Beethoven acquires zero opus numbers

Beethoven acquires zero opus numbers


norman lebrecht

October 18, 2019

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:


Two recordings arrive, both claiming to be Beethoven world premieres. At issue is a piano concerto the great man wrote in 1784 at the age of 13 or 14 and, after copious revisions, apparently forgot about. The autograph manuscript sits in the Berlin State Library and two pianists have had recourse to it, with a quick trip to the photocopier.

First things first: is the concerto a significant work?…

Read on here.

And here.




  • Graeme Hall says:

    Certainly not a world premiere of the WoO4 concerto – except as a new orchestration perhaps.

  • Vaquero357 says:

    Both the WoO 4 E-flat concerto and the D major movement have been kicking around on records for years. I first heard them on a tape sent me by a friend in the early ’80s. IIRC, there is some scholarly debate as to whether they really *are* works by the young LvB…. Maybe that’s been settled in the intervening years. The radio announcer on my ancient tape said the “No. 0” concerto existed only in a score for two pianos, and the orchestration had been reconstructed for the recording. I would expect any musician with a good grasp of Classical period styles and conventions could come up with a perfectly serviceable orchestration. The D major movement has an even sketchier provenance, but it’s a bit weightier piece. One kind of wishes it *is* the work of a Beethoven feeling his way toward his Piano Concerto No. 1.

    No. 0 is a charming work that reminds me a lot of Mozart’s No. 17 K 453, and I’m looking forward to hearing *both* new recordings. A significant work? No, but an interesting chance to get into the mind of the adolescent Beethoven….. if he is the composer. I’m still very glad to see it getting fresh attention.

    Thanks for the reviews!

  • Daniel Poulin says:

    “Piano Concerto in E flat major, WoO 4, is one of Beethoven’s earlier works, written in 1784 when he was only 14. Only the solo piano part survives today, although there are some indications in the manuscript for orchestral cues. On the occasions when the work has been performed, the orchestral part has had to be arranged beforehand. The concerto is sometimes referred to as Piano Concerto No. 0, as it came before all of Beethoven’s other piano concertos. It is rarely performed. Pianists Howard Shelley and Ronald Brautigam have each made their own reconstructions of the concerto.” (Wikipedia)

    Claiming to be world premieres? What a false claim! There are a few performances available on YouTube dating back to late 20th century. I remember listening to one vinyl record (I had found it in a second hand store -I forgot the name of the label) with Glenn Gould in his studio at The Inn On The Park in Toronto. He had never heard it before and wanted to find out how good it was. Well, as you may expect, his reaction after listening silently to the complete Concerto was a very quick and polite “thanks, but no thanks!”

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    It’s really annoying when people make these claims. Like Peter Donohoe saying in his biog that he “played in Simon Rattle’s inaugural concert with Berlin Philharmonic” when actually it was inaugural season. Or like viola player Yuri Bashmey saying he played in world premiere of Britten’s newly found Double Concerto, when that had been done (and broadcast) by somebody else and Bashmet just made the first recording.

  • Edgar Self says:

    It’s significant for the age of the composer and because it’s evidently authentic early Beethoven. Among his more enjoyable juvenilia are the three piano quartets and three “Elector” piano sontas that Gilels found worth playing.

    Just as i’s interesting to study early photographs to see what those we know later came from, so with early works of Chopin, Mozart, Wagner, or Beethoven, for flashes of things to come and sometimes real discoveries.

  • Edgar Self says:

    I do recall a previous recording of this concerto, details forgotten;

    • David K. Nelson says:

      I seem to recall one recording that went way back, perhaps on a Vox LP (NOT played by Brendel), perhaps circa 1970, or even before.

      I regret the Schwann catalogs I threw away even more than the baseball cards my mother threw away.

  • Musician says:

    But these are not world premieres at all, there are already several previous recordings, as detailed here, for example:

  • Edgar Self says:

    Two works without opus numbers worth anyone’s time are the Duo in E-flat for Viola and Cello, called the “Eyeglass Duo” ,,, Duett in Es-Dur mit zwei obbligaten Augenglasereln … and the 32 Variations in C minor on an Original Theme for piano, Beethoven’s only chaconne, possibly modeled on Handel’s keyboard Chaconne in G.

    A recording of the Duo by William Primrose and Emanuel Feuermann is one to hear. Violists complain of its difficulty for viola. Cellists likewise.