Ludwig Van Beethoven

By Brown, Clive | Notes, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Ludwig Van Beethoven


Brown, Clive, Notes


Ludwig van Beethoven. Werke fur Chor und Orchester. Herausgegeben von Armin Raab. (Werke, ser. 10, vol. 2.) (Veroffentlichungen des Beethoven-Hauses in Bonn.) Munich: G. Henle Verlag, 1998. [Frontispiece (facsim. reprod, of leaf from MS of op. 80); Vorwort (Ernst Herttrich), p. vii-viii; Zum vorliegenden Band, p. ix-xiv; score, p. 1-179; Anhang, p. 181-88; Krit. Bericht, p. 189-254. Cloth: HN 4372, 128 [euro]; paper: HN 4371, 120 [euro].] Contains: Fantasie, op. 80; Meeres Stille und gluckliche Fahrt, op. 112; Elegischer Gesang, op. 118; Ihr weisen Grunder glucklicher Staaten, WoO 95; Opferlied, op. 121b (2 versions); Bundeslied, op. 122 (2 versions).

Ludwig van Beethoven. Klavierkonzerte II. Herausgegeben von Hans-Werner Kuthen. (Werke, ser. 3, vol. 3.) (Veroffentlichungen des Beethoven-Hauses in Bonn.) Munich: G. Henle Verlag, 1996. [Vorwort (Ernst Herttrich), Zum vorliegenden Band, p. ix-xv; facsims., 3 p.; score, 189 p.; Krit. Bericht (bound separately), 83 p. Cloth: HN 4092, 130 [euro]; paper: HN 4091, 122 [euro].] Contains: Piano Concerto no. 4, op. 58; Piano Concerto no. 5, op. 73.

The new Beethoven complete edition (Beethoven Werke or NGA) was inaugurated in 1961 and has progressed slowly over the past forty years. There are still major gaps: prominent among them are the last seven symphonies, the late string quartets, the late piano sonatas, and Fidelio. But the deliberate pace of the work on the Gesamtausgabe is largely justified by its thoroughness. The standard of scholarship and the painstakingly exhaustive presentation of everything relating to the known sources have been impressive. Inevitably a number of works have subsequently been published elsewhere, edited by other scholars, with the benefit of more recent findings and from alternative standpoints. The achievement of the Beethoven Werke remains, however, very considerable; its handsomely presented editions undoubtedly offer a highly important contribution to Beethoven scholarship.

The works for chorus and orchestra edited by Armin Raab were all composed during Beethoven's maturity, between 1808 and 1824 (although the Opferlied was first drafted in the 1790s), yet they are among his less familiar works. Unfamiliarity, however, is no criterion of quality; the Choral Fantasia, op. 80, and the setting of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Meeresstille und gluckliche Fahrt are works of real interest, and the shorter pieces provide a valuable context for Beethoven's larger-scale choral works. Raab has demonstrated the same judicious scholarship and care in this edition as he did in his edition of the first two symphonies (see my review in Notes 54, no. 2 [December 1997]: 560-62). His description and assessment of the source material are exhaustive. Not all the conclusions he draws from his understanding of the sources are, perhaps, indisputable. His assumptions about the extent and nature of Beethoven's participation in correcting the first German edition of the Choral Fantasia, for instance, are necessarily speculative, and a number of textual decisions, such as the choice of the two-bar version at m. 439 in the 1811 Breitkopf & Hartel edition as the definitive text, rather than the one-bar version in Clementi's 1810 London edition, is dependent upon circumstantial evidence. The important question of solo and tutti markings in the orchestral parts, on the other hand, is dealt with in greater depth and detail than in previous editions, including my own (Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Hartel, 1993). In the current state of knowledge, and within the aims and constraints of the Beethoven Werke, it is hard to conceive of a better critical edition of these works.

Hans-Werner Kuthen's edition of the Fourth and Fifth piano concertos is equally thorough in its descriptions and evaluation of the sources, demonstrating the same commitment to thoroughness that characterizes the Werke in general. In some respects, however, it is more contentious. …

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