A movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet in G, Opus 18 Number 2 that has been lost for over 200 years is to be performed to modern audiences.
The piece was discarded by the Romantic composer in 1799 shortly after it was written, but now Barry Cooper, a music professor at the University of Manchester and an expert on Beethoven, has pieced together original sketches of the movement to create something of what it once might have sounded like.
Now, the university’s resident string quartet, Quatuor Danel, will perform the movement tomorrow (September 29th) and bring to life the great composer’s work to modern audiences for the first time.
At just 74 bars long, Beethoven rewrote the movement, which is what audiences have heard up until now, but elements of it do not have a harmony, so Professor Cooper has used his knowledge of the composer’s style to add extra parts for the performance.
Indeed, the expert told the BBC that Beethoven was a perfectionist who thought he had not mastered how to write quartets.
“He felt that when he wrote this early movement, he didn’t actually know how to write quartets. Any other composer would have been delighted to have written this lovely movement,” Professor Cooper said.
Avid listeners will note that compared to the amended version, the movement has a very different rhythm.
However, Professor Cooper stressed that the most fascinating thing about the find is that it is the last substantial work that Beethoven composed in full before it was lost, while other discarded works have mostly survived over the years.
“With other works that he revised, like his opera Fidelio, discarded movements still survive more or less intact,” he explained.
“So the prospect of hearing a Beethoven work that has been absent for over 200 years should be of much interest to anyone who loves his music, even if my reconstruction may differ slightly from what the composer wrote.”
The piece had been commissioned by Prince Franz Joseph Maximilian von Lobkowitz, Beethoven’s patron, in 1799.
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