Beethoven Urtext, Series 3
Works for Chorus and Orchestra
Symphonies, overtures, large choral works in Urtext editions – all good Beethoveniana come in threes. The latter category, however, is difficult to summarize as handily as the others, and has evolved quietly over the past years, chugging on alongside its splashier cousins. The arc spans a long period of time: from 1993, the year of the new edition of the Choral Fantasy op. 80 with which Breitkopf & Härtel began its collaboration with the English Beethoven expert Clive Brown and which takes on a certain pioneering position in the chronological overview – to 2010, when the Urtext material to the oratorio Christus am Ölberge op. 85 is scheduled for release. One again, the publisher is able to borrow the music text of the new Beethoven Complete Edition. The now proven collaboration with the G. Henle Verlag, which began in 2003, has been extraordinarily fruitful especially in the field of Beethoven's works for chorus and orchestra.
Similarly to the symphonies and overtures, the history of the origins and sources of the works for chorus and orchestra is often very complex and presents scholars with considerable difficulties. One can rarely come up with a definitive "final version" – instead, contemporary printed editions and historical performance materials yield several, often contradictory sources which require the knowledgeable evaluation of the expert. The text-critical work carried out by the editors is thus also based on a detailed knowledge of the performance and notational practice of the time. In addition to source evaluation and – in particular with the late works – issues arising from the often confusing metronome markings, it is above all the dynamic and articulation markings notated negligently by Beethoven and his copyists which have to be examined and corrected in a new edition. Incidentally, the trusty old Breitkopf material is not always automatically completely replaced when a new Urtext edition appears. Take, for instance, the closing choral movement of the Ninth Symphony, Meeres Stille und Glückliche Fahrt and Christus am Ölberge: Carl Reinecke's well-known piano reductions not only retain their historical value, but are allowed to live on in a revised and simplified form within the new piano-vocal scores, and continue to render good services at choral rehearsals.
In the case of the oratorio Christus am Ölberge, the publisher can finally make amends to Beethoven for a slight committed more than 200 years ago. As the brand-new in-house composer of the Theater an der Wien, Beethoven was given the chance to perform an oratorio there in the Passion Week of 1803. In no time at all, he had produced the sketch for his first and sole work in this genre, whose contents ranged from Christ's sufferings and his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane to His arrest. Breitkopf & Härtel, which published the first edition, disapproved of the "opera-like" libretto by Franz Xaver Huber so strongly that it had the texts revised after the first performance without Beethoven's authorization. Beethoven bridled at this high-handed intervention and demanded that the changes be annulled. In vain: the printed version was sent out into the world without change and the work was disseminated with this textual form to this day. Anja Mühlenweg's new edition corrects this affront and finally puts forth the vocal text originally set by Beethoven.
See Beethoven-Urtext, Series 1
See Beethoven-Urtext, Series 2