Fugue in D minor (Fragment), Hess 245
Author: Willem and Mark S. Zimmer
The only presently known page of this fugue is on the back of a sketch for the song 'Adelaide' (op.46), and therefore dates from about 1794 or 95. It can therefore also be associated with the other fugues Beethoven wrote at that time for Albrechtsberger.
The Hess 245 fugue is written in what Albrechtsberger called "free counterpoint", which allows the pupil greater freedom than "strict counterpoint". In "strict counterpoint", for example, 8th notes are only permitted in certain special cases. The greater rhythmical freedom of free counterpoint results in a wider range of expression, a sound closer to J.S. Bach, rather than Palestrina, and the opportunity for more creativity on the part of the pupil.
The mere 17 bars we present here form the last page of the fugue. It ends on a dominant 7-chord, which suggests that Beethoven wanted it to be followed by another movement. Comparison with the other fugues in free counterpoint written for Albrechtsberger leads to the estimation that some 5 or 6 pages should come before this last page. Perhaps these pages can be found in the 600 page long manuscript with fugues and counterpoint exercises, which is presently held hostage by the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, to be released only against a ransom of some 2000 US $. Any parties wishing to contribute towards this ransom are encouraged to contact the owners of this site.
As Nottebohm points out in his "Beethoven's Studien" (p.70), Beethoven made at some stage arrangements, which include Albrechtsberger's corrections, for string instruments of some of his exercises. He combined three "imitation movements" ("Nachahmungssaetze"), by way of preludes, with three fugues in free counterpoint. In this form we know them as Hess 29, 30 and 31. On the fair copy of Hess 29 Beethoven has written: "mit einem Presto endigen" ("to end with a Presto"). Was he considering a performance, or even publication, of these pieces? However that may be, no trace of the Presto has ever been found; it was probably never composed.
The fact that Hess 245 is in free counterpoint, written for string quartet, and that it is clearly to be followed by another movement, may indicate that it belongs to the same group as Hess 29, 30 and 31. To know that for sure, the missing pages have to be found.