Piano Concerto No. 6 in D, Hess 15 (1815) First movement, Performing edition by Prof. Nicholas Cook

Piano Concerto No. 6 in D, Hess 15 (1815) First movement, Performing edition by Prof. Nicholas Cook
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Author: Willem and Mark S. Zimmer
Length: 12:45
Piano Concerto No. 6 in D (unfinished), (1814/15) Performing edition prepared by Nicholas Cook, Professor of Music at the University of Southampton, and Kelina Kwan.

The Unheard Beethoven is extremely pleased to present one of the most elusive of the unheard works, Beethoven's unfinished Piano Concerto no. 6. This concerto movement contains many fascinating ideas, and clearly foreshadows the first movement of the Ninth Symphony in several of its themes.

The MIDI file is based upon the performing edition prepared by Prof. Nicholas Cook and Kelina Kwan, with their permission and the permission of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Musikabteilung, with respect to their manuscript, Mus.ms.autogr. Beethoven Art. 184.

Notes by Prof. Nicholas Cook In late 1814 and early 1815, Beethoven sketched the first movement of a piano concerto in D major - what would, if completed, have been the Sixth Concerto. He made about seventy pages of sketches for the first movement and started writing out a full score; this runs almost uninterrupted from the beginning of the movement to the middle of the solo exposition, although the scoring becomes patchy as the work proceeds and there are signs of indecision or dissatisfaction on the composer's part. This torso of a movement (nowadays known to Beethoven scholars as Hess 15) represents one of the most substantial of Beethoven's unrealized conceptions.

Why did Beethoven abandon it? A number of circumstantial reasons might be adduced: perhaps he planned it for the cancelled benefit concert of 1815, or perhaps he intended to play the solo part himself and abandoned the project when his deafness made this impractical. There are however some musical features that may bear upon the issue: the style is at several points distinctly retrospective, and the materials are curiously symphonic for a piano concerto. As a result the piano part comes across as decorating an essential symphonic argument rather than representing a dramatic agent in its own right. There is some evidence (though Lewis Lockwood has contested it) that Beethoven recognized this problem and experimented with alternative structural plans for the movement at a relatively late stage in its composition. The performing version was prepared in tandem with the source-based study which I published two years later in Journal of the American Musicological Society, and is based on the interpretation of the autograph score for which I argued there. In a nutshell, the music is as laid out by Beethoven up to a point shortly after the second subject in the solo exposition, although not only orchestration but also subsidiary parts have been added (increasingly so as the music proceeds). From that point onwards, however, the performing edition does not aim at authenticity (in the sense of realizing Beethoven's likely intentions) but aims simply to create a performable movement with the minimum of editorial material. This is achieved by adding a developmental extension of the solo exposition in lieu of a full-scale development section (for which there are no continuous drafts in the sketchbooks), a recapitulation closely modelled on the exposition, and of course a cadenza. I discussed the practical and aesthetic issues raised in the preparation of this score in a 1994 contribution to the Beethoven Newsletter; I argued that although it is impossible to complete the movement as Beethoven would have (it would probably have ended up quite different), it is still possible to convey something of what Beethoven had in mind at a certain stage of the compositional process for the benefit of listeners who lack the time, skill, or inclination to work through the source materials for themselves.

Completed in 1987, the performing version is the joint work of Nicholas Cook and Kelina Kwan, both at that time members of the Department of Music, Hong Kong University. It received live and broadcast performances in Hong Kong and Shanghai later that year.


Autograph score: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, MS Artaria 184.

Sketches: in the Grasnick 20b, Landsberg 10, Mendelssohn 1, Mendelssohn 6, and Scheide sketchbooks, and B.M. Add. MS 29997. For details see Nicholas Cook, 'Beethoven's unfinished piano concerto: a case of double vision?' (below).


Cook, Nicholas, 'Beethoven's unfinished piano concerto: a case of double vision?', Journal of the American Musicological Society 42 (1989), 338-74. A response to this article by Lockwood appeared, together with a reply from me, in Journal of the American Musicological Society 43 (1990).

Cook, Nicholas, 'A performing edition of Beethoven's Sixth Piano Concerto?'. Beethoven Newsletter, 8/3-9/1 (1994), 71-80 [this article abounds in misprints, especially Example 4].

Lockwood, Lewis, 'Beethoven's unfinished piano concerto of 1815: sources and problems', Musical Quarterly, 56 (1970), 624-46; reprinted in Paul Henry Lang (ed.), The creative world of Beethoven (New York, 1971), 122-44.

Nottebohm, Gustav, 'Ein unvollendetes Clavierconcert', in Zweite Beethoveniana: nachgelassene Aufsatze (Leipzig, 1887), 223-4.

The performing edition is unpublished but copies may be obtained from Nicholas Cook, Department of Music, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK (email ncook@soton.ac.uk).

Hess: 15

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