Erlkoenig, another draft, Biamonti 526
Author: Mark S. Zimmer
The draft of a setting to Goethe's Erlkoenig poem WoO 131 is not the only attempt by Beethoven to put this work to music. Again in 1809 he made a brief and less complete attempt. This is primarily just vocal line; the narrator's first line, "Wer reitet so Spaet durch Nacht und Wind?" is easily recognizable, as are some bits of the concluding narrative section, together with a few tiny fragments of piano accompaniment. While there's not enough present here to attempt a completion that would be more than fractionally Beethoven, the glimpse at another take at this song, later made famous by Schubert, is always intriguing.
Biamonti's catalog combines both attempts at a setting under a single number; to distinguish between the two efforts we are using the Biamonti number for this draft as opposed to the WoO number which is better used for the more complete version. Biamonti estimated its date at approximately 1809-1810; however, subsequent studies of the paper and watermarks have resulted in a conclusion of approximately 1794. The manuscript of two pages also contains drafts of the bagatelles op. 119 nrs. 2 and 4, as well as drafts for the cadenza Hess 79 to the Second Piano Concerto (another clue in favor of the earlier date). The very same type of paper is used in Fischhof 49 and 50, which contain sketches for the op. 1 nr. 2 piano trio and contrapuntal studies for Albrechtsberger, which were conducted in 1793-1794.
The autograph is Ms. 70, held by the Bibliotheque National in Paris, by whose kind assistance we were provided with copies of the original. Another world premiere for the Unheard Beethoven.