What’s this Haydn unknown at my neighbour’s?

November 10, 2016 by norman lebrecht


A chance discovery by pianist Ivan Ilic:

In Cologne, a neighbour helped an older woman with her groceries. When the woman died at age 102, she left the neighbour two heavy boxes of old scores. The neighbour, who doesn’t read music, put them away.

A few weeks later, she struck up a conversation with my friend Veronika at the supermarket. Veronika, a record label executive, had just moved to Cologne, and was happy to make a new friend. They met for drinks. The following week the neighbour called Veronika with a surprise. She said, “Come over, and bring your car”. She gave her the music, telling her that she would surely find something to do with it…

Veronika called me in France. She said, ‘I don’t know if there’s anything interesting here. But who knows? Maybe it would be fun for you to come to Germany and check?’ It seemed like a good excuse to see a friend, so I found a low-cost flight to Cologne. We opened the crate together and sifted through the scores, covered in thick, black dust.

It was an eccentric collection. Veronika spotted the Haydn Symphony transcriptions, which neither of us had heard of, in an edition from 1830. We located a piano shop, and I sight-read the music. The E minor Symphony, no 44, immediately stuck out: it worked so naturally on the piano. I returned to France with a photocopy of the score, and learned the symphony in a rush of enthusiasm.

The composer is Karl David Stegmann (1751-1826).

I gave the first performance at London’s “Piano Day” Festival in March 2016, the German premiere in August, and the French premiere in September. This new video of the Presto has attracted 20,000 views in two weeks….


Comments (10)

  1. Steven Holloway says:

    Remarkable, working wonderfully well. Which raises the question of who transcribed it, of course. That I should love to know.

    1. Robert Holmén says:

      Notes from the video:

      “Transcribed for solo piano by Karl David Stegmann (1751-1826)”

      I’ve never heard of him but he’s got a wikipedia page…

      1. Steven Holloway says:

        Thank you, Robert. Methinks my eyes leapt over Lebrecht’s “The composer is…” line, my mind thinking we’d already established the composer in question, especially as it was the point of the post in the first price. I must now check that Wiki page.

        1. Robert Holmén says:

          There also seem to be two movements of a Stegmann keyboard concerto on Youtube.

          1. Steven Holloway says:

            Thanks again. I thought those two movements from his concerto for two harpsichords and orchestra very enjoyable, the orchestral texture indeed fine, though perhaps rather too weighty for accompaniment of harpsichords. He is also to be found in the Naxos Music Library, and as Mark mentions below the IMSLP, this might be an opportune moment to mention that the approx. $23 (CDN) standard subscription to the IMSLP now comes with free access to the NML, which may be the biggest bargain on the internet.

          2. Robert Holmén says:

            I was surprised it was harpsichord, given his historical period.

            Reading further, I see Stegmann wrote an opera titled “Montgolfier”.

            The balloonists? I’d be curious to see that.

          3. ​Ivan Ilić says:

            Thanks to Steven Holloway and Robert Holmén for your discussion, and to Robert in particular for the WorldCat and Naxos Music Library ideas. The WorldCat listings can be tricky with respect to Haydn/Stegmann, because the numbering of the symphonies in the Stegmann editions does not correspond to the modern Hoboken Catalog (the Hoboken numbers were assigned over 100 years later, between 1957 and 1978). The earliest publication date I have for Stegmann’s transcriptions is 1813. The score I have access to is likely a 2nd edition, from circa 1830.

            There is more background here:


            Limelight Magazine

            Classique mais pas has been

            Grove’s Dictionary of Music and the Biographie Universelle des Musiciens (Fétis, 1833-34) provide basic information about Stegmann’s life and career. His English Wikipedia entry seems to have been copied entirely from the Grove’s entry.

  2. Mark says:

    Brilliant! I hope we’ll eventually see these transcriptions on

    1. Robert Holmén says:

      A check of WorldCat indicates that several libraries in the US and around the world have some of these transcriptions on their shelves.

      I once got a copy of a one-off manuscript by recruiting a college student via Craigslist to go in and spycam it for me.

      Not that I’m encouraging anyone to do that.

  3. Cyril Blair says:


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