Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

To the Editor

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

To the Editor

Article excerpt

Klaus Martin Kopitz's article (Beethoven Journal, summer 2007, pp. 25-30) on Beethoven's so-called "Sonata" in C Major, WoO 51, contains some most interesting information about both the work and the instrument for which it was written. I had seriously considered including the work in my new edition of the complete pianoforte sonatas, but decided against it, on the grounds that it did not seem to be a proper sonata and was not published as such by Beethoven. It is thus gratifying to see confirmation that the work is neither a sonata nor composed for fortepiano, but consists of two separate pieces composed for orphica (a portable keyboard instrument).

A major problem with the work is finding a likely context for its composition and despatch from Vienna to its dedicatee, Eleonore von Breuning, in Bonn. One also needs to suggest how the instrument itself reached Bonn, since orphicas were being made only in Vienna and only from 1795. The suggestions that either Beethoven recommended the orphica to Eleonore and perhaps arranged its despatch along with the music, or that she made an unrecorded visit to Vienna in 1798 and acquired it then, are unconvincing and lack any supporti ng evidence. However, Kopitz's reference to her brother Lorenz being in Vienna from 1794 to 1797 is significant, for it suggests what seems a far more probable course of events. It seems likely that Lorenz himself purchased the orphica in 1797 as an interesting and appropriate gift for Eleonore, and brought it back to Bonn with him when he returned in October that year. An instrument without any music for it, however, is of limited use, and Lorenz probably therefore asked Beethoven to write something for it. The two men were close friends, as is proved by Beethoven's farewell message written in Lorenz's album just before the latter returned to Bonn: "Dear, good Breuning, Never shall I forget the time which I spent with you in Bonn as well as here. Hold fast your friendship for me, you will always find me the same. Your true friend L. v. Beethoven. Vienna 1797, the 1st of October" (see Elliot Forbes, ed., Thayer's Life of Beethoven, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964, p. 192).

It seems highly plausible, therefore, that Beethoven would have reinforced this friendship, and his long-standing friendship with Eleonore, by composing the two pieces for orphica shortly before Lorenz's departure, thus around the beginning of October 1797. …

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