String Quartet Arrangement of Bach B minor Fugue, Hess 35
Author: Mark S. Zimmer
In 1817, Beethoven was beginning to direct his thoughts back to his counterpoint and fugal studies under Albrechtsberger, a study that would culminate in the late string quartets. In the fall of 1817, Beethoven wrote op. 137, a fugue for string quintet, for which this study may have been prepared. As part of his thought process, Beethoven often made arrangements of fugues by other master composers. Here, he took on the B minor fugue from Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Beethoven must have had certain particular issues in mind, however, because he only arranged two segments of the fugue, namely the first 20 measures and measures 28-32. We have here presented the fugue with a gap of the proper length to cover the missing measures. This is a theoretical reconstruction from Bach's score based on Willy Hess's description of the transcription; the original is held by the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (the "Friends of Music") in Vienna, which absolutely refuses to make their Beethoven material available to us for release to the public. The arrangement has never been recorded or published and is thus a world premiere for the Unheard Beethoven.