Lost Cadenza to Leopold Cantata WoO 88 (1791?), Biamonti 16 (mp3)

Lost Cadenza to Leopold Cantata WoO 88 (1791?), Biamonti 16 (mp3)
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Performer: Mark S. Zimmer
Length: 2:29
Cello part to the Lost Cadenza for Leopold Cantata WoO 88 (1791?) Biamonti 16
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Author: Willem
Length: 1:13
Cello and Oboe parts to the Lost Cadenza for Leopold Cantata WoO 88 (1791?) Biamonti 16
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Author: Willem, Mark S. Zimmer
Length: 1:13
Lost Cadenza to Leopold Cantata WoO 88 (1791?), Biamonti 16
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Author: Mark S. Zimmer
Length: 2:28
Lost Cadenza to Cantata WoO 88, Biamonti 16 (1791-2?).

Picture by courtesy of Donna Dralle. More of her work can be found at http://www.graphixnow.com
Beethoven wrote two related cantatas, WoO 87 and 88, very quickly in the spring-autumn of 1790. The occasion of the first was the death of Emperor Joseph II, and the second was the accession of Leopold II later that year. Thayer refers to these works as unquestionably the "most interesting of Beethoven's compositions in the Bonn period."

The Unheard Beethoven has discovered a heretofore unknown cadenza which by Beethoven belongs to the Leopold Cantata, WoO 88, in the soprano aria. The cadenza features the solo instruments of flute and cello as well as the soprano, with accompaniment by oboe and other instruments.

The identification of this cadenza was somewhat of a musical detective story. The recognition of this cadenza began with a cryptic reference to a "Cello part to an unknown work," catalogued by Giovanni Biamonti in his Catalogo Tematico of 1968 as Biamonti 16. Biamonti referenced a 1937 article by Max Unger, which briefly described this cello part as being in Beethoven's hand, and forming a part of the Wittgenstein family collection. That manuscript is now found in the Bonn Beethoven-Archiv. The manuscript is a single leaf of 12-staff paper, and bears a fleur-de- lis watermark.

The cello part is written firmly and clearly in Beethoven's very neatest hand, with the word "Violoncello" conspicuously written at the top. The total length of the part is 44 measures, all in the key of G. The cello part begins on a held D, and concludes with a held trill on an A, resolving to a quarter note G. Clearly, because of the length and form, this was not an independent composition, but was probably intended to be inserted into some composition as a concerted cadenza. We contacted numerous cellists, both professional and amateur, in hopes that they might be able to identify this piece or some motif within it, but no one was able to give any suggestions as to what it might resemble. Our extreme gratitude goes to Prof. Nicholas Temperley, of the University of Illinois, for his insight that this fragment appeared to be part of a concerted cadenza.

The 1970 transcription and facsimile of the Kafka Miscellany, Joseph Kerman published a first oboe part for a "Composition for Orchestra in G (by Beethoven?) which contained 43 measures. The coincidence of the key and approximate length was irresistible, and upon examination the two parts matched up quite nicely (even up to the eighth note rest pickup that begins the cadenza), if one disregards the fermatas at the beginning of the cello score. The extra measures in the cello part seems to be a miscounting of rests; More importantly, the facsimile showed that the oboe part was written in the same extremely neat hand, on the same kind of paper with 12 staves and a fleur-de-lis watermark. With little doubt, these two parts belonged together for a single piece. But what?

The key lies in a brief motif in the tenth measure of the cello part, consisting of an 8th note D followed by 16th notes descending in scale from the E just above. Since we were likely looking at something from the Bonn period or possibly the early Vienna period, the likeliest source was the Kafka Miscellany itself. There, amidst sketches described as a 'ritornello' for the soprano Aria to WoO 88, was that very same motif, with the same notes, in the same key. So there was a clear link between the Aria, which uses the same melody as appears in this sketch and the mysterious oboe and cello parts. Perhaps the cadenza belongs to the Aria? That would make a certain amount of sense, because the Aria features a solo cello and flute, in addition to the soprano soloist.

When the sketch for the "ritornello" is examined, however, one sees that not only is this the same motif, but the first half of the sketch itself fits with the cello and oboe parts precisely! While the sketch unfortunately degenerates into a number of variants and fragments soon after the 25th measure (which may well have led to the discrepancy in the length of these pieces), it is possible to reconstruct a nearly complete line for the final version of the cadenza, orchestrated for the three soloists, plus an oboe and one bassoon. The same page contains several other brief fragments which are also transcribed by Kerman, and which, without rewriting, can be fit into the structure of the cadenza without doing violence to it.

