Description

Presented to the British Museum by Vincent Novello on July 27, 1843, this relic of Beethoven’s creative process is indeed a ‘rare and curious specimen’. As can be seen in the marginal notes, the identity of the sketch eluded its two previous owners, neither being able to identify the piece. The first presents it simply as an example of 'Beethoven’s handwriting', whilst Novello writes at the bottom of the recto page that Beethoven’s sketches, however indicative of his musical thoughts, could only be understood by the composer himself.

At first glance the sketch gives the impression of being scored for a full orchestra because of the bar lines that embrace the whole page, but these were a later addition. On closer inspection, the music itself is not orchestral. The sketch conforms to expectations of Beethoven’s indecipherable handwriting, but fragments of the Hammerklavier sonata can be deciphered on one side of the sheet of paper: the opening rhythmic motif of the sonata appears at the beginning of the third stave and the material above resembles the continuation of the first movement. The annotation ‘2tes Stuck’ (‘2nd piece’) also implies that Beethoven intended this to be the start of a new piece.

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