by Charlotte Lehnhoff
For a variety of reasons, sonority being one of them, works for a stringed instrument and the new piano were being written mostly for violin and piano in the middle of the 18th century. Compositions for the combination of cello and keyboard became increasingly infrequent once the new pianoforte came into ascendancy over the harpsichord. Presumably, the violin was thought to be loud enough to balance the sonority of the new keyboard instrument. Beethoven's variations sets and his two sonatas of Opus 5 broke new ground, then, because they represented a foray into a new and untried combination of sound and of sonorities. The A Major sonata changed the format used in the earlier works breaking more ground: the role of the piano in Opus 69 was changed from what it was in the variation sets and the Opus 5 sonatas. In the earlier pieces the piano had a proportionally larger role than in the A Major sonata. What Beethoven achieved musically and structurally in Opus 69 is acknowledged as a masterpiece of his entire oeuvre, no just of his cello output, because he realized an interweaving of textures which "dominate[s]... a work in which the problem of establishing [a] balanc[ing] of function between [the] two instruments is faced for the first time by a major composer in a major work... [T]he solutions found [in the sonata] for the problems of range, relative sonority, and matching of importance of the two instruments... emerge as... achievements[s] equal to... the originality and quality of... [the] musical ideas." (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, page 34.) 1 The extent to which Beethoven worked and reworked the E minor passage in the development section -- mm. 115-126 -- affords a glimpse at just how Beethoven achieved the "balance of function" between the cello and the piano.
Although the autograph is filled with scratchings-out, we can see the visual aids Beethoven devised to remind himself of the order of changes he imposed on material, and calling his copyist's attention to them too. By relying on these visual aids it becomes possible to trace the evolution of the E minor section. One clue, not visible in the facsimile but clearly observable in the manuscript, is the color of ink. Beethoven used various colors of inks and different colored pencils not only in his autograph but in many other manuscripts. In this autograph, he used brown and black inks (and, although Lockwood never specified it, I think Beethoven used two different pen nibs -- a narrow one for the brown ink and a wider nib for the black ink). Another clue derives from the rate of speed with which Beethoven wrote: when he was copying things over or trying to prepare a good clean copy his handwriting would be somewhat precise and he'd use narrow strokes. The note heads are usually clearly on lines or in spaces. When he was in a rush, due to a outpouring of ideas, as in his sketchbooks, or when making corrections, he wrote with broad strokes so that the note heads weren't always accurately placed. A third factor involves placement on the page, that is, where, in relation to other things can certain materials be found. As I discussed in Part Two about the sketchbooks, Beethoven basically wrote things down in consecutive order, which means that something at the bottom of a page was written down after something above it. In the case of the autograph, Beethoven blocked out the pages, leaving a blank staff between each system of three staves (see my Example 1 in Part Two, which demonstrates how the page was blocked out). Something found in the blank staff was thus put there later, after the system was used, and means it is a correction.
Lockwood concluded that Beethoven wrought his masterpiece in the autograph with two major drafts -- a rough draft followed chronologically by a major reworking of many passages from the first draft. The first draft -- Lockwood called it Stage 1 -- consisted of a version of the entire movement, from m. 1 to m. 280, the last bar. All of the music for Stage 1 was written in brown ink, with a careful and neat handwriting, and with what looks to me like a narrow pen nib. Most of it is centered in the middle of the bar on the appropriate staff assigned to each voice within the system that Beethoven blocked out. In the first draft, Beethoven focused on getting the harmonic scheme and basic pitches for the themes just right, plus developing what he felt would be correct rhythmic patterns and formats to express and articulate the themes. Writing down the first draft itself was not a straightforward procedure: there are many revisions permeating Stage 1, where, in the interests of getting the desired pitches, groups of 2, 3, 4 notes, sometimes full measures are reworked. Triplets can be seen altered to a duple grouping, such as 8th notes or 16th notes, as well as the opposite -- duple groupings changed to triplets. 2 1 In the 2nd draft, which Lockwood called Stage 2, Beethoven imposed "complex revisions" (Lockwood, page 34) on many passages. He used dark, black ink throughout Stage 2; because he was correcting previously written materials, he scratched things out and wrote in the revisions with broad sweeping strokes, and used what looked to me like a broad(er) pen nib. The music for Stage 2 can be found all over the place. Some is crammed into the left or right side of a bar; some is placed onto the blank staff or below the blocked-out system; some of the corrections are down at the bottom of the page (and, in one case, placed into a separate sketchbook. Lockwood was the first person to correctly identify the contents of the single page in the sketchbook which had puzzled Beethoven scholars for years.). The focus during the massive rewrite of Stage 2 was on the problems of balancing the two instruments and exploring matters of register and range. Once Beethoven was through with Stage 2, the contents of the autograph were, on the whole, close to the final -- that is, printed -- version. 3
