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Ludwig van Beethoven, Musik zu einem Ritterballett WoO 1, Klavierauszug, Autograph, Fotographie

Beethoven-Haus Bonn, BH 74

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Ballet music for knights and damsels

Beethoven composed his music for a Ritterballett (Knight's Ballet) during his last years in Bonn 1790/91. Count Ferdinand von Waldstein commissioned the ballet for the Carnival season (it was performed on the Sunday in the Carnival season in the Redoutensaal in Bonn). Waldstein was reported as having composed the work himself, although this was set right in the "Biographischen Notizen" by Franz Wegeler, Beethoven's friend: "This composition was long thought to have been the work of Count Waldstein, as Beethoven did not name himself as the composer, and even more so as the former organized the ballet together with the dance master Habich from Aachen." Wegeler also invented the title "Ritterballett", which is not to be found on any of the surviving manuscripts. Up until 1960 the Beethoven-Haus owned the autograph score of the piano reduction. It was, however, completely destroyed by an incendiary device in the museum, and only photographs now remain. As with many of Beethoven's manuscripts prior to 1800, the handwriting bears some characteristic features but is not the mature script full of character, immediately associated with the composer. (J.R.)

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