BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, September 6, 1823

Nephew Karl is in Vienna today running errands for his uncle, having either come probably late yesterday afternoon via Hetzendorf or early this morning, and he will return tomorrow. Uncle Ludwig continues his work on the third movement and Finale of the Ninth Symphony.

The Rolland sketchbook, in use about this time, is almost entirely used for sketches for the Adagio from the Ninth. This little homemade book consists of only sixteen leaves sewn together by Beethoven. Economizing, he made it up out of paper that had already been used for a Tantum ergo by Johann Fux, in the hand of a copyist. Beethoven cut the eight leaves in half, and then stitched them together, leaving a little over half of the book available for sketch work. The original is held by the Bonn Beethovenhaus, and can be seen here:

The book’s name comes from its previous owner, Romain Rolland, author of Jean-Christophe, a novel about a Beethoven-like character. In addition to the Ninth Symphony sketches, there are a few sketches in C major and minor on pages 8v-9r and 10r-v for what appears to be a Mass, possibly the one intended for the Emperor. These are labelled, “Instrumental melodies for a Syllabic Mass,” [syllabic music being one note per syllable sung, as opposed to melismatic music] “In the 3 pieces, the beginning of a tristis Recit obli,” “comfortably” and “Allo in C major.” Nothing more was ever done with these fragments.

During the very early work on the Finale of the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven had quickly decided to reprise short sections of the first three movements and then reject each in turn. The initial conception was for the bass to do so quite literally, singing after each respective reprise, “O no, not this, something else pleasing is what I demand;” “Not this either, it is no better, just somewhat more cheerful;” “Nor this, it is too tender.” Then when the “Freude” melody is first heard, the bass would say, “This is it, ha, it is now found.” Through the progress on the Finale, Beethoven dispensed with these literal statements, and instead instrumentally rejected the first three movements with the recitative, before landing on the “Freude” theme and developing it as his hymn for all mankind.