Part II

by Charlotte Lehnhoff

Placing the autograph of the first movement into a larger context and understanding its contents involves not only looking at the autograph itself but examining various other materials -- letters, correspondences, writings, sketches, as we saw in Part I. Beethoven's legacy, however, poses a special set of problems. While there seems to be a wealth of materials to look at and consider, ironically there are enormous and often disturbing as well as disruptive lacunae, gaps, because important pieces of information have disappeared -- lost, due to greed, to neglect, to the ravages of war or of fires, from theft, and even to lack of coordinated organization among Beethoven's friends right after he died.

A good example of this problem can be seen in the history of the autograph, because, while its "essential outline" runs in a fairly straight line -- that is, who owned it, and when -- earlier parts of the history are "not fully documented" (Lewis Lockwood, "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, p. 3). After Beethoven's death, an auction of his holdings was held in Vienna. At the auction, Beethoven's Vienna publisher, Domenico Artaria (pronounced Ar-ta-REEH-ya) purchased a single lot, which included the autograph. The possibility must remain open that he may have purchased the complete sonata, not just the first movement, because the auction catalogue, under the heading of "autograph" lists two sonatas "for pianoforte and violoncello," nos. 91 and 138, whereas under the heading of "incomplete works" there is no citation for the combination of pianoforte and violoncello (Thayer's Life of Beethoven, revised and edited by Elliot Forbes, Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1970/1973, pages 1065 and 1066). It is not known what Artaria did with the manuscript after he purchased it. The next mention of it occurs sixty-five years later, in 1892, when another Viennese, a Dr. Heinrich Steger, bought the autograph, by this time clearly containing only the first movement, from the publishing firm. With an eye toward reselling it (and making a profit, one wonders?) Steger offered it to Brahms that very year, but Brahms decided against buying it. Still later that year, Steger exhibited the single-movement autograph "at an international exposition of music and theater that was held in Vienna" (Lockwood, page 3). Twelve to fifteen years later, between 1904 and 1907, Steger's holdings were dispersed, and the Wittgenstein family bought the autograph. Later still it came into the possession of Felix Salzer, Lockwood's teacher and one of the founding editors of The Music Forum. After Salzer assumed the joint editorship, a decision was made that the journal would be a suitable venue for publishing a study of the autograph along with a facsimile. (I do not know where the original is today; Lockwood published his study in 1970, and is no longer on the faculty of Columbia University.)

We can thus see a difference between the "fair copy" (the cleanly hand-written copy, prepared by a paid copyist, of the complete sonata that was sent to the publisher) and the other movements of the sonata. The fair copy not only is known to have existed -- Gustav Nottebohm, the noted Beethoven scholar, "described the manuscript and listed it as being in the possession of Consul Otto Clauss of Leipzig" (Lockwood, page 25; in a footnote he gives the title of Nottebohm's book, Thematisches Verzeichnis der im Druck erschienen Werke von Ludwig van Beethoven, Leipzig, Breitkopf & Härtel, 1868, page 63, and informs us that Consul Clauss "once owned the autograph of Bach's C-Major Organ Prelude and Fugue, BWV 545, and a Bach canon, BWV 1073") -- it had to have existed. However, the later catalogers of Beethoven's music, Kinsky and Halm, (in Das Werk Beethovens, Munich, Henle, 1955, page 164, cited in a footnote by Lockwood on page 25) assert that the sole reference to the fair copy is Nottebohm's mention of it. That means it is one of the myriad manuscripts lost in the shuffle of time. As for the other movements of the sonata at the same Stage of composition as the first movement, there just isn't any written evidence anywhere other than the listing of "sonata" in the auction catalogue. No one has ever described seeing the other movements. This situation gives rise to puzzling questions about the other movements, plus the relationship of the autograph to the printed version. Could this autograph containing the first movement really be all that Beethoven put down on paper? Is it possible that the other movements were committed to paper and these have been lost? How did -- could -- he make such a large leap, from a single movement, albeit quite close to the printed version, to the complete(d) sonata? Did the other movements spring, fully formed, from Beethoven's creative genius? Fortunately, it is possible to answer this last question confidently because Lockwood located all the extant sketches for the other movements (which will be discussed in detail in later issues of The Cello Scroll).

