More wrong notes in the “Hammerklavier”?

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John Ruggero
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More wrong notes in the “Hammerklavier”?

Post by John Ruggero »

The two earliest editions of Beethoven’s longest and most complex piano sonata op. 106 do not reach the level of accuracy found in the elegant first editions of his other late sonatas. I suspect that the manuscript from which the engravers worked was unusually difficult to decipher, which might explain why it has vanished, while those of opus 101, 109, 110 and 111 still exist.

Given this, it is amazing that more wrong notes haven’t been discovered in the work. The most famous are the A sharps at the end of the development of the first movement, probably the most famous set of doubtful notes in music literature. This controversy has been hashed and rehashed many times, so I won’t deal with it here. There are also a few other odds and ends that have been resolved to most editors’ satisfaction.

But there is one glaring case that, to my knowledge, has attracted no attention at all.

The following passage occurs in the exposition of the first movement. Note the three parallel measures:
op 106 ex 85-91 1st German.png
op 106 ex 85-91 1st German.png (825.39 KiB) Viewed 194 times
At the same place in the recapitulation, Beethoven seems to have suddenly forgotten that he has been writing for an extended piano keyboard the whole time (see the high D in the first example), and, for no apparent reason, makes a stunted, ossia-like modification to the third statement as if his piano lacked a high C:
op 106.1 321-3 1st German.png
op 106.1 321-3 1st German.png (830.48 KiB) Viewed 194 times
Maybe this is a vestige of ossias that Beethoven considered providing for pianos with shorter keyboards that somehow found its way into the main text.

Interestingly, one measure later there is an error in the first German edition (see circled area in the previous example) that was corrected in first English edition:
op 106.1  321-3 1st English.png
op 106.1 321-3 1st English.png (226.71 KiB) Viewed 193 times
and every subsequent edition.

This raises the possibility that these two measures were particularly troublesome.
Based only on musical grounds, I consider the standard version to be erroneous and suggest the following correction:
op 106.1  321-3 corrected.png
op 106.1 321-3 corrected.png (122.9 KiB) Viewed 194 times
However, the accepted version will remain in the main text of my edition, since there is no hard evidence to support it, and my reservations will appear in a footnote.
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