Questions of Dating and the History of Sources: A Response to Barry Cooper's Critique concerning the Chamber Music Version of Beethoven's Fourth Concerto

By Küthen, Hans-Werner | The Beethoven Journal, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Questions of Dating and the History of Sources: A Response to Barry Cooper's Critique concerning the Chamber Music Version of Beethoven's Fourth Concerto


Küthen, Hans-Werner, The Beethoven Journal


I WOULD LIKE TO THANK PROFESSOR COOPER FOR HIS INTEREST IN THIS MATTER. Without expressly tackling his interpretation of the source which we have both studied, i.e. Beethoven's sketched entries for the fortepiano part in source A 82 b (hereafter A), here I would like to refer to other material as well, that is, those sources for a chamber version which were previously unknown to Cooper. Naturally, Cooper is on the defensive concerning his thesis. His thesis concerns nothing more than one of the former hypotheses explored by Nottebohm, Mandyczewski, and others which I mentioned in my article. Nottebohm left open the question of a concise determination of the purpose of Beethoven's sketched entries, not because of his lack of skill in deciphering Beethoven's notations, but rather because of his greater cautiousness. This has turned out to be a wise decision, especially when we take into account the heretofore unknown facts surrounding the sources. My theory suggests that Beethoven's entries appeared in the light of an earlier use than has been suggested. We can all wonder what Nottebohm might have said about the novelty of a chamber version. What we have now learned in Cooper's response is his assessment of the new arrangement.

Cooper admits that I was able to discover an authentic chamber music version of Opus 58. That seems, however, to be our only point of agreement. The rest of his response contains an array of objections, to the most prominent of which I might respond: Cooper does not concede that Beethoven's alternative annotations in the fortepiano part might have arisen in the context of the arrangement for a string quintet ensemble made by Franz Alexander Pössinger. Moreover, Cooper does not address Beethoven's refinements at five places (his "NB!" remarks) in their true meaning as Beethoven's involvement in this arrangement for fortepiano and string quintet. Consequently, for Cooper the close collaboration between Beethoven and his arranger Pössinger is in a way irrelevant, despite the transfer of the copyist's manuscript of the second movement from the concerto version in A to Pössinger's lost particella score. More of this intimate cooperation is visible in Pössinger's entries in A, which the composer left to his arranger for the preparation of the arrangement in the early summer of 1807. While preparing the quintet reduction Pössinger used A for corrections and additions in the solo part. These are, in their entirety, included in the later first edition of the concerto version of August 1808; we may take these as a safe indication of the fact that they were entered prior to August. Concerning the intimacy of the cooperation between Beethoven and Pössinger, I should mention that Pössinger's involvement itself seems to guarantee a special quality to the arrangement, if we take into account his parallel arrangement of the Fourth Symphony for the same ensemble, or the later arrangement of Fidelio (1814) for string quartet.

Cooper concludes that I "fail to demonstrate any direct link between the arrangement and the elaboration." In this respect Cooper could have consulted my Critical Report of 1996 that accompanies the new critical edition of the concerto version. There, in the evaluation and discussion of the sources on pp. 16-17, I offer an explanation of the interaction between two revisions in A, and on pp. 22-23 I discuss some irrefutable links between the arrangement of Pössinger and Beethoven's sketched alterations on the fortepiano part at one prominent section (mm. 169-192) of the first movement. These concern Beethoven's decision to introduce the agogic component into the concerto version at some length as a final result of his involvement in the changed chamber version, introductions which are still visible in the plate corrections of the original edition. This means that the arrangement must date from earlier than December 22, 1808. Cooper does not mention this fact. But the respective marginal additions indicated with a cross in A are no problem for a specialist concerning either their operational or their chronological significance. …

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