Beethoven reworked the development section (mm. 94-151) more than the exposition and recapitulation sections. His aim in the development section was to use rhythmic groupings as the primary means of exploring the themes presented earlier, in the exposition section. To that end, phrases were reworked so they would be articulated by a particular rhythmic unit; each statement of a theme or portion of a theme would be cast in one type of rhythmic notation, whether quarter-notes, half-notes, or a smaller unit. In addition, Beethoven organized the different rhythmic figurations to make a series "in which the... predominant rhythmic units permits a steady path of elaboration within the" development section (Lockwood, page 79), leading up to the climax of the development section with the 16th notes in the cello's low register in the E minor section. However, that is not how the E minor section started out. At Stage 1, Beethoven assigned various forms of the 16th notes -- which the cello now has -- to the piano r.h. (right hand). The cello was to play a skeleton form of what is now in the r.h. Examples 1 and 2 show these lines taken, in part, from Lockwood's Example 6a (pages 69-72). 4
Lockwood derived the contents of his Example 6a from what is within the staff assigned to the r.h. But the matter of these 16th notes isn't a cut-and-dried matter. Beethoven needed many, many changes and alterations during Stage 1, using what looks to me like a narrow pen nib. Stage 2 consisted of a major recasting of parts: the r.h. and cello lines were switched. Beethoven took what is in Example 2, assigned it to the r.h., and reset mm. 117-122 in octaves. (Example 3) He left the rhythmic pattern of mm. 123-126 intact, the same as in Example 2. The diminution to 16th notes, plus changing the rhythmic format of most of mm. 123-126 to what is in the printed version are examples of changes that took place later on, probably in the fair copy. On the other hand, when he then reassigned what is shown in Example 1 here, and gave it to the cello, Beethoven immediately altered the configuration of the 16th notes -- with two exceptions -- so that the revision in the autograph is what it is in the printed version. The two exceptions are: 1) there are no slurs, and 2) the notes of mm. 118 and 122, are different. While it might look as if Beethoven may have intended the 16th notes to be played with separate bows, we mustn't take the absence of slurs at face value. Some other slurs, elsewhere in the autograph, are not to be found in the printed version; there are also slurs in the autograph that are in the printed version. If Beethoven added slurs, he did so later on, in the fair copy. Example 4 shows what was in mm. 118 and 122; the pitches of these two bars were probably changed in the fair copy.
As for the l.h., even at Stage 1, the notes, rhythmic organization and format were identical to the printed version, with one exception: the octave placement. From the fourth beat of m. 115 to the first beat of m. 123 everything was up one octave. (Example 5). The l.h. in the entire E minor passage was not altered at Stage 1, except for m. 122, which was subjected to several revisions, in all three lines, r.h., l.h., and cello. M. 122 seems to have been a thorn in Beethoven's side, because he scratched out that one bar more times than any other (space doesn't permit a reconstruction of the various Stages of compositional creativity and development that went on in that one bar). The octave placement wasn't altered during Stage 2, so the change in octave placement occurred most likely in the fair copy.
My Example 2 differs from Lockwood's Example 6a in one significant way. In the printed version, when the E minor passage begins on the downbeat of m. 115, the cello has 16th note passagework; the l.h. has accompanimental passagework; and the r.h. has a quarter-note chord, followed by rests in mm. 115-116. My Example 2 starts with m. 117 and doesn't indicate a chord or any rests. This is no accident or oversight on my part. As I read the facsimile of the autograph, Beethoven put nothing into the cello staff at mm. 115-116 at Stage 1. No rests, no notes. What is in those two bars are the 16th notes identical to the printed version, and they date from the Stage 2 revisions. These 16th notes are written in the same sort of hand-writing, with bold strokes, using the heavy, dark black ink, and presumably, the same broad(er) pen nib that Beethoven used for all his corrections at Stage 2. Lockwood, however, didn't read it that way. His transcription of Stage 1 of the E minor section reflects what I think is a rather startling and unusual reading of the manuscript. He asserted that Beethoven experimented at Stage 1 by writing those two bars of 16th notes but then decided to "abandon" this tactic, opting for what is shown in my Example 2, beginning with m. 117 (Lockwood, page 72).
When I first read Lockwood's essay and examined his transcriptions, I had no reason not to accept his interpretations. After all, he is a noted Beethoven scholar, and has access to the manuscript whereas I was looking at a facsimile. Yet as I gained familiarity with the facsimile, I started noticing things that Lockwood made no mention of: emendations; alterations; a variety of handwriting styles; differences in pen nibs. Of equal weight in any examination of a Beethoven manuscript are what is seen, and how it is evaluated, because what is there cannot and must not be taken at face value. After all, one reason for examining Beethoven's writings is to learn as much as we can about his compositional processes, and, it is hoped, thereby gain insight into the works we all know so well.
