintance of Chi-chi Nwanoku, double bassist, teacher, founder of the Chineke Foundation and the Chineke! Junior Orchestra, advocate of multiculturalism. We talked about George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1778–1860) and the so-called “Kreutzer” sonata op. 47, originally dedicated to the violinist Bridgetower who came from a mixed-race family. Then instead, the dedication went to the violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766–1831), active in Paris. The special quality of this masterpiece probably called for a nickname, and so it became, without further ado, the “Kreutzer” sonata. Almost a century later, Tolstoy was ultimately to make this title permanent with his novella by the same name. In conversation with Chi-chi we philosophised about what would have happened in the music world if the dedication had after all gone to Bridgetower … Continue reading

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Beethoven – creator of concert overtures?

Illustration with kind permission by the Beethoven-Haus Bonn.

Beethoven as the great innovator of forms and genres generated by his predecessors – that has by now become indisputable common knowledge. And our Beethoven blog posts keep showing the numerous innovations, even in lesser-known detail, with major future potential. This most recently came to light in the post on the trombone, since Beethoven is regarded as the “founder of symphonic trombone scoring”.  Today’s topic goes another step further: Beethoven is mentioned not only as an innovator, but as actually the creator of a new genre type. The question mark in the title already indicates that the matter is not so simple as it initially seems. Continue reading

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Beethoven’s easy piano sonatas. BEETHOVEN’S EASY PIANO SONATAS???

The title for today’s blog post was so easy to write down from our large Beethoven blog-plan list, though whilst my fingers were still typing, my brain was switching on (perhaps a bit too tardily) and objecting: Beethoven’s easy piano sonatas? There aren’t any!  So, this could now be a very short blog post, but as you’ve already suspected – we never make it easy for ourselves…. Continue reading

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