BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. 1770-1827. Autograph Musical Manuscript, sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2,  2 pp,
Lot 14
BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. 1770-1827.
Autograph Musical Manuscript, sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2, 2 pp,
Sold for US$ 131,250 inc. premium

Lot Details
BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. 1770-1827. Autograph Musical Manuscript, sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2,  2 pp, BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. 1770-1827. Autograph Musical Manuscript, sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2,  2 pp, BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. 1770-1827. Autograph Musical Manuscript, sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2,  2 pp, BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. 1770-1827. Autograph Musical Manuscript, sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2,  2 pp, BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. 1770-1827. Autograph Musical Manuscript, sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2,  2 pp,
BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. 1770-1827.
Autograph Musical Manuscript, sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2, 2 pp, 4to (190 x 230 mm), ruled with 12 staves per page, notated in black ink [on two systems per page of six staves] with many holograph emendations, and some pencil revisions, two staves extended into the margin, some light darkening and some minor staining.
Provenance: Alexander Wheelock Thayer (1817-1897) author of the first scholarly biography of Ludwig van Beethoven and US Consul in Trieste, presentation inscription: "Autograph of Beethoven, a small Token of friendship, to Miss Auguste Grimm, Jan 1, 1859"; Auguste Grimm (1832-1919) daughter of Wilhelm Grimm (presentation inscription); the Thayer family and by descent to the present owner.

AN AUTOGRAPH SKETCH-LEAF COMPRISING AN EARLY VERSION OF MEASURES 24-28 OF BEETHOVEN'S WORK "SUNSET," set to a poem by Walter Scott ("The sun upon the Weirdlaw Hill / In Ettrick's vale, is sinking sweet...") for voice, violin, violoncello and piano. Between 1809 and 1820 Beethoven composed 179 Scottish-, Irish- and Welsh- folksongs. They were commissioned by George Thomson (1757-1851), the Scottish publisher and close friend of Robert Burns. "'Beethoven,' Thomson said in 1815, 'is a genius strikingly original, and has absolutely done wonders for the airs;' and again, a year later: 'The originality and exquisite beauty of Beethoven's accompaniments surprise me more and more. They require only to be heard to command admiration'" (Hadden).

In a letter to his German publisher Adolf Schlesinger (April 30, 1820), Beethoven notes that the songs "are written in a very simple style, and are therefore especially suitable for performance by small groups of musical amateurs." Given the stark complexity of many of Beethoven's compositions the simplicity of the present leaf magnifies the compositional process and reveals the extraordinary number of edits Beethoven made to perfect even a simple air.

The extensive corrections and cancellations provide a clear view into Beethoven's working method. While the vocal line is complete, changes are reflected in the piano and string parts, mostly of figurations and some minor harmonic changes. Clearly a work in progress, the first page includes two measures that are added at the end of the first system, set off to the right. These measures are a clarification of measures 26-27. Beethoven probably did this to provide more visual clarity as those measures appear quite dense and with much crossing out. On the second page there is one measure at the end of the first system that represents an early version of measure 33. In the final printed version, measure 33 appears quite different.

Alexander Wheelock Thayer dedicated many years of his life to researching primary sources for his substantial Beethoven biography, still considered to be the most authoritative work on the composer. In 1855 he became acquainted with Wilhelm Grimm and his daughter Auguste Grimm. Subsequently Auguste and Thayer corresponded for many years. In 1864 Thayer was appointed as Consul to the Austrian Dominions by Abraham Lincoln (see lot 18 for the signed document and a further note on Thayer's biography).

Reference: This autograph manuscript was exhibited in facsimile in a special "Alexander Wheelock Thayer" exhibition at the Beethoven-Haus Bonn, May-September 2010; see Dorfmueller, Gertsch, Ronge, Ludwig van Beethoven, Thematisch-bibliographies Werkverzeichnis p 674 Opus 108, 25 Schottische Lieder, Nr. 2 and Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Digitalisierte Sammlungen, Mus.ms.autogr. Beethoven, L. v., 29 II, Sunset, Arr. Fragmente; Beethoven, Saemtliche Briefe, Berlin, 1909-10, volume 2, page 239 and volume 1 page 125 (note); James Cuthbert Hadden, Georg Thomson the friend of Burns, his Life and Correspondence (London: 1898); Alexander Wheelock Thayer, The Life of Ludwig van Beethoven (New York: 1921). Bonhams thanks Marc Peloquin for assistance in cataloguing this lot.

Footnotes

  • "An original good air... [is] perhaps the most difficult undertaking in musical composition..." (Beethoven in a letter to Thomson, Feb 7, 1815).
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