Part I

by Charlotte Lehnhoff

Ever since the Henle edition of the five Beethoven cello sonatas came out in 1971 (Beethoven, Sonaten Klavier und Violoncello/Urtext, edited by Bernard van der Linde, Andre Navarra, and Hans-Martin Theopold, Munich, G. Henle Verlag, 1971) the cello world has speculated and been occasionally bewildered about the accuracy of the texts of the sonatas, especially the A Major sonata, Opus 69. In the Preface to this wonderful edition, the editors stated that they had relied upon as many authoritative sources as possible then available for Beethoven scholarship. We must be grateful to them for their endeavors, for what they produced is an improvement over the many editions which contained what often have seemed to be conflicting readings. Changes, some minor, some quite significant, were made in all of the sonatas based on what was found in the various sources consulted. For the A Major Sonata, the editors made some small and two major alterations, the latter of which are still being discussed. The first of these occurs in the first movement, at m. 36 and at m. 173, in the exposition and recapitulation sections, and it involves a change in the notation of accidentals in the cello part. (See example 1a and 1b.) The second change consists of a rather startling alteration in dynamics for the Scherzo, in the piano part, at m. 1, mm. 196-7 and mm. 392-3. (See example 2.)

(Click here to view Example 1a.)

Example 1a - Exposition (m. 36)

(Click here to view Example 1b.)

Example 1b - Recapitulation (m. 173)

(Click here to view Example 2.)

Example 2 - Scherzo

The source of information about these two important alterations, as well as the minor changes for the A Major sonata, duly noted in the Preface to the Henle edition, was the essay by Lewis Lockwood, published the year before the Henle edition, and which is the focus of this series of articles that will be appearing in The Cello Scroll throughout the coming year. (Lockwood, Lewis. "The Autograph of the First Movement of Beethoven's Sonata for Violoncello and Pianoforte, Opus 69," in The Music Forum, edited by William J. Mitchell and Felix Salzer, Volume II, New York and London, Columbia University Press, 1970.) Lockwood published a facsimile of the autograph of the first movement of the sonata, in Beethoven's own handwriting; he transcribed sections of the first movement into readable notation, no mean feat; he also published facsimiles and translations of other documents that help shed light on the origins and development of the sonata, and in his accompanying essay, he cast a great deal of light upon structural aspects of the sonata. Also in his essay, he brought to light errors and discrepancies in the texts of the many printed versions of the sonata, and it was in response to these latter observations that the editors of the Henle edition were prompted to amend the text of the A Major sonata.

A word of caution is needed here. Even though the autograph contains the complete first movement, all 280 bars of it, from beginning to end, it must not be viewed as the finished product of the sonata. (In point of fact, the first published printings of the sonata came out with different printed versions, leading to much confusion during the 19th century -- the collected works, called the Gesamtausgabe, and published by Breitkopf & Härtel, which I'll refer to from now on as B&H, are really a hodge-podge, and they are at odds with some of the earlier printed versions.) We must look at the autograph as a working copy of the first movement of the sonata. For one thing, it has a lot of corrections and changes superimposed on the original text, and these make it difficult to decipher, let alone read; furthermore, there are places in it left completely alone and uncorrected that are interestingly different from the final version. Thus, even after he'd completed this autograph, Beethoven changed his mind about various sections of the movement.

The sonata was first published by B&H in April, 1809. Later that year Beethoven noticed typos and publisher's errors in it (which will be discussed in more detail below). We know that this autograph is not what was sent to B&H for them to use in making their engravings for printing. For that purpose, what is called a "fair copy" was prepared. It was not written by Beethoven but by a paid copyist, and therein lies some of the sources of the problem as we shall soon see. (Usually the "fair copy" is quite clean and neat, containing few, if any, last-minute changes or emendations inserted by the composer. This is true for many composers, not just Beethoven.) Unfortunately, the "fair copy" is lost: no one has seen it for more than 100 years. Another problem in trying to ascertain the truth about the sonata by relying on the autograph is its contents, because it contains only the first movement. There seem to be no records anywhere of a substantial body of material containing the other movements analogous to this autograph. In order to understand, then, the rest of the changes made in the other movements in the Henle edition, we have to rely on the other documents Lockwood discussed in his essay.