It is admittedly, a visual shock to see those two bars of the 16th notes we know so well written into the cello staff. Upon reflection, I could see two conditions in the autograph that may have prompted Lockwood to attribute the 16th notes to Stage 1. One condition is what is not there -- the absence of rests in the cello staff at mm. 115-116. Because Beethoven was usually careful about putting rests in when he wanted them, Lockwood may have viewed the absence of rests to mean that Beethoven entertained a fleeting thought about 16th notes for the cello, and so, put them in. But then he stopped the cello 16th notes and wrote what is shown in Example 2 for the remainder of the cello line, because of his commitment to 16th notes for the r.h. However, overlooked in this argument is the matter of Beethoven's occasionally inaccurate notation -- just as the rhythmic content of some measures may not add up because he inadvertantly left something out, he may have just forgotten to insert the rests.
The other condition has to do with what is there: Lockwood noticed, in the middle of m. 115, on the staff assigned to the cello, beneath several layers of crossings-out, four clarifying letter names: g e g e. These letter names refer to 16th notes in the r.h. (They aren't easy to see in the facsimile, unlike other sets of clarifying letter names. Without Lockwood's observation about them I doubt if I would have ever found them, let alone noticed them.) They are written in a neat hand and with what looks like the narrow pen nib. I take the writing style to mean that Beethoven wrote them during Stage 1. 5
Lockwood offered a scenario, based on these four clarifying letter names: Beethoven crossed out the 16th notes for the r.h, stuck in the 16th notes for the cello; then continued on with the r.h. 16th notes shown in Example 1, and with the cello line shown in my Example 2. Lockwood said that the cello and r.h. would "exchange" 16th notes at that spot (Lockwood, page 72). This scenario creates a problem in chronology. Although there are a variety of situations Beethoven used clarifying letter names, the underlying reason is always the same -- the letter names refer to Beethoven's last intention. For Beethoven to have: 1) crossed out the r.h. 16th notes, 2) written in the cello 16th notes, and then 3) written in the clarifying letter names to indicate he really did want 16th notes for the r.h., without crossing out the cello's 16th notes just doesn't make any sense. Musically, such a scenario also doesn't make sense. Beethoven's use of counterpoint and imitation throughout his oeuvre is limited to themes and thematic materials, so that a two-bar "exchange" of ornamental passagework would have the overall effect of transforming passagework into emblematic material.
The sequence of events, as I read them, on the page in the autograph in which the controversial measures, 115 and 116, are found (the page contains mm. 107-121) goes something like this: the l.h. is written straight down the page and was left untouched at both Stages; the r.h. was written in, but it was considerably reworked both during Stage 1 and Stage 2, and it was during the Stage 1 reworking that he wrote in the clarifying letter names at m. 115. Both the l.h. and r.h. were written into each bar, from m. 107 to m. 121. The cello part was written in from m. 107 to m. 112, and from m. 117 to m. 121, at Stage 1. Beethoven left mm. 113-116 blank during Stage 1. Once he got Stage 2 underway, he wrote material into m. 113 for the cello line. When he got to m. 115, because he had put the clarifying letter names in the middle of the cello staff, he scratched them out and squeezed the 16th notes for m. 116 into the right and left sides of the bar. The 16th notes for m. 116 are centered in the bar, because nothing had been put there during Stage 1. From m. 117 on, because he'd put his Stage 1 version there, he crossed out what he had written and wrote the 16th notes for the cello into the blank staff directly above the cello staff. For the r.h. at Stage 2, he: 1) crossed out the 16th notes, 2) superimposed what is in my Example 2 directly onto the staff assigned to the r.h., 3) wrote in the chord that is now in m. 115 (which Lockwood attributed to both Stages, showing the chord in his transcriptions of both Stages, Example 6a, page 69, and Example 6b, page 73), and 4) added the necessary rests found in the printed version. I think he started with corrections for the cello at Stage 2, because he used up the blank staff with the new materials for the cello. He had no more room left on the page, and that is why, I think, the Stage 2 rewrite for the l.h. is superimposed right on top of the r.h. staff.
