Thursday 25 October 2012

Two Beethoven Premieres

Beethoven in 1815 portrait
Joseph Willibrord Mähler
Not only have we had the premiere of  a Beethoven piano sonata, but now a second piece will receive what is believed to be its premiere today. Students from Manchester University will be today performing a hymn written by Beethoven in 1820. It was discovered by Professor Barry Cooper, a musicologist from Manchester University; Cooper is also the author of the volume on Beethoven in the Master Musician's series and is the general editor and co-author of the Beethoven Companion.

Cooper was working in Berlin on the sketches for Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and found the hymn amongst the sketches, apparently unnoticed. It is presumed that Beethoven wrote the hymn for Archduke Rudolf of Austria, for whom Missa Solemnis was written. The hymn is an organ harmonisation of the Latin Pange Lingua with the first line unaccompanied, which is probably why no-one ever noticed it before. It will be performed today at 2.30pm at the University of Manchester's Martin Harris Centre and will be published in the journal of the Royal Museum Association.

Further information from the Manchester University website.

Beethoven's early piano sonata, Sonata Fantasia in D,  was premiered earlier this week by young pianist Martin Oeiat at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw after being reconstructed by Dutch Beethoven musicologist Cees Nieuwenhuizen. Nieuwenhuizen's reconstruction is based on the existing 1100 bars of music from the 'Kafka' Sketchbook, published in 1970.

Neither of these pieces is quite earth shattering, but it is fascinating that a composer as well known and as well studied as Beethoven can still have new pieces come to light. You wonder what else is hidden, unnoticed or uncatalogued, in the world's libraries.

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