Beethoven Sketch Books by By J. S. Shedlock, B.A. On Musical Time (1892 – 1895)

VI) – MUSICAL TIME November 1, 1892


By J. S. Shedlock, B.A.

(Continued from p. 392.)


Of the two Sonatas for pianoforte and violoncello (Op. 5), No. 1 in F is only represented by the opening bars of the principal theme of the Allegro:—

with the second bar in the form in which it appears at the commencement of the development section; also—

and other rough memoranda which indicate that Beethoven was working at the first movement. Of the Sonata in G minor (No. 2) there is more to be said. There is a long sketch of a piece, apparently for pianoforte and some stringed instrument, in which occurs the following—

The piece was never finished, and from these and other passages we may perhaps consider the G minor Sonata indirectly evolved from it. The opening phrase in the major key of this sketch presents, indeed, a foreshadowing of the Trip of the third movement of Beethoven’s Symphony in A, for it commences—

and a little farther on we have

which certainly recalls the prominent horn passage in the same movement.

On another sheet there are actual sketches for the first movement of the G minor Sonata, and from their close resemblance to the printed version the work must have been already far advanced. For a well-known passage in the Coda Beethoven, however, writes—

followed by

not one of which represents the master’s latest word; this was how he tried, tried, and tried again. In chapter 46 of his “ Zweite Beethoveniana ” Nottebohm describes two sketch books of the years 1798 and 1799, both of which are of importance in connec­tion with the history of the origin of the Quartets (Op. 18). In the second of these books (formerly in in the possession of Aloys Fuchs, afterwards in that of F. A. Grasnick) there are sketches of the first, second, and last movements of the Quartet in A (Op. 18v No. 5). Nottebohm also informs us that some sheets of that sketch book are missing. The half sheet marked 152 in our Notirungsbuch may very possibly be one of those missing sheets: On it we find variation 3 of the Andante indicated thus—

and variation 5 thus—

Then there is a long sketch of the Finale almost down to the double bar, with the second subject in E presented in a somewhat different version from the printed one—

By the way, the resemblance of this theme to the one in A flat in the Rondo of the Sonata pathetiquc is striking. Beethoven was engaged in writing both works at about the same period. Of another work, the Septet which also then engaged his attention, we seem to catch a glimpse in the following—


Those three up-beat quavers are in the Sonata Quartet, and Septet themes—

In other cases it will also be found interesting to compare works composed at the same time, and to note certain outward resemblances of figure and theme; but to thi» attention has already been called. See, for instance, the Sonata (Op. 53) and the Quartet in B minor (Op. 59, No. 2). On sheet 81 there is a long sketch of the Andante of the Pianoforte Quintet in E flat. (Op. 16), which was played by. Beethoven at Vienna on April 2, 1798. The theme is given, but in less ornate fashion than the printed version—

The form of the oboe solo passage seems to have been, for a time, uncertain. We have –

and at the tpo of the page, probably an afterthought –

The bars leading to the second antry of the theme on the pianoforte are written somewhat à la Listz, thus –

and so, with certain differences, the sketch (which occupies a whole page) goes clown to the very last bar of the movement. In the other side of the page is a fairly long sketch of a movement in E with the superscription Sinfonie. In another part of  the Notirungsbuch, and on similar paper to the above, is the second subject of the Rondo of this Quintet—

The Notirungsbuch contains the Minuetto and Trio of the Sextet [Op. 71), written out in score; on another sheet there are a few bars relating to the Finale of this work. Mention has been made in these articles of fugue themes and of fugal work, relating evidently to the days when Beethoven was being initiated into the mysteries of counterpoint by his teacher, Albrechtsberger, but to our previous remarks and illustrations one or two additions of interest maybe made. On the first page of a half sheet (marked 45) the first eight bars of Handel’s great Fugue in G minor—

are written down. Why Beethoven wrote thus much and no more it is, of course, impossible to say. The eighth bar, with a plain bar-stroke, is immediately followed by a scale passage in 6-8 time. This is not the only bit of Handel to be found In the sketch books. In one there is the commencement of “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” written down in a sort of score-sketch (for flute, clarinet, and bassoon). Among a lot of short sketches we come across the following light canonic imitation—

and on another sheet the two following canons in the unison—

On page 158 there is an interesting  fugue à quatre of thirty-eight bars on tlie following theme—

From the Notirungsbuch, as of old from the enchanted gardens of Armida, it is indeed difficult to escape, though our subject-matter is by no means exhausted. On many a page are unfinished sketches which tempt one to pause and speculate as to what they were or what they might have become; there are mysterious notes, reminding one of the eccentricity and genius displayed by Turner ih some of his drawings, and’tempting one to unravel their secrets; and there are mystic signs, like the hand­writing on the wall, but, alas! without a Daniel to decipher them. For the present, however, we must leave’ this magic and fascinating volume. It is to be hoped that the patience of our readers has not been too severely taxed; for it is one thing to gazeon the master’s sketches, another thing to describe them. The style of writing, the size or shape of the notes, indicates now care, now impatient haste ; the scratchings out and alterations give, as it were, a reflection of the composer’s processes of thought; the colour of the notes (in pencil, black or red ink) suggests varying degrees of meaning; and finally the juxtaposition of sketches differing in key and character, and the confusion which reigns supreme on many a page, present almost a photograph of the vivid workings of the master’s brain. Without a sight of all these things even the most interesting of the sketches quoted lose much of their life and importance; they bear a relation to the autograph sketches somewhat similar, perhaps, to that which the handmarks themselves of Beethoven bore to the thoughts by which he was possessed when he penned them. In our concluding article next month we shall speak about the birth of a Symphony—-viz., the “ Pastoral.”

(To be concluded.)

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