First recording: The bits Beethoven left out of his violin concerto

First recording: The bits Beethoven left out of his violin concerto


norman lebrecht

January 16, 2018

Daniel Auner has recorded some of the off-cuts from Beethoven’s masterpiece.

He writes:

During my studies in Salzburg I got a copy of the original manuscript into my hands and was shocked about what I found there. Beethoven wrote an alternative solo violin part almost throughout the whole piece and decided just before the first print which version he will use in the end. But, he did not cross out any of the second lines but selected a few bars from the blue ink and a few bars of the pencil writing, always changing…..


  • Selpak says:

    I really don’t understand this. If Beethoven decided not to put it in, why should we go dig it up and make it “relevant” ? There is of course a lot we can learn from analysing this, in regards to Beethoven’s compositional style etc. but really not much from recording this as an “alternative solo”.

    This is similar to all those recordings which Horowitz did not authorise and was not happy with, popping up all over the place when demand for his recordings was high.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Anything by Beethoven is relevant.

    • Dan P. says:

      This draft version is long since become a part of history and it’s perfectly reasonable to give interested people a chance to hear his earlier thoughts. And we now have the chance to hear early, composer-discarded versions of lots of pieces. From that, listeners might be able to come to appreciate the final version even more. You know, Brahms held on to the original manuscript of first version of Schumann’s D minor symphony (which is significantly different from the ultimate version) and against Clara’s wishes, published it. He thought it was better – and it’s certainly VERY interesting. Pianists now regularly play the omitted variations from Schumann’s Symphonic Variations, the omitted pieces from Rachmaninoff’s Etude Tableau, and performers around the world perform the original versions of all of the Tchaikovsky Concertos and Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments and Petrouchka without any damage to the composer’s reputation. And I, for one, would like to push someone not only to re-record the 1962 version of the first movement “Don” of Boulez’ Pli Selon Pli, but to dig out the ORIGINAL version of that movement for voice and piano as performed at the work’s premiere. To be able to experience the evolution of a work may not have been the composer’s wish during his lifetime, but after that lifetime, we have a right to explore history unimpeded.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Apart from the Boulez invitation, which surely will not reveal very exciting finds, it should be remembered that the reworkings of Stravinsky’s early ballets were done because of the royalties and because of providing a version which also orchestras of smaller composition could play. The Firebird, Petrushka and the Sacre were published by the Editions Russe for which after the Bolshewik revolution royalties of performances could no longer be collected. If these works had still been under copyright, Stravinsky would have been rich by the twenties and no longer be much dependent upon paid commissions (which was a constant worry, given the clan he had to support). He made a concert suite of the best episodes of the Firebird ballet music which is indeed superior to the original (unfortunately the score of the suite has many misprints). The original version of Petrushka (1911) is far superior to the slimmed version he wrote in the forties where the instrumentation is adapted for a more regular orchestra, while the original is for a very large orchestra and thus, the sound is richer and more ‘in tune’ with the music. Both these scores have been pirated extensively. The Sacre was polished to make complex rhythms more playable (which did not help at all), and the new version published by Boosey & Hawkes is the one now regularly played; the music itself has no real changes, only some notation is different. Unfortunately the original Petrushka score is only played rarely – unfortunately because of its qualities. There is a fantastic recording of the 1911 version by Ernest Ansermet and the Orchestra of Romantic Switserland (Decca 1994).

        • X.Y. says:

          You probably meant L’orchestre de la Suisse Romande. An orchestra of Romantic Switzerland does not exist.

          And concerning “final version”: As Prof.Stowell pointed out nobody knows who prepared the printed version of the violin concerto. Given the tendency of the time to improvise he thought it would be as well to record the variants, the conventional version having been recorded already hundred times or more.

        • Dan P. says:

          John, your reasons for the re-orchestrations of the early ballets needs some comment. Pardon me for the length of this post. Yes, Stravinsky wanted to be compensated for his three most popular works, but the reworkings actually had a more fundamental basis.

          (1) First, Tsarist Russia was not a party to the Berne Copyright Convention (1886). So, non-membership was in effect when Stravinsky wrote his “Russian” works, not after the Bolsheviks took over. Outside of royalties from a few countries that Russia maintained short term agreements with, Stravinsky would never have collected royalties from the start although he employed a number of ruses to get around this fact over the years: fake editors being just one.

          (2) The initial re-orchestration of the Firebird (his second attempt at a suite) was done in 1919 when he was still a Russian citizen and therefore, exempt from any copyright protection. This has always been in the public domain. Stravinsky’s esthetics had changed and he desired a harder edged, more defined sound in 1919 than he did a decade earlier. This was, after all, around the time he composed the Symphonies of Wind Instruments.

