Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

The Newly Discovered Authorized 1807 Arrangement of Beethoven's Fourth Fortepiano Concerto for Fortepiano and String Quintet: An Adventurous Variant in the Style of the Late Cadenzas

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

The Newly Discovered Authorized 1807 Arrangement of Beethoven's Fourth Fortepiano Concerto for Fortepiano and String Quintet: An Adventurous Variant in the Style of the Late Cadenzas

Article excerpt


This report concerns my discovery of a hitherto unknown chamber music version of one of Beethoven's most famous fortepiano concertos.1 I happened upon the unexpected existence of such a version in 1988, while studying the original of the primary source for this work: a copyist's score in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna (A 82 b). This score was scrutinized by Beethoven and it is inescapably the only reliable source for the concerto version. Moreover, it also contains the only evidence for Beethoven's involvement in the chamber music version.

Based on my work preparing the critical edition of the concerto which appeared in 1996, my reconstruction of the full score of the chamber music version in 1995, and by repeated performances of that version in the Netherlands in 1995 and 1997, I would like to give you insight into the conditions and circumstances surrounding its creation.2 Further details are given in the critical report to my edition, which I will refer to here on occasion.


The chamber music version of the Fourth Concerto was presumably reserved for an inner circle of music professionals and dilettanti who were assembled around Prince Franz Joseph Lobkowitz. In all probability, the Prince called for the arrangement immediately after the first performance of the concerto version. The premiere of the concerto took place in March 1807 at the Prince's Viennese palace with Beethoven as soloist. The transcription subsequently fell into oblivion because of the technical demands in the fortepiano part; no one except Beethoven was able to perform either the concerto or chamber music part for the fortepiano at that time and this remained true for the rest of his lifetime. Is the arrangement worthy of being saved from oblivion? Is the name Beethoven alone sufficient enough cause and reason for its revival? Are even purely practical benefits a justification for such a revitalization, since now pianists could perform the work much more easily and widely with a quintet ensemble rather than a full orchestra?

Let me try to give some affirmative answers to these questions here, answers which attest to the value and, dare I say, indisputable worth of my rediscovery. This rediscovery was totally unexpected and no less surprising to me, since, although the chamber music version did survive, nothing was known earlier of its existence. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together allows me to present what I call a verified hypothesis that addresses this mystery.

A Textual Riddle: Some Unexplained Beethoven Annotations

Prior to the formulation of my hypothesis, there existed an old riddle concerning a compositional document of Beethoven that had attracted considerable scholarly attention and notice, though without an appropriate theory or even a substantial conjecture to explain the idea behind it. This source is the surviving primary source for the Fourth Concerto, A 82 b, mentioned above. The manuscript contains 137 folios with 274 written pages. In the following explanation, I will refer to it as "A." This source contains the starting point of my work: several entries in Beethoven's hand with divergent readings in the fortepiano part, whose deciphering requires a specialist's acumen. These markings raise the question of what purpose Beethoven had in notating these alternative readings at some obviously later time, readings which affect the solo part in 131 measures in the outer movements.

The meaning of these sketchy, more or less stenographic entries was first questioned by Gustav Nottebohm, the most renowned authority for sketch research in the second half of the nineteenth century in Vienna and Germany. His observations and conclusions were first published in the Musikalisches Wochenblatt (Musical Weekly) in 1865, and then later posthumously re-edited without any change of interpretation by Eusebius Mandyczewski in 1887 in Zweite Beetboveniana. There the essay appears as Chapter X, "Aenderungen zum Clavierconcert in G dur" ("Alterations in the Fortepiano Concerto in G Major"). …

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