BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, August 15, 1820 (approximately)

Ignaz von Seyfried recalled that Beethoven’s morning consisted of ‘mechanical work, actual note-writing’, which would include the writing out of autographs, and the latter part of the day was ‘dedicated to thought and to the arrangement of his ideas.’ Much of this thinking would occur while Beethoven was out walking. Thus, at about this time, Beethoven spends his mornings working on the autograph of the Credo of the Missa Solemnis, and his late mornings and afternoons working out a continuity draft of the third movement of the piano sonata #30, op.109. As is his custom, he does not work in the evening because it causes too much eyestrain.

In the course of working on these projects, he writes a little canonic style piece to be performed “in perpetuum,” “Thut auf” (Open up), WoO 223, Biamonti 752, in desk sketchbook Artaria 195, at page 75. William Kinderman suggests that this undated composition comes from about mid-August, 1820. “Thut auf” has to date never been recorded but it can be heard on The Unheard Beethoven. Our mp3 of this piece has recently been upgraded with actual voice samples from Vienna Instruments, so please check it out!

It is not clear what the sole lyrics written in by Beethoven, the recurring phrase “Thut auf,” refer to. They may possibly be a quotation from the poem “Frühlingsgruß” by Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827), although that poem is not known to have been published before October, 1820. So this vocal piece may actually date from several months later, if it is indeed tied to Müller’s verse. That poem includes the lines, “Thut auf, thut auf die Fensterlein, Ihr Mägdlein, laß den Frühling ein!” (Open up, open up the window, you girls, let the spring in!), a sentiment that would have appealed to Beethoven’s love for fresh air and nature.

These lines, with some repetition, scan quite well with Beethoven’s music, so they are at least a plausible candidate, if one redates this and the subsequent piano pieces found in Artaria 195 pp. 76-80 (to be discussed tomorrow) to October or thereabouts. Our score of “Thut auf” with the hypothetical Müller lyrics attached is also available for free download at The Unheard Beethoven on the Thut auf page. Schubert later arranged many of Müller’s poems as lieder, including the famous song cycles Die schöne Müllerin, D.795 (1823), and Winterreise, D.911 (1828).