The Watchamacallit in Beethoven’s op. 111

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John Ruggero
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The Watchamacallit in Beethoven’s op. 111

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The red arrow points out the whatchamacallit in Beethoven’s manuscript of the second movement of his piano sonata op. 111.
op 111.2 tie-slur.jpeg
op 111.2 tie-slur.jpeg (163.52 KiB) Viewed 2497 times
A badly reconstituted staff line?

Not really. Beethoven carefully restored the lines that were obliterated by a correction.

A slur?

It looks nothing like the Beethoven’s usually strongly arched slurs surrounding it. However, that has not stopped editors (starting with the first) from making it a slur. But there is already a slur between the 7th and 8th sixteenth melody notes:
op 111.2 Schlesinger.jpeg
op 111.2 Schlesinger.jpeg (35.75 KiB) Viewed 2497 times
op 111.2 B&H.jpeg
op 111.2 B&H.jpeg (26.29 KiB) Viewed 2497 times
A tie?

Similarly, it looks nothing like the many ties on the page.

So what is it? Accidental, extraneous lines don’t appear in the manuscripts of Beethoven’s piano sonatas; but this could be an exception. However, the context provides some evidence that the line was intentional.

Now at this very moment he made a correction. The enlargement helps one identify a possible original version. Note the phantom evidence of the stem originally reaching down to the lowest line, and the clearly added two notes in a different size, and the new 16th beam. The strange line was added at the same time:
op 111.2 enlarged.jpeg
op 111.2 enlarged.jpeg (207.07 KiB) Viewed 2497 times
This leads to the following hypothetical original version:
op 111.2 original version.jpeg
op 111.2 original version.jpeg (70.35 KiB) Viewed 2497 times
The correction added the urgent anticipation of the next two notes of the melody, a technique that Beethoven is famous for during his last compositions.

However it left a hole in the middle voice. A possible solution was to hold the soprano E through into the next part of the measure as a middle part. (There is even the possibility that he wanted it tied to the next E, although the shape of the line leads one away from this theory.) Perhaps not wanting to rewrite the music with double stemming at this point, and leaving it until later to work out, he simply drew this strange line and then forgot about it. If so, perhaps he intended something like this:
op 111.2 possible realization.jpeg
op 111.2 possible realization.jpeg (28.82 KiB) Viewed 2497 times
Here is an interesting notation in Scarlatti’s Sonata. K 54:
Scarlatti K. 54.jpeg
Scarlatti K. 54.jpeg (79.87 KiB) Viewed 2497 times
See the entire piece at: ... simile.pdf

The wavy line is not a trill according to the Scarlatti authority Ralph Kirkpatrick, but an indefinitely held keyboard note, something like a lasciar vibrare held by the fingers rather than pedal.

Could Beethoven’s line be something similar? And could these be the first examples of spatial notation?
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