Where would this concerted cadenza be inserted into the present text of the Aria to WoO 88? There is only one likely candidate: the final fermata of the piece at measure 260 of the Henle edition. This fermata is on a V chord, nearly at the end of the piece, and thus cries out for a cadenza to be performed there. In fact, the solo cello does indeed have a hold on a D at this point of the cantata, just as appears in the manuscript for the cadenza. Furthermore, this hold occurs just as the soprano is about to sing the very last words of the aria; what better place to insert a cadenza?

Why the cadenza was composed remains a mystery for now; perhaps the soloists desired the addition of a cadenza. Or Beethoven may have decided that, since he would have three soloists in the aria, it would be appropriate to give them a cadenza together. Rather than leave the matter to improvisation (difficult with three moving parts), a concerted cadenza would be the perfect answer.

What little is known about the circumstances of the composition and performance of the cantata is related by Franz Wegeler:

When Haydn first returned from England, a breakfast was given for him by the Electoral Orchestra in Godesburg, a resort near Bonn. On this occasion Beethoven showed him a cantata. Haydn examined it very closely and then warmly encouraged the composer to pursue his studies. Later this cantata was supposed to be performed in Mergentheim, but several sections were so difficult for the wind instruments that some musicians declared they could not possibly play them. As a result, the performance was cancelled. As far as we know, this cantata was never printed.

It is not clear whether the cantata referred to is the Joseph cantata or Leopold cantata, or both of them.

The extremely neat hand of the notoriously sloppy Beethoven indicates that these parts for the cadenza were written with a performance in mind. There may have been an unknown performance of these cantatas during the year 1790, which marked both the death of Emperor Joseph II and the accession of Leopold II; alternatively, this cadenza may have been written for the aborted performance in Mergentheim, which appears to have been some time later; Thayer notes that Beethoven's employer at the time, the Elector, Maximilian Franz, was in Mergentheim at a grand meeting of commanders and knights of the Teutonic Order for three months in 1791.

Nicholas Simrock later recalled to Anton Schindler:

I only remember that he wrote a cantata there which we did rehearse several times but did not perform in court. We had all manner of protests over the difficult places before us, and he asserted that each player must be able to perform his part correctly; we proved we couldn't, simply because all the figures were completely unusual, therein lay the difficulty. Father Ries, who was the leader in Mergentheim, declared earnestly that this was also his opinion, and so it was not performed at court, and we have never seen anything more of it since.

While there has been a presumption that the cantata performed at Mergentheim was the Joseph cantata, as the most musically interesting of the two, the existence of this cadenza would indicate that it may in fact have been the Leopold cantata (or the two cantatas together as one large work) which was so dismissively treated. The cadenza by nature of its character as an insert to the manuscript seems to be a later addition. This would support the 1791 Mergentheim rehearsals as the time of composition of the cadenzas.

The paper on which the oboe and cello parts are written (Kafka 124 and SBH 705) also gives support to the 1791 dating. Douglas Johnson notes that of the very few surviving pieces of paper of this type (VI-B), only the piece with the song Der freie Mann, WoO 117 can be dated with confidence; this was printed in the Hamburger Musenalmanach fuer das Jahr 1792. Thus, that sketch, and presumably the cadenza sketches on this same paper, must have been made in 1792 or very late in 1791.

Another account states that, in reference to the cantata performed at Mergentheim, the horn player saw the composer making alterations in his score. Could the horn player have actually seen Beethoven writing the cadenza to the cantata and providing the inserts to the musicians taking part? Such a scenario would be consistent with these parts being in Beethoven's hand, rather than the hand of a copyist.

Why then was this cadenza not made a part of the known score? It should be noted that the sole surviving source is a copyist's score, presently in the Austrian National Musem, Hs. 2134. The copyist is unknown. If the cadenza were written afterwards, the full score would naturally not include the cadenza. Possibly the known score of the cantata which forms the basis of the GA and the Henle edition was the original version and was kept by the Elector, and another copy was taken to Mergentheim, to be modified with this cadenza (and possibly other revisions?), and eventually lost.

The cello part has at least seven other sketches for various items (including a brief humorous song, Der Arme Componist, Biamonti 15 (also on this site), and what appears to be an unrelated piano cadenza) scribbled into the margins. The oboe part contains extended sketches for a variety of other compositions.

The fact that the cello part does not exactly match the length of the oboe part, and that while very close, neither is an exact match with the Kafka sketch, suggests the possibility that the cello and oboe parts are both erroneous in their counting of rests. Beethoven's complete ineptitude with numbers is well documented. Beethoven may have erred in his counting for these two parts, and that may well be why these two survived in his notes (and effectively became scratch paper for his jottings) and the others did not.

We present here both the cello part identified by Unger, and the reconstruction of the cadenza, with the leadin for the full orchestra and the coda to the movement.

A world premiere for The Unheard Beethoven site. Our thanks to the Beethoven-Archiv in Bonn for providing us the copy of the unpublished manuscript of SBH 705.

WoO: 88
Biamonti: 16

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