It should be pointed out here that, while the autograph can be called a "manuscript" this latter term actually has several meanings, whereas "autograph" has a more restricted meaning. "Manuscript," can refer generically to any piece of music, regardless of its state of completion, that's not printed but hand-written -- by the composer, by a paid copyist, or in earlier times by a scribe. A limited usage of the term "manuscript," which doesn't apply to the autograph, refers to a complete and finished work, and quite often when people speak about music manuscripts, this is what they are thinking about; for example, they might mean a complete work by Bach or Mozart, in their own handwriting. These two composers left no working copies, material full of corrections, changes, alteration. The question is often raised about how they worked: in his letters, Mozart discussed pieces he was working on, or how its performance had been received, but offered few clues as to how he went about organizing his materials.

Beethoven, by way of comparison, was a pack-rat and saved virtually every scrap of paper he ever wrote upon. He would put onto paper every single idea he had about a piece he was working on, and these workings-out are what are called "sketches." The sketches contain his first, second, even third thoughts about a piece he was working on, which makes it possible to trace and locate the origins of a work (as we shall see in a future issue of The Cello Scroll) as well as to locate major chunks of material that are to be inserted into a nearly completed work. Beethoven did not write down musical thoughts-in-general, but always had a specific work in mind when he'd write something down; the sketches are in the form of a single -- or occasionally, double-staff (treble and bass clef) -- jottings of musical concepts, ideas, skeleton formulas, phrase fragments, and were written into little "books" that he put together with whatever music manuscript paper was immediately available. (Remember, there were no spiral-bound music notebooks available in those days.) He would then stitch together the various sheets to make his notebook -- the paper size would often vary, because it wasn't standard 8-1/2" by 11" as it is now. Paper came in large sheets that had to be cut to workable sizes. The sheets might be 12" x 16", or 25" x 16", or larger yet. The sizes of notebooks Beethoven put together ranged from something small enough to fit into a pocket, to things that were 6" x 8" and 10" x 12". But that shouldn't be taken to imply that the notebooks were homogeneous. Very often he'd group together papers not only of different sizes, but of varying weights, color, and with different amounts of staves per page.

The manuscript that Lockwood examined falls in between the more limited definition of a manuscript, as we think of it in terms of Bach or Mozart, and a sketch. Because it contains the full movement, Lockwood felt that Beethoven was "ready to commit the work to paper in its entirety in a fully consecutive score and in all details, while doubtless also realizing as he was doing so that he would still have many vital changes to make." (Lockwood, page 25.) But the printed version and some of the contents of the autograph do not fully agree, so it can't be called a true "manuscript"; it also can't be called a "sketch" because it contains the whole movement, from m. 1 to m. 280, with nothing left out. Lockwood also evaluates Beethoven's readiness to "commit the work to paper" on the type of paper he used: the way it was put together didn't follow his usual custom of gathering together whatever was handy. All of the sheets used to make the autograph are uniform in all aspects, of size, weight, color and number of staves per page. And, with no small touch of irony, the very way these sheets of paper are bound together to create a cohesive "book" adds to the puzzle about the absence of the other movements at this stage of development.

Beethoven had some very large sheets of paper about 26" x 11". He placed one sheet on top of a second sheet, and folded the two sheets width-wise, resulting in eight pages, each page measuring 13" x 11" oblong. Lockwood called this first set of two large sheets, folded, a "gathering," and said that Beethoven then took two more large sheets and did the same thing with them, producing a second "gathering" of eight pages. These two "gatherings" Beethoven then stitched together, resulting in a 16-page notebook.

However, the autograph has 18 pages, so there is a ninth, extra sheet, which is not stitched to the two gatherings, but is glued onto the margin of page 16, and the page has been cut, severed from the second half of another large sheet. Just who, and when, and where, was responsible for cutting away this single sheet is something we'll never know. Lockwood suggested that it might have been possible that "the added [sheet, for pages 17 and 18] ... was originally the first member of another [eight page] gathering, and that the putative [pages 19 and 20] could have begun the Scherzo" (Lockwood, page 22). There are certainly other interpretations possible, but space doesn't permit them at this time. What we have to consider first is what we find within the autograph.

