October 13, 2005

Gratuitous Musickal Posting (TM)


This is interesting - A long-lost working manuscript of Beethoven's has been rediscovered in Pennsylvania. The piece, a "Grosse Fuge", written late in Beethoven's life, apparently is a piano - four hands transcription of a finale for a string quartet. What is most interesting about the manuscript is the information it gives about Beethoven's compositional style:

Written in brown and black ink, sometimes over pencil and with later annotations in red crayon, the manuscript shows the extent of Beethoven's working and reworking with some corrections so deep that the paper is rubbed right through.

"The passion and struggle of Beethoven's working can be seen graphically," Sotheby's said, highlighting how the notes were written larger as the music intensified.

"What this document gives us is rare insight into the imponderable process of decision making by which this most complex of quartet movements is made over into a work for piano four-hands," said Richard Kramer, a musicologist at the University of New York.

Beethoven is famous in musical circles for having sweated like a bastard over his scores, seriously struggling to sort out what was in his head on paper. This example seems to bear evidence to that.

Then, of course, there was the constant rat problem.

Also interesting to me for tangental reasons is the history of how this particular manuscript came to be where it was:

The manuscript was last seen at an 1890 auction in Berlin. The buyer was believed to have been William Howard Doane, a Cincinnati, Ohio, industrialist who loved composing hymns.

In 1952, Doane's daughter made a gift to the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia to establish a chapel.

The gift included music manuscripts including Mozart's Fantasia in C minor and Sonata in C minor, a major find 15 years later which together with other manuscripts fetched 1.7 million dollars.

This caught my attention because, while I sight-read Mozart's C minor Fantasia on occasion, the C minor Sonata (K. 457) was one of my performance pieces back in high school. It's a beautiful piece and, at least as far as I know, doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. I was pretty technically proficient back in the day, but don't think I ever really "got" the piece. I "get" it now when I play it, although I am way out of practice. (Funnily enough, I still automatically use the old fingering for some of the harder passages even though it's been nearly 25 years since I seriously practiced them.)

UPDATE: Speaking of Mozart, it's an Anne-Sophie Mutter smackdown! Yips! to Jessica Duchen.

Posted by Robert at October 13, 2005 05:10 PM | TrackBack