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Ludwig van Beethoven, Skizzenblatt zum Menuett für Orchester WoO 10,5 und nicht ausgeführten Werken, Autograph

Beethoven-Haus Bonn, NE 96

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From the first and the really first symphony

How many symphonies did Beethoven compose? Everyone knows the answer. Yet the number nine only refers to the number of completed symphonies. Many people have heard of Beethoven's plans and drafts for a tenth symphony. But only a few know that he also had an idea for a symphony before the "First". The First Symphony in C major op. 21 was composed in 1800. No sketches have survived for it - the sketchbook in question has probably been lost (it is impossible to think that Beethoven composed this symphony without going through a draft stage). Beethoven had already worked on a symphony in C major in 1795 and 1796 - numerous drafts and jottings bear witness to this. These sketches are the most extensive working materials from his first creative period. For some unknown reason Beethoven did not, in the end, finish this early symphony. With one exception Beethoven did not use any of the material from these first attempts in his later first symphony. The composer only "recycled" the opening of the rondo theme in the last movement of op. 21 from his earlier sketches. The sketch leaf from 1795 shown here also contains drafts in C major for a work which was never performed. They probably belong to the drafts for the symphony no. "0". (J.R.)

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