Even though the material for Stage 2 contains the melodic thematic material found in the printed version, the level and degree of compositional completeness is not yet what we know. That Beethoven wasn't satisfied with results of Stage 2, feeling it necessary to make the changes in the fair copy, reflects the care he took with the matters of range, register and balance. At Stage 1, the cello line, my Example 2, could be called a nice little "tune," but it has no sense of motion or of drama, because it is located slightly below the area of the cello's "singing" range. The piano can obscure the cello because the r.h. figuration shown in my Example 1 is located in a louder and more aurally pronounced area of the piano range, and the l.h., as written, up one octave, is too close to the cello line. The cello cannot stand out, despite its tunefulness. The effect Beethoven created by the changes at Stage 2 alters the function of the cello line: it now can provide "bass and mid-register harmony" (Lockwood, page 72), with a rhythmic thrust that propels the section. The piano part, in plain octaves (my Example 3) doesn't, however, have a complimentary sense of forward motion. It is somewhat static. Because the l.h., after Stage 2, was still up one octave, the sense of a lower register for the cello is lost.
The cyclic character of the sonata is what informed the changes made in the fair copy. The sonata began, startlingly and innovatively, in the cello's low register, so the alterations imposed by Beethoven, presumably in the fair copy, refer (back) to the opening, especially in the r.h. At Stage 2 the r.h. was given material in the rhythmic shape of the theme; being cast in octaves, however, it lacked the rhythmic drive appropriate to the climax of the development section. So, although the r.h. doubles the cello rhythmically, its melodic content stands in contrast to the cello's passagework as a modified counterpoint, thus creating a frame for the cello's "harmony." This framing of the cello line was further augmented by Beethoven's dropping the l.h. down an octave, because the cello's harmony was thus placed into what became a middle voice, rather than the lowest voice (which is where the harmonic line is usually located). This is an irony, of sorts: the lowest register (of the cello), at the climax of the development section, is transformed, to become a middle register, but only by comparison to what surrounds it. After all, when the cello began the sonata, nothing surrounded it, and in that way, Beethoven also referred (back) to the beginning: from being a single line of rich sonority, the cello's activity is transformed to one of passagework, surrounded on all sides. When we stop to think about such attention to detail, we are thus given another example of how much respect Beethoven had for the cello.
In Part IV, I will examine some of the printer's errors Lockwood discussed in his essay.
1. We should thus understand that the title Beethoven gave to the work on the first page of the autograph, "Sonata fur piano im violoncello," shouldn't be interpreted as an indication for continued aural primacy of the piano, as it had in the earlier works, but as an indication that the convention for giving titles or names to works hadn't yet changed to reflect the new structures being developed.
2. A correctional device Beethoven used in many other manuscripts can be found at Stage 1 -- clarifying letter names. They are used for several types of problems. Beethoven might have crossed something out, wrote in new notes, then changed his mind, deciding he wanted what he first wrote. In another instance, he would rework a group of notes, superimposing new notes directly on top of older ones. Also, there are cases where he'd add more notes to the original group and thus change the rhythmic format. Examples are shown here:
3. Some of what got put down at Stage 2 is identical to what's in print. Those passages that differ from the printed version were, most likely, revised one more time in the fair copy, now lost, that was sent to the publishers. Whatever was written at Stage 1 that is identical to the printed version (whether an original jotting or the result of a Stage 1 revision) was not revised in Stage 2. This means Beethoven was satisfied with what he wrote and didn't have second or third thoughts about it. Some passages from Stage 1 bear varying degrees of resemblance to the printed version, but were not revised at Stage 2. These were also reworked in the now-lost fair copy. Some passages from both Stages that differ from the printed version perhaps were intended to differ: Beethoven referred to some of them in his misprint list he sent to Breitkopf & Härtel. I will examine some of them in a later issue.
4. The clefs and key signatures in all of the examples are placed in brackets because Beethoven wrote them into the autograph just once -- on the first system on the first page. The direction for stems is what Beethoven wrote. There are places in the examples where the rhythmic content may not seem to add up. That's because what should be there to complete the bar was left out by Beethoven. In a few places, due to the extent of scratchings-out, the notes are difficult to read, and that is so indicated. Lastly, it should be kept in mind that the tenor clef wasn't being used for the cello at the time the sonata was written. For the cello's middle register, music was written in the treble clef, and performers had to rely on their own good sense and judgment to determine whether to play at written pitch or to transpose down an octave.
5. Similar reliance on letter names on the page that m. 115 is on occurs at mm. 117 & 119 -- which Lockwood mentions (page 72) -- and at m. 120 -- which Lockwood doesn't mention. Beethoven agonized over the contour and shape of the sixteenth-note passage work for the r.h. throughout the E minor section. It isn't easy to ascertain from the facsimile what specifically prompted him to need those clarifying letters at m. 115, but I would think the overall reason would be similar to what went on at the other three bars where he had to use clarifying letter names. Unfortunately, space doesn't permit a transcription of the many Stage 1 revisions of the sixteenth notes I perceived in the E minor section.
(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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