Reading the essay, however, is not easy. Lockwood's prose is quite often dense; at times his train of thought is difficult to follow; the layout of the facsimile, explanatory text and transcriptions make cross-referencing cumbersome; and if that weren't enough, there are a number of typos which lead to confusion unless and until it is realized that what one is reading is a typo. Lockwood had the actual manuscript in front of him when he made his observations and transcriptions, and this makes a difference, because the photo-reproduction of the facsimile disguises the different layers of changes and corrections that Beethoven put into the manuscript; he used different color inks and different sorts of pens (everything is in pen and ink, no pencil with erasures, fortunately for us, or we'd never know what his first thoughts were), and the differences between these aren't always easy to see in the facsimile.

Despite all these difficulties and drawbacks, however, I found somewhat startling what the editors said in the Preface of the Henle edition about the significance of the changes they made, as well as the conclusions they drew about how to understand these changes, because what they claim and maintain is really opposite to what Lockwood said about them. Paraphrased slightly, here is what is in the Preface of the Henle edition about the first movement: "In the first movement of the A Major sonata, a natural sign is printed in the printed versions in front of the first note of the second triplet set for the cello at m. 36, but a sharp sign is printed in the same place at m. 173, whereas according to the autograph that Lockwood printed in facsimile, a sharp sign is written in at both places." About the Scherzo, the editors say this, and I quote from the English translation: "It cannot conclusively be determined if it was Beethoven's intention after beginning this movement piano to start the ff first at the 3rd crotchet (quarter note) of the 1st bar or if the whole movement should start ff. The whole question must remain open as is here in fact intended." [my emphasis]

Compare these two statements with what Lockwood said: for the accidentals he first says that the inconsistency of "bars 36 and 173 remains unsolved." (p. 39) and further on he repeats himself when he says that, because of the loss of the "fair copy" sent to B&H, "the question must remain open" (p. 46). As for the Scherzo, Lockwood observed that "so far as the evidence shows, [Beethoven's] final stated intention [my emphasis] was to have the piano's first phrase ff in all three of its statements, contrasting with p at the cello repetition nine bars later ... However improbable the ff reading may seem, it represents his apparent last intention." (p. 38)

If these two sets of statements seem to present an insoluble dilemma, rest assured getting at the truth is not a hopeless task, but it isn't an altogether easy one either. Of the two big changes, let us look first at the Scherzo precisely because of what Lockwood said about it, that we do know what Beethoven's intentions were. If you own any other edition you might find it interesting and useful to compare what is in yours with what will be discussed here. For example, in the Augener edition prepared by Donald Francis Tovey, the dynamic marking is just a p, with no ff. The Kalmus miniature score is taken directly from the Gesamtausgabe, and it shows p-sf. In the Peters edition, edited by Walter Schulz, the dynamics are sff-sff, with a footnote in the piano part (the last sentence is translated this way by Lockwood): "'In the manuscript, the reading of which was also taken over by the Gesamtausgabe, the reading is p and sf." Lockwood said of Schulz's ff that it is correct, but the sff is "undocumented," and he suggested that Schulz never knew or saw any "manuscript" because the autograph wasn't available to Schulz, and because the "fair copy" has been lost for so long.

In addition to the first printing from B&H, Artaria, in Vienna, published a first edition in 1809, and this edition has the reading of p-ff shown in Example 2. Sometime later in 1809 B&H published a second edition, and it contains the p-ff reading. There were also a series of other early printings, some of which contained the p-ff reading and some of which did not. There's an undated French printing that Lockwood thinks came out some time in the 1840's that has the p-ff reading, and the B&H edition of 1843 also has it. (There's a curious anecdote about the first B&H edition of April, 1809, and the Artaria edition -- the opus number for the sonatas in these two versions is not 69 but 59! Beethoven apparently forgot his opus numbers, and his publishers were messy enough not to have noticed it either!)