          (3) I have it directly from a composer who knew Stravinsky well from the 1950s on, that while Stravinsky was happy to have the royalties from a rescored Petrouchka, his main motive stemmed from his unhappiness with the original orchestration. Right from the beginning he started making changes here and there in the parts he used in his performances. One of the issues was balance – and this was not a matter of size. The revised orchestra is smaller only by 3 wind instruments, 2 cornets that no one ever used, and a harp. So there isn’t much slimming, but the balances and colors are much different. Lines are much more defined and easier to bring out in the revision. Stravinsky preferred the revision and recorded it. I like both, but they reflect different esthetics. The original has a softer, more defuse sound while the revision instrumental groupings are much more defined (a full cello section in the opening instead of 4 soli) and better balanced. The original takes a lot of work to make it sound. The revision sounds from the start. Still, MANY people have recorded the original version of Petrouchka – Ansermet, Boulez, Haitink, to name just three.

          (4) As for Sacre, this had been undergoing constant change since its premiere. The revisions started after the premiere. These were codified in the initial 1921 Edition Russe publication, and again in 1929 for a new edition. In 1943 he completely rescored and simplified the Danse Sacrale, which was published separately in 1943 by Associated Music. (Stravinsky always preferred this version and recorded it. I know from someone in the NY Philharmonic, Bernstein used it as well.) In 1947, Boosey issued a corrected score but without the rewritten Danse Sacrale, from a different publisher. From the same source as (2) above I was told that Stravinsky would have liked to have re-done the entire work but after having devoted a year to Petrouchka, he was unwilling to spend the same amount of time re-writing the Rite. Finally, in 1967 Boosey issued a re-engraved version but Stravinsky had no involvement with this version. This version has the same lack of authority as the posthumous edition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto that everyone plays.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Thank you for all this extra information. I think some of the notational problems of the Sacre cannot be ‘solved’ but they don’t hinder a careful performance, except the tempo indications in the 1947 Boosey edition (I have a Boosey score but there is no indication of year in it, so I assume it’s ’47). Tempi therein are just below the tempo in which the music ‘takes-off’, offering more aural clarity but diminishing expression. The famous recording by Igor Markevich of 1959 with the Philharmonia (EMI) takes tempi slightly higher than indicated with magical effect – in spite of the little details which get wrong.

            Same problem with Petrushka, I find: the 1911 version has the right sound, in spite of its performance problems, in relation to the subject (circus drama), while the later version sounds much too ‘clean’ and lacks the burbling quality of the original. Stravinsky’s aesthetics went from rich 1900 rimsky/impressionistic burbling to cool neoclassical streamlining and something typical was lost.

            The retroactive polishing of the Firebird music can be heard most clearly in the later version of the brass chords at the end of the finale: in the original they are long, broad and impressive, in the revision they are short, staccato and incisive which is entirely contrary to the musical meaning of that passage. The original chords were, of course, reminiscent of 19C ‘expressiveness’ which S wanted to get rid off.

        • Dan P. says:

          John, I understand your point about tempi in the Sacre. In my experience as a conductor, I’ve always found that, even taking into account the composer’s markings, the tempi I choose have to be consonant with the acoustics of the hall because some slow passages just die in front of you if the hall is too dry and fast passages will sound like a mess if the acoustics are too live. Then the tempo relationships within the piece have to be right so that the whole is coherent. As for Sacre, the big problem for me is that there is no critical edition or list of variants between editions – and now there are at least 8 of them – some based on other editions – and the texts all have puzzling variants/mistakes. The 1967 version is most egregious because Boosey didn’t bother to consult Stravinsky/Craft and, it seems, they didn’t involve any kind of musicological study of the sources.

          Petrouchka/Petrushka / Firebird: I agree with you about the richness of the original editions. Your friend Boulez always performed the original editions for, I think, that very reason. The revision efforts – even as early as 1919 on Firebird – were made by a composer with very different esthetic and expressive concerns than the one who composed them.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Concerning tempi: of course dependent upon acoustics…. and the players. I found some performances of the Sacre where everything is clean-cut and nicely played rather disappointing, the music was ‘tamed’ and made ‘classical’, polished, which is the opposite of what the music asks. Metronome numbers are tricky though, and better be avoided, and are often useless.

    • Robert Roy says:

      If you don’t want to hear it then don’t listen to it. No one is forcing you.

      This sounds absolutely fascinating.

