Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) Romances in G/F major Ops. 40/50
Urtext based on the new Complete Edition (G. Henle Verlag) edited by Shin Augustinus Kojima [vl,orch]
solo: vl – 188.8.131.52. – 184.108.40.206. – str
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When Ludwig van Beethoven wrote the present two works around 1800, the “Romance” as a genre designation for a soulful, melodious instrumental piece was anything but established, despite the occasional piece bearing this title. Beethoven himself named the pieces “Romance” in the autographs, but offered them to Breitkopf & Härtel for publication as “Solo.” His brother Karl even spoke of “2 Adagios” to the publisher. Nevertheless, Beethoven's two Romances for violin achieved lasting popularity ever since the publication of the first editions in 1803 and 1805.
The present Urtext edition takes the autographs and first editions as its main sources.
Not until the latter half of the eighteenth century did it become customary to use the term “romance” as a title for pieces of purely instrumental music. The earliest instance occurred in France, where F. J. Gossec, for the first time, referred to the slow movement of his Symphony op. 5, no. 2, of 1761/62 as a romance. In Vienna, the first composer to use the term was probably Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, who applied it to the slow movement of his Symphony, op. 7, no. 1, of 1773. Later Haydn adopted it for his Symphony no. 85 and Mozart for his d-minor Piano Concerto (K 466) and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (K 525). The feature common to all these movements is a distinctively songlike quality. Apart from that, the term was not firmly associated with any particular genre or form. Beethoven may have turned to the term Romanze for his opp. 40 and 50 because no other title was at hand, the two works being, after all, isolated pieces without predecessors (his Romance cantabile for piano, flute, bassoon and orchestra of 1792/93 was destined to remain incomplete). The autograph manuscript of op. 40 (Beethoven-Haus, Bonn) is headed Romanze per il violino, that of op. 50 (Library of Congress, Washington) simply Romance. Both first editions preferred the French spelling.
Little is known about the circumstances that gave rise to the two romances. An entry in conversation book no. 109, dated April 23rd, 1826, suggests that Beethoven wrote them for the violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh (“He will play one of the romances that you wrote for him”). There is some question, however, whether this comment should be taken at face value. Whatever the case, it was Schuppanzigh who gave the two pieces the only public performances of them known to have taken place during Beethoven’s lifetime. Nor can their dates of origin be precisely determined. An analysis of the handwriting in the autograph manuscripts reveals that op. 50 is the earlier of the two, probably dating from 1798, whereas in all likelihood op. 40 did not originate until 1800 or 1801. In the case of op. 50, the proposed dating is also confirmed by a study of the watermarks and by a report of an “academy” held by the bass Ludwig Fischer on 5 November1798, in which Ignaz Schuppanzigh is said to have played “a concerto by Viotti and an adagio by Beethoven” (described by C. F. Pohl in the Wiener Neue Presse of 18 December 1869). Although the report only speaks of an “adagio”, there can be little doubt that the work in question was the Romance in F major. It had not yet become standard practice to refer to self-contained concert pieces in slow tempo as romances. Even Beethoven’s brother Karl spoke of “two adagios for violin with full instrumental accompaniment” when he inquired of Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig on 18 October 1802, and of André in Offenbach on 23 November, regarding the possibility of accepting opp. 40 and 50 in their catalogues. When these negotiations came to nought Beethoven himself, on 27 August 1803, again offered one of the pieces to Breitkopf as a “solo for violin with an accompaniment”. Ultimately, however, the two works were published by different houses altogether: op. 40 by Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig in December 1803 (advertised in Intelligenzblatt no. 58 of the Zeitung für die elegante Welt, iii, 17 December), and op. 50 by the Viennese Bureau des Arts et d’Industrie more than one year later, in spring 1805 (advertised on 15 May in the Wiener Zeitung).
Beethoven’s romances for the violin, although popular and highly regarded, seldom appear on concert programs today. This seems also to have been the case in Beethoven’s day, when the two pieces enjoyed widespread dissemination in arrangements for piano fourhands or for piano and violin but evidently received only two performances in public: the aforementioned concert with the F-major Romance given on 5 November 1798, and another held in the Augarten on 11 May 1826 in which Schuppanzigh probably played the G-major Romance. There is some possibility that op. 50 was also performed in Prague prior to the Vienna concert of 1798.
Bonn, Autumn 1996