There are 16 staves per page which Beethoven carefully blocked out into four systems of three staves each, leaving "a blank staff below each system... The blank staff not only help[ed] to clarify the ... visual field ... by separating the systems, but provide[d] useful and at times essential space for corrections made en route" (Lockwood, page 23). This manner of organization can be seen in other Beethoven manuscripts for other chamber music works: he blocked out the staves by a curved line, as shown in Example 1, where each single line represents a full staff.

(Click here to view Example 1.)

Example 1 - Arrangement of systems on each page of autograph
(r.h. stands for piano right hand; l.h. stands for piano left hand)

The writing in the autograph appears, at first glance, to be a messy jumble, seemingly filled up with countless corrections and scratchings-out. One might well feel it is virtually a hopeless task to comprehend there could really be any music in there at all, because in many instances all that the eye beholds seems to be a lot of lines. But, take heart, it is not a complete impossibility, for a thorough acquaintance with what is the final version, careful scrutiny, patience, and recognition of Beethoven's style of writing, are what one needs to wade through the layers of alterations and corrections. Even then it is possible to come up with differing readings and interpretations of the same material (as we will see in Parts Three and Four). One of the first clues as to what came first, what came second and what came third lies in Beethoven's different manners of handwriting. The very first thing he did after he blocked out all the systems -- or, he may have blocked out the systems as he went along, that I could not tell nor does Lockwood indicate -- was to write in, in brown ink and what looks to me like a narrow pen nib, and in a graceful and careful hand, the full movement, from m. 1 to m. 280 (there are important reasons for that assertion, which have to do with differences in interpretation of changes -- this will be discussed in detail in the next issue of The Cello Scroll). The curved lines blocking out each system are written in the same brown ink (Lockwood, pages 42 and 92) used for the first rough draft. This first version, which is surprisingly close to what we know of the first movement today, Lockwood calls "Stage 1" (used without quotation marks from now on). When Beethoven wrote down Stage 1, he allowed himself ample space by spreading out the length of each bar. That is, he put the notes for Stage 1 in the center of the bar to have room at either end. If the note values were small, such as quarter-notes, eighth-notes or 16th notes, they would be grouped close to each other, whereas with two half-notes, they would be spread apart. However, the first of the two half-notes would not be near the left-hand bar-line. Beethoven probably knew he might have to go back and make changes and corrections.

Some alterations can be found within the measure set right next to Stage 1 (which is crossed out), but if the revision required more space than was available within the confines of the bar, Beethoven would use the empty or blank staff above or below the system of the three staves. Lockwood called these first corrections Stage 2, and they are written with a darker, black, ink, and although Lockwood doesn't specify it, it looks to me as though they are written with a wider pen nib than used for Stage 1. To remind himself (and also to inform his copyist where to look for corrections) Beethoven would write "Vi-de" (Latin for "Look!" or "see here!") with "Vi-" placed next to the material scratched out, and the "-de" written next to the correction. (In one instance the corrections became so complex that Beethoven, in desperation, turned to a single piece of scrap paper and wrote out in full what was needed. Lockwood provided a facsimile of that single isolated sheet, and he was the first person to comprehend the meaning of the single page.)

There are a few instances of Stage 3 (corrections or alterations of Stage 2) in the autograph, but most of them took place later, in the fair copy. Those that are in the autograph are found in the empty staff. One form of Stage 3 is rather interesting: it represents a change of mind on Beethoven's part, whereby he'd decide, after all, that he really wanted what he had put down at Stage 1 and did not want his correction. So, rather than cross out Stage 2 and re-write Stage 1, he wrote in the word "bleibt," which means "stay," "retain," or "leave as is."

Since Stage 1 is close to what we know the first movement to be today, you might wonder just what Beethoven did when he began revising and altering what he'd written down. By and large, the Stage 2 corrections can be summarized as finding solutions for "the problem of range, relative sonority and [the] matching of importance of the cello and the piano" (Lockwood, page 34). The changes at Stage 3 seem to have been done to accommodate the specific technical requirements of the two instruments.

In Part III I will discuss the problem of balance as exemplified in how the E Minor section in the development, m. 115 to 124, got to be the way it is now, and will examine the different types of errors that Lockwood discussed in his essay.

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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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