This sketch-leaf is not documented in the revised Kinsky/Halm, Ludwig van Beethoven Thematisch-bibliographisches Werkverzeichnis, ed. Dorfmüller, Gertsch and Ronge (Munich, 2014), where twelve separate sketches are listed, including the known sketchbooks. Neither is it included in Douglas Johnson, Alan Tyson and Robert Winter: The Beethoven Sketchbooks (Oxford, 1985).
The manuscript shows a very early phase in Beethoven's creation of the "Emperor". The top half of the opening page (stencilled “60”) is remarkable for containing thematic material clearly related to both the first and the third movements, practically on alternating staves. This must be one of Beethoven’s earliest sketchleaves for this great work, possibly containing his first drafts of these famous themes. We can already see Beethoven creating somewhat more evolved versions of this material on two-stave systems in the lower half of this page. The manuscript is laid out as follows:
PAGE 1: staves 1,2 and 5 contain sketches in E flat major, 6/8 time, for the final movement [“Rondo”] (cf bars 99, 110, 129 etc), whereas the motifs written on the staves 3 and 4 relate to the first movement in 4/4 time.
Staves 3, 4 and 6-15, contain drafts of the main material of the first movement, especially the first orchestral “tutti”. Stave 3 relates to its continuation (bars 66 & 67), stave 4 contains both an early sketch for the second subject (bars 41ff) and to some of the pianist’s opening flourishes, whilst staves 6 & 7 contain very early versions of the concluding part of the “tutti” (cf. bar 80ff). The remaining staves on this page contain a more fully-realized version of this material: the “first subject” (stave 8), and its evolution, foreshadowed on staves 11 & 12 (cf bars 66ff) and then 13 & 14, now clearly grouped into two-stave systems rather than on single staves.
PAGE 2, staves 1-11, passage work and figuration relating to the main thematic material of the last movement, mostly in piano score, in 6/8 time, one passage marked “rechte Hand”. The middle of the first stave clearly outlines the principal subject, notating the distinctive hemiola where the six quavers are grouped in twos rather than the threes normal for 6/8 time. However much of the later passagework was not incorporated by Beethoven in his final version. At the end there are some sketches possibly for another work and an annotation in another hand “prime idee di Bethowen sul concerto per p.f in mi [flat sign] (Originale)”
The "Emperor" Concerto is a revolutionary work in which Beethoven boldly reinvents the Piano Concerto, demolishing the older structure of the eighteenth-century form and creating the model for the celebrated Romantic concertos of Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Grieg and Tchaikovsky. It is by far the composer’s most forward-looking statement in the genre. With the soloist appearing immediately after the stirring opening chord, the piano is at once a protagonist on equal footing with the orchestra. Beethoven had anticipated this in the Fourth Piano Concerto, a more reticent work, where in the first movement, the piano enters alone and the orchestra quietly follows. But in the "Emperor", Beethoven presents his soloist in opposition to the orchestra by giving him thundering chords alternating with full orchestra. Beethoven’s rethinking of the relationship of solo and accompaniment reached its apogee in the "Emperor" Concerto, his final statement in the form.
Beethoven’s iconoclastic approach is not merely confined to the relationship between the main protagonists. The concerto is built on a far larger scale than any previous work. The proportions are vast, the first movement being almost as long as any previous concerto, with a very wide tonal range, encompassing keys scarcely used before, notably the passage written in C flat in the first movement; the use of seemingly distant B major in the slow movement and the discursive passages in remote keys in the finale. This new scope requires a similarly large range of material for the piano, and Beethoven also uses the highest and lowest ranges of the piano as never before. The types of figuration are new and highly inventive. In the sketch-leaf, Beethoven can be seen experimenting with various types of piano writing, some of which was eventually used in the concerto, some not. This sketch-leaf is therefore an important stage in the compositional process of this great work.
Most of the surviving drafts for the Fifth Piano Concerto are in two sketch-books in the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek, Berlin, known as Grasnick 3 (ff.38-43v) and Landsberg 5. A few sketches elsewhere are related to these books, notably a leaf in the Pierpont Morgan Library which relates to Grasnick 3. The watermark evidence of the present manuscript does not allow any firm identification with either sketchbook. All the other sketch-leaves are written on sixteen-stave paper, whereas this manuscript has only fifteen; we can infer that it has been cut down, losing one stave at the bottom of the leaf, which was presumably blank. Unlike some other sketch-leaves, this one is devoted almost entirely to the concerto, without extensive material for other works, such as the Choral Fantasia Op.80.
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