So, to unravel the tangle of what is the correct dynamic marking for the Scherzo, we have to rely on a clue provided in Schulz's footnote, namely, the letter referred to ("Brief vom 3.8.1809"), August 3, 1809, to B&H. In his voluminous correspondence, Beethoven used to bewail to his friends that his publishers, despite all his requests would not send him proofs, which meant that he was forced to write letters to his publishers berating them for the mistakes they made. Sometimes Beethoven would be so angry about these mistakes that he'd write letters to the editors of newspapers outlining and listing the mistakes. He threatened to do just that with the many mistakes B&H put into their first printing of the sonata -- after the first edition came out, Beethoven wrote three letters to B&H all within the course of just about one week, complaining about their sloppiness. In the first letter, dated July 26, 1809, he informed them that he'd learned from a friend that the A Major sonata had a lot of errors in it: "Here is a good plateful of misprints, to which, since I care not a jot about what I have already composed, my attention has been drawn by a good friend of mine. (They are in the violoncello sonata.) I am having this list copied or printed here and inserted in a newspaper, so that all those who have already bought the sonata may obtain a copy of the list -- And that reminds me of the confirmation of my experience that the most correct engravings have been made of those compositions of mine which were written out in my own handwriting [my emphasis] -- No doubt you will find several mistakes in the copy which you possess. [Beethoven is here referring to the "fair copy" which was prepared and written out by his paid copyist, so that some of the mistakes may have been sent to B&H.] For when he looks over his own work the composer really does overlook the mistakes."

(The emphasis in the last sentence is Beethoven's. The letter is no. 220, from Beethoven's Letters, translated by Emily Anderson, Volume 2, London, Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1961, pp. 234-5.) However, Beethoven didn't include the list of errors, so on August 1, 1809, he wrote a second, very short, cover letter to accompany the list (Anderson, letter #221, and list, pp. 236-9). Here's what Beethoven said about the Scherzo Allegro Molto in the misprint list: "in the very first bar the ff should be removed -- afterwards when the key signature [of A Major] is again altered to [a minor] the ff should again be removed and p should be written over the very first note: and similarly the second time -- " (Anderson, p. 237).

The third letter, dated August 3, 1809 -- this is the letter Schulz referred to in his footnote in the Peters edition -- was concerned solely with the question of the dynamic markings for the Scherzo: "Laugh at my anxiety as a composer. Just imagine, I discovered yesterday that when correcting the mistakes in the violoncello sonata I myself had made some fresh ones -- Well now, in the Scherzo Allegro Molto this ff should be left at the beginning as was indicated, and similarly in the other places [meaning mm. 196-7 and 392-3]. But in the 9th bar piano should be inserted before the first note and likewise at the 9th bar on the other occasions where the [three sharps] are converted into [three naturals]..." (Anderson, letter #223, pp. 240-1.) In other words, what is in his misprint list is not what he wanted, so the ff really should not be removed.

How are we to understand this? There are two things going on. For one thing, Lockwood suggested a possible scenario to explain how and why the p-sf reading was put into the Gesamtausgabe -- its editors were "puzzled" by the seeming strangeness of the p-ff dynamics (p. 38) so they changed it. Tovey was puzzled by the Gesamtausgabe so he changed that reading so as to eliminate the ff altogether. Tovey didn't have access to the letters in the misprint list, but Schulz did. Schulz's difficulty stemmed from his knowing only the Gesamtausgabe and from not having seen or known about the 19th century editions, listed above, that did contain the p-ff readings.

The other aspect of the problem is mentioned by Beethoven in the July 26th letter to B&H: he is not a good proof reader or editor of his own materials when they are written out by others. He trusted only his own hand. While Beethoven was exceedingly careful in the materials he had before him as he was working on them, and the material was still fresh, it bothered him to have to turn his attention from a new composition he would be working on in order to attend to something he'd sent off to be published as much as a year earlier. Beethoven knew, from sad experience, that he often got things wrong or left important things out. And that is what happened with the dynamic markings in the Scherzo. In his misprint list he told B&H to do one thing; in the letter of August 3rd he had to correct himself, chiding himself for his mistake. Because of the loss of the "fair copy" we will never know a) whether B&H printed what they were sent, or b) whether what they were sent was itself correct, but we have it in Beethoven's words just what the last thing was he wanted, the way the dynamics appeared in the misprint list. I think the editors of the Henle edition have it backwards, then, when they say that this matter must be left open. As strange as it may seem, what is in Example 2 is precisely what Beethoven wanted, and that is what we must play.

Subsequent articles will discuss the physical properties of the autograph; examine what constitutes errors in the autograph itself; look at some of the smaller-scale changes brought up in the misprint list and how/whether these changes are in other editions; and try to understand the change in accidentals at m. 36 and m. 173 of the first movement.

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(This article has been re-printed with the kind permission of Charlotte Lehnhoff and The Chicago Cello Society. It was originally published in The Cello Scroll, the newsletter of the Chicago Cello Society.)

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