Adagio and Allegro for Piano, Biamonti 96 and associated sketches (1800-1802?)

Adagio and Allegro for Piano, Biamonti 96 and associated sketches (1800-1802?)
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Author: Willem
Length: 5:03
Adagio and Allegro for Piano, Biamonti 96 and associated sketches (1800-1802?)

These short compositions and fragments head a four-page sketchleaf, SV 329, presently held by the Beethoven-Archiv in Bonn. This midi contains essentially all of the many sketches on the first two pages of the sketch leaf, in addition to the Adagio and Allegro proper as catalogued by Biamonti. Following is a description of the fragments by Willem:

There are 18 seperate ideas in total, almost all with different tempo indications, metres and fixed accidentals. Only three fragments (15, 16 and 17) belong together with certainty. Whether any of the other fragments were ever intended to be included in the same piece is unclear. Since the first fragment has the feeling of a Fantasy, it is conceivable that the 2nd fragment (and possibly others too) belonged to it. Best, however, is to listen to it as a Beethoven brain storm session: the result of an afternoon of improvisations.

1. [00:02] Marked: Adagio, 3/4. No fixed accidentals, 10 bars (4 + 3 + 3). It starts and ends in A flat, but in between it "boldly modulates where no key has gone before": A major, B flat, A flat minor, A minor, A flat major. For bars 5 - 7, Beethoven writes just one count, indicating: "3 times"; for bars 8 - 9 there are only 2 counts, first of which is headed: "2 times". The note values in bars 5 - 9 must be 16th triplets, but the triplet indication is missing.

The harmony on the first 2 beats of bar 8 [at 00:18] is problematic, because it seems somewhat beyond the boundary of classical harmony: E flat - B natural - D - A flat (or A natural?); the major 7 between E flat and D creating the tension. However, Beethoven explicitly writes the names for the notes: "E flat" and "D"; the E flat seems an after-thought. This strange chord resolves to A flat (I) on the 3rd beat of bar 8.

2. [00:25] No marking, 6 bars (2 + 2+ 2) in 6/8, no fixed accidentals. It starts in F major, then modulates to G minor and A minor. The first chord is a dominant 7, with the 7th (B flat) in the bass (cf. first chord of the Prometheus overture). The motif of a falling third reminds me of the opening of the Sonata in E flat, opus 7.

3. [00:37] No marking, 4 bars in D major, 4/4. Two voices in contrary motion, starting 4 octaves apart, merging on the D in the middle (bar 3, first beat), then continuing their separate ways, ending 4 octaves apart. Can be heard as a special sort of canon.

4. [00:48] No marking, 4 bars in A major, 3/4. Has the character of a Minuet; This appears to be a thought for a revision to the song Urians Reise, op. 52 nr. 1. Douglas Johnson has dated the paper as being from about 1800-1802. Since Beethoven was at that time readying the op. 52 songs, written in Bonn years earlier, for publication, this sketch supports that dating, as does the sketch on the third page for Die Liebe, op. 52 nr. 6.

5. [00:56] In A major, no meter, no bar lines. It is a broken chord on the major 7 chord: A - C# - E - G#. The G# is responsible for the magical sound: flatten it to a G natural, and you're left with just a boring dominant 7 chord. There is an indication of "prestissimo."

6. [01:01] Allegro, 8 bars (3 + 2 + 3) in 4/4. No fixed accidentals, but the first 5 bars are in A flat, the last 3 repeat the first 3, but now in D flat. At the end the indication "usw" ("etc."). Again a bold harmonic experiment! The A flat (I), a syncope on beats 2-3, is followed by a dominant 7 harmony, which has an added chromatic anticipation: A natural. A dom-7 with chromatic anticipation is something which does already occur in Mozart, however, Mozart would have the chromatic anticipation as melody note, not, as Beethoven here, in the bass. Also, Beethoven does not resolve his chromatic anticipation. Bars 2 and 3 repeat bar 1, but with a different inversion and in different octaves. The last 3 bars repeat the first 3, but now in D-flat major, a fourth higher.

The absence of fixed accidentals in this fragment, as well as in the first fragment, is because Beethoven, anticipating the harmonic complexities of what he's about to write down, apparently thinks that fixed accidentals would make the writing down more difficult.

7. [01:21] No marking, 6/8, C major. 4 bars with repeat sign, turning it into a 8 bar phrase.

8. [01:34] Allegro maestoso, 13 bars, E minor, 4/4. Indication: "Sonata". In spite of that indication, it sounds more like a Fugue. Of course, one can start a sonata with a fugue, something which he would eventually actually do in op.131, the C# minor Quartet. Perhaps another idea realized only 25, or 30 years later?

9. [02:02] Adagio molto, E major, no meter, no bar lines. There is a lot written beneath it, which Prod'homme has transcribed as the slightly cryptic comment: "The difficulty and the lightness of all this passage for the fingers, but with an effect as if played with the bow". The left hand has a faint treble clef (the right hand has a bass clef). The resulting distance between the crossed hands becomes no less than 3 octaves! There is no apparent reason for the crossing of the hands in this fragment.

10. [02:10] No tempo marking, 4 bars in D, 4/4. Annotation: "Schluss" ("ending"). Of course it is unclear for what piece this "ending" was meant.

11. [02:17] No marking, no key signature [in fact in G major], 4 bars in 4/4. The idea of crossed hands from fragment 9 is put to effective use here: while the left hand has a continuous busy figure of 16th notes in the octave below middle C, the right hand has blasts of 2 beats per bar, alternatively a decime above, and a decime below the left hand.

12. [02:27] No marking, in E major, 2/4. Written down are 4 phrases (4 + 4 + 4 + 6), totaling 18 bars, however, observing all the indicated repeats these become 44 bars. It looks like we have here an almost complete Contredanse, with only the "Da Capo" missing.

13. [03:23] No marking, 8 bars [4 + 4] in A minor, 3/8. Perhaps a German Dance. The right hand has a chain trill plus melody notes which form a hocket (a medieval rhythmic figure in which one voice has a note while the other voice has a rest, and vice versa) with the bass. The 2nd half-phrase is in E minor.

14. [03:36] 2 bars in B flat, 4/4.

15. [03:45] 4 bars in E minor, 4/4; in the margin the annotation "Fugentema". The fugue theme itself is 3 bars, which is followed by 1 bar of the answer of the 2nd voice (no counterpoint written). Unrelated, it seems, to fragment 8. After the fragment some text is written, ending with the words: "thema per augmentationem" (i.e., "theme with doubled note values").

16. [03:59] Adagio, 4 bars in E major, 4/4. The previous fugue theme, now in the major key, doubled note values, 2 octaves higher.

17. [04:15] No marking, 14 bars in E major, 4/4. It starts with the right hand having an accompaniment figure, while the left hand repeats an abbreviation of the fugue theme from 15 (in the major key). The whole fragment has the feeling of the ending for a larger piece. The piece Beethoven was thinking of was apparently to begin with a fugue in E minor (fragment 15), to be followed by an Adagio in E major (fragment 16) and then to be concluded with fragment 17.

18. [04:47] No marking, 12 bars [4 + 4 + 4] in B flat, 3/8. Perhaps, like fragment 13, a German Dance. For the 2nd group of 4 bars Beethoven was thinking of having the theme in parallel thirds, but he erased those, indicating "8va" instead, so that the texture for these bars becomes the same as for the first 4. At the end the indication "da capo", which seems to serve as reminder that the first bar can seamlessly follow the last one. Whether the entire 12 bars were to be repeated is unclear; there is no "fine" indication.

Biamonti: 96

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