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Variations on a late Beethoven Adagio sketch for a sring quartett

Among Beethoven's sketches for his quartett op. 130 a very beautiful Adagio tune was found. I liked this theme so much that in the last 2 weeks I wrote a variation movement for string quartett on this.

It starts with the naked theme, then it is repeated with an added bass line and a second part from me, then 7 variations follow:

I hope it will speak to you ...


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Gerd, I have played through your whole work (obviously still in progress!) under NP/Sibelius and the result was as I expected - a few lapses of "ensemble" in one passage, between bars 189 and 206, otherwise nearly flawless playback. I think it's pretty clear that idiom has a lot to do with the problem I've noticed. In my Quartet, it's impossible to go a minute without a conspicuous flub, and often a stretch of one or more bars where two instruments are consistently out of sync with each other. Your work has MANY passages that should have given NP fits if the explanation was as simple as Arne said (timings designed for massed strings where the players in each section aren't perfectly in sync, kept unchanged for solo strings). I shall have to send him another email and let him know what I have found.

Thank you for your help with this!


Gerd, I have been thinking a lot about this Beethoven sketch over the last two days. Where did you hear about ti? It is so short! Was there any context for it? You added a second half which I gather was missing, but is there any evidence that it was intended as the FIRST half of a theme? I've been asking the WWBD question (what would Beethoven do?), trying to imagine how the master would have continued the theme, and in view of the last two bars it seems to me that it would have likelier been, instead, the SECOND half of a theme.

I've come up with what seems to me a plausible first half, and have been trying to harmonize the entire thing as closely as possible to the way Beethoven might have if he were going to use it as the basis for a set of variations. I'll post it when I'm done (currently in end-of-semester panic mode), but I was just wondering if your research throws cold water on the whole idea.

Dear Liz,

I am glad that you take so much interest in this subject! Yes, it is a short theme of 8  2/4 bars  (the first 8 bars of my score)) -  the second half (m. 17 - 24) is from me, not from Beethoven!

I found the theme in a book by Barry Cooper and I received now even the original notes from the sketch book, see the attachment. What a second part do YOU have in mind?


Hi Gerd,

I must confess that I cannot make heads or tails of that sketch in Beethoven's hand and I marvel that anyone could decipher it. I don't even see any clef symbols?? Just a time signature and some very difficult to decipher notes.

My idea was not to add a second part, but a FIRST part. I think the theme in the sketch would either not have had a second part, or would itself have been the second half of the theme. Of course all this is speculation - I was just wondering if there was any evidence against the idea.

I was thinking of presenting my "full" theme at the outset and then trying my hand at writing a few variations.. more along the lines of trying to imagine what LvB might have done with it rather than for personal expression, as this is really not an idiom that I work in.

I've attached my proposed first part, completely bare as I haven't had time to work out all the voices yet.


Dear Liz. 

your theme is also beautiful, but the range of the notes I think is quite narrow and so I like the Beethoven theme more, especially in his last 2 bars.

So, because of your great influence I composed now a further variation at 6:26 - a fugato Allegro con spirito, which was a real pleasure to write in the last 4 days. Please listen again to the updated file.(in the score at m.97)

Hi Gerd,

It's not meant to be an either/or, my theme vs Beethoven. I meant the fragment I posted to come first, to be followed immediately by the Beethoven as the second half. I intentionally kept the range of notes narrow, so that the real Beethoven theme would take off in the second half. The one thing that bothers me is the fact that the rhythms of the two halves are identical and I'm not sure it's plausible that late Beethoven would have written something so symmetrical.

The alternative would be to try to write a more pensive second half, a little like what Beethoven does in Op. 109 3rd movement. But those last two bars here really do sound to me like the end of the theme, and I can't imagine that they could have been meant to precede a second half. I might need to think some more about it.

I shall listen to your updated Variations soon - might be a couple of days though as I'm pulling near all-nighters now, trying to wrap up this course. But I'm glad that in some small way I've been able to spur you into further work with this beautiful theme, and I look forward to hearing what you have written!

This is excellent work. I confess I didn't have time to listen to the second number. I don't have any inclination to comment on this from a technical approach. I don't see any issues other than purely subjective ones.It sounds like well made classical music that might likely challenge real players in places. 

Gerd, I finally had a chance to listen to (and look at the score of) your newly revised Variations. All I can say is... wow! Such an improvement! I love the fugato, but there's a lot more in this version that is new, as well. Much more inventiveness, and the harmonic adventurousness inside some of the later variations completely removes the sense I had earlier of just too much D major.

Congratulations on a fine, indeed an awesome work!

Thank you!! Without your help and advice I would not have done these improvements! :-)

Just for comparison, I finished writing out my version of the basic variations theme, an A-B-A form of which the second "A" section is the Beethoven sketch, richly harmonized for full quartet. I'll try to attach it and the score. Someday soon (I hope) some variations will follow...


Score had a typo...corrected.


Wow, Liz, the more I listen to your version the more I like it! I even like it VERY much, especially harmonically. I am very curious how you would create variations to it...

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