Did it Really Matter? part 2

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John Ruggero
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Did it Really Matter? part 2

Post by John Ruggero »

A remark by Beethoven in the working copy of the first movement of his Sonata op. 111:

“NB hinuntergestrichen die Oktaven (abbreviated as perhaps 8 en)” (translation: NB Stem the octaves downward)

This remark was deciphered by Schenker in his Elucidation Edition of the sonata (He wrote four such short books explaining the content and interpretation of op. 101, 109, 110, and 111.)

Here is the page, and a blowup of the remark.
octave stems MS 1.jpeg
octave stems MS 1.jpeg (121.78 KiB) Viewed 1056 times
Beethoven remark in op 111.jpeg
Beethoven remark in op 111.jpeg (81.26 KiB) Viewed 1056 times
Beethoven seems to want the following right hand octaves (and possibly also the left hand octaves in the previous line) stemmed downward even though he stemmed them upward in the manuscript. This notation clarifies that the right hand is playing a middle voice in the fugato in preparation for the up-stemmed entrance of the theme in the upper voice a few measures later. The copyist obliges (in the right hand at least), but this produces potential engraving issues:
Octave stems copyist.jpeg
Octave stems copyist.jpeg (129.03 KiB) Viewed 1056 times
Beethoven solved the problem in an interesting way using centered beaming when he wrote out a fair copy for an edition by another publisher. He also stems the previous left hand octaves downward in preparation for the entrance of the theme in the bass:
octave stems MS2.jpeg
octave stems MS2.jpeg (242.65 KiB) Viewed 1056 times
It is clear that Beethoven took stem direction very seriously. From past experience, he knew that some of it would not be carried out because of engraving issues, and he allowed or even directed his copyist to regularize for the engraver some that he considered less essential. But he persisted in showing what he really preferred in his manuscripts, while also taking some of the practicalities of engraving into account.

Now that some of the old engraving issues are no longer relevant, we can engrave most of his music exactly as he would have preferred.
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