Academic journal article The Beethoven Newsletter

Beethoven Papers Read at the 1991 AMS Convention

Academic journal article The Beethoven Newsletter

Beethoven Papers Read at the 1991 AMS Convention

Article excerpt

ONE ENTIRE SESSION WAS DEVOTED TO BEETHOVEN at the fifty-seventh annual meeting of the American Musicological Society held in Chicago, Illinois, from November 6-10, 1991. Studies by Michael Tusa (Univ. of Texas, Austin), Rita Steblin (International Franz Schubert Institute, Vienna), Ora Saloman (Baruch College), and Thomas Grey (Stanford Univ.) were presented in the November 7 session, chaired by distinguished Beethoven scholar Richard Kramer (State University of New York, Stony Brook).

Professor Tusa opened the session with his "Sketches and revisions for Florestan's aria in Beethoven's Fidelia (1805 and 1806)." In a well-documented and careful paper, Tusa addressed the problems of reconstructing Florestan's aria in the 1805 version, since no surviving source transmits that version. Given this lack of sources, he drew on the "Leonore" Sketchbook of 1804-05 to detail a shift from a one-tempo conception to a three-section form. He closed with these four hypotheses on the early history of the aria:

(1) "The version of the aria sung on November 20, 1805 by the tenor Demmer consisted of the three sections found in Mendelssohn 15: AdagioModerato-Andante un poco agitato.

(2) The precise musical text of this version cannot be reconstructed, but there are hints that the Adagio more or less followed the version in the sketches and that the Andante was closely related to the version of that movement known through 1806 sources.

(3) After the premiere Beethoven's first impulse was to abridge the aria to a single section, the Adagio, as part of an overall plan to shorten the opera and also to minimize Demmer's deficiencies. The composer seems also to have commissioned his friend Stephan von Breuning to provide a new second stanza so that the Adagio could be sung strophically. The surviving autograph of the 1806 Adagio shows that Beethoven in fact did produce a revised single-movement version of the aria, in which he significantly nan-owed the tessitura in order further to accommodate Demmer; by the time of the autograph Beethoven had probably abandoned the strophic conception.

(4) At some time in this revision of the Adagio and the 1806 revival, a new tenor, Joseph August Rockel, took over the part of Florestan. Possibly at Röckel's insistence, Beethoven agreed to reattach to the Adagio a slightly shortened version of the 1805 Andante un poco agitato. Dramatic exigencies demanded that the text of the 1805 Moderato be superimposed on the first section of the Andante, occasioning a mismatch of poetic and musical expression in the version performed in 1806."

Tusa's work demonstrated an admirable hypothetical reconstruction of the aria's history, combining sketch studies with later source studies and details of the history of the!805 and 1806 versions.

Dr. Rita Steblin next presented a fascinating iconographie study on "The newly-discovered Beethoven portrait of 1819: The 'best' portrait?" Dr. Steblin discovered the pencil drawing in a Viennese shop window in 1987, acquired it, and began her extensive research. Paper experts at the Albertina verified the date of 1819; the artist, Josef Hochenecker (1794-1876) was identified as a sculptor in an 1820 address book. According to Steblin, "certain details in Beethoven's facial appearance suggest that this portrait was drawn 'live,' at a sitting. In fact, it will be argued that this is the drawing of Beethoven's face ordered by his friend Nikolaus Zmeskall in the letter 'Ich kann weder für das Glück" which MacArdle/Misch date 'fall of 1819' and to which no portrait has been satisfactorily assigned."

Steblin argues that the significance of the portrait extends beyond its discovery, however, in that it served as the model for Joseph Kriehuber's "notorious 'black-tie' lithograph of Beethoven" (ca. 1832), which which was promoted as the best likeness of the composer in an article of 1835 in the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. A lively question and answer period followed, with most respondents supporting Steblin's arguments. …

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