Canon, 'Ein anders ist's das erste Jahr', Hess Anh. 63

Canon, 'Ein anders ist's das erste Jahr', Hess Anh. 63
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Author: Willem
Length: 0:18
"Ein anders ist's das erste Jahr", Canon in F, Hess Anhang 63 (1799)

This canon is found in the Kessler sketchbook, used by Beethoven between December 1801 through about July of 1802. However, it is believed not to be the work of Beethoven.

The lyrics are as follows:

ein anders ist's das erste Jahr, ein anders ist's ein Jahr;
ein anders ist's, ein anders ist's';
ich singe dieses zum ersten mal zum ersten mal;
gebt acht ich zaehl nun eins.
Noted Beethoven scholar Gustav Nottebohm had the following to say in his book, A Beethoven Sketchbook of 1802:

"A few observations may help to explain this piece. At the turn of the century there was a great deal of hair-splitting discussion as to whether the new century began with the year 1800 or 1801. Even the musical world turned its hand to finding a solution. In the Leipziger allgemeine musikalische Zeitung of 18th September 1799 there appeared an article attempting to demonstrate with a canon that 1801 was the first year of the 19th century; but the author (Wr. in D.) then grows uncertain and eventually leaves the question undecided. A reply to the article came on 1st January 1800, written in 'Wien, den 21. December 1799'. The second article, signed simply 'Fr.' draws attention to the confusion between cardinal and ordinal numbers and seeks to settle the vexed question similarly with a 4-part canon. The canon is none other than the one in Beethoven's sketchbook. It is hard to say what prompted Beethoven to copy it out. He cannot have composed it; it appears in the sketchbook without any sign of correction, with no preliminary drafts, and only in the form of a 'finite canon', as printed in the newspaper. Certainly Beethoven made other similar copies of pieces elsewhere, but there is no original canon in the sketchbooks without the necessary drafts."

Translation by Jonathan Katz. The puzzle remains not only as to why Beethoven copied it out, but did so close to two years (at minimum) after it first appeared! Had his reading backed up to the point he was just getting around to two-year-old ephemera talking about the turn of the century? In any event, the canon still appears relevant, just having passed yet another century mark, the exact timing of which was still in question.

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