  • X.Y. says:

    This is not the first recording of the variants of the manuscript. Indeed they have been included in the 2009 recording (NAIVE) by Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Philippe Herreweghe on advice of the eminent Beethoven specialist Prof.Robin Stowell, Cardiff (Monograph Beethoven violin concerto, Cambridge University Press 1998). According to Stowell one does not know who prepared the printed version of the concerto and he thought it might add interest to record these variants, which are often more difficult to play. The easier printed versions could have been chosen to facilitate playing and sales. More here:

  • Bruce says:

    Interesting but not very interesting, IMHO. The line flows more smoothly with the more familiar “revised” version (again IMHO). The piece would probably still be just as popular, or nearly so, if this version was the official one.

  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    A lengthy discussion could be had on which version of the Bruckner symphonies one prefers. Most versions have been recorded.

  • George King says:

    The ‘alternative’ variants are indeed interesting, both in themselves (even if not artistically rewarding) and as examples of Beethoven’s working methods and his way of refining musical ideas until he was satisfied with them. A morning I shall cherish forever when I was working on a thesis on Beethoven back in early 1973 was spent in the top floor of the Augustiner Museum in Vienna in the musical manuscripts section with the entire autograph (not a facsimile!) of the Violin Concerto in my white-gloved hands, which I went through page by page. I selected a few pages that attracted my attention and that I would later incorporate into the thesis.

  • David R Osborne says:

    Yes, absolutely fascinating insight into the mindset of a composer who insisted on polishing his work perhaps to excess. Beethoven’s music is a lot of things, but one thing it often lacks is a little spontaneity.

    For example, if you have a score with bar numbers, check out 334, and compare the version here with what he ended up using. It’s certainly more interesting, but a bit of a jagged edge, something that Beethoven clearly could not abide.

    That’s kind of why this composer is so revered by those in the academic world, who see the art-form as something to be analysed, to be dissected. On that note it’s possible to understand why a natural and intuitive musician like Beecham didn’t care for Beethoven at all.

    • B Bailey says:

      Take a look at the Beecham performance chronology some time (compiled by Maurice Parker.) For someone who “didn’t care for Beethoven at all” he certainly played a lot of him. He just didn’t overplay him. And tended to promote some of the less often played works (2nd Symphony, Mass in C) rather than conduct yet another 5th.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The composer who carried a real grudge against everything Beethoven stood for, and his influence, was Debussy (he called him ‘le vieux sourd’). Beethoven’s music is often powerfully constructed, while Debussy’s wants to give the impression of being improvised on the spot – which would explain the latter’s distaste.

      But there is so much in B’s oeuvre that gives as spontaneous an effect as anything in Debussy: many episodes in the piano sonatas (esp. in opus 101, 109, 110), and in the 1st movements of piano concertos nr 4 and 5 which burst with rich, improvisatory ideas.

      It is a misunderstanding to suggest that ‘constructed music’ would somehow be less good because of being ‘less spontaneous’. Also a construction can be a spontaneous idea, and the most spontaneous-sounding music may be the result of carefull and conscious construction (for instance, Tristan). And when you begin to analyse Debussy’s La Mer or Jeux, which seem to be totally freely-found, you find a structuralism as precise as anything by Bach (that is why Debussy’s imitators totally failed, thinking it is ‘easy vague music’).

      Any music that is really good, is carefully constructed, however composers want to disguise their homework and want to appear mysteriously inspired. The process of notation and working-out a score cannot be spontaneously imrpovised….. ideas are spontaneous, not their realization.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    The only addition to the Beethoven concerto one needs to hear, is the cadenza Stockhausen wrote for it.

    • John Borstlap says:

      But Stockhausen never noticed the existence of classical music, let alone Beethoven’s music. When studying, he once took a Mozart sonata and worked-out statistically how many times certain tone combinations occurred, and was disappointed by the result. Hence his own explorations.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Stockhausen wrote cadenzas for several classical concertos (Mozart’s clarinet concerto and flute concertos in G and D, and for the trumpet concertos by Leopold Mozart and by Haydn). These cadenzas are not overly “modern” in style but demand the technical possibilities of modern instruments. However, he did not compose cadenzas for the Beethoven violin concerto.

  • John Canarina says:

    Szymon Goldberg performed the alternate version of the Beethoven Concerto
    with the New York Philharmonic in 1950.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Since the Beethoven concerto, all composers wrote an alternative version of the piece, which turned-out entirely different: Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bruch, Tchaikovsky, etc.

  • Rodney Friend says:

    ==The only addition to the Beethoven concerto one needs to hear, is the cadenza Stockhausen wrote for it.

    I think you mean Schnitke

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Must mean Schnittke. I love that cadenza. Gidon Kremer, if you’re reading this, why don’t you bring it back?

  • Rodney Friend says:

    ==Szymon Goldberg performed the alternate version of the Beethoven Concerto with the New York Philharmonic in 1950.

    Yes, John that’s right – with Mitropoulos. If you look hard enough you can find a recording of this