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Ludwig van Beethoven, Sonate für Klavier (e-Moll) op. 90, Autograph

Beethoven-Haus Bonn, NE 189

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On account of the mistakes in thunder and lightning

In September 1814 Beethoven was sentenced by the Lower Austrian Court to furnish the Viennese publisher Sigmund Anton Steiner with a "completely new piano sonata which has not been published anywhere" in payment of a debt. Beethoven decided on the Piano Sonata op. 90. Although he had previously given it to Archduke Rudolph (he had to borrow the manuscript back from him), it was new, unknown and had not been printed. Beethoven prepared the engraver's model himself. The autograph score looks careful and neat, which is to be expected of a fair copy and engraver's model. Yet one still could not play from it. At some points, where themes or passages are repeated, Beethoven did not bother copying them. Instead he wrote "sim[i]l[e]" (in this exact way, for bars which were to be repeated) and "come sopra" (as above) and a continuous wavy line to show that the musical text was to taken over from an earlier corresponding point. It was obviously not very easy for the engraver, who had to transfer the musical text from the manuscript to the engraver's plates, to find the right place. Anton Diabelli, who was an employee at Steiner Publishers in 1815, entered helpful additions in the autograph score as an aid to orientation. On leaf 9v and 10r (images 19 and 20) as well as 11r and 11v (images 22 and 23) he added the musical text in the lower and upper staves, which Beethoven had shortened with "come sopra".

Although Diabelli, who was a very reliable and careful proofreader, and the composer himself corrected the proofs for the original edition, there were still mistakes, especially in the abbreviated passages. This greatly annoyed Beethoven. On 27 June 1815, three weeks after the original edition had been published, he wrote an angry letter to the publisher, "If by tomorrow evening between six and seven o' clock the corrected copy of the sonata which I handed to Tobias Haslinger, who is Adjutant to the L[ieutenant] G[eneral], together with another copy in which there are no mistakes (so that it is evident that the mistakes have been corrected in the copperplates), that is to say, the versions corrected (by me) and the faultless copies are not in my hands, we have decided to adopt the following measures: For the time being the L[ieutenant] G[eneral] will be suspended, his Adjutant T[obias] H[aslinger] locked crosswise; - our Chief Provost Marshal Diabolus Diabelli will be authorized to carry out these punishments - Only the most punctual execution of the order issued above can save the offenders from the punishment already deserved and recognized as just. The G[eneralissim]O (in thunder and lightning) (from the translation by Emily Anderson, 1961). (J.R.)

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