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Notturno, Op 42
arrangement of the Serenade for string trio, Op 8, 1796/7
published by Hoffmeister and Kühnel in 1804

'Beethoven, Mendelssohn & Schumann: Music for viola and piano' (CDA66946)
Beethoven, Mendelssohn & Schumann: Music for viola and piano
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Movement 1: Marcia: Allegro
Movement 2: Adagio
Movement 3: Menuetto: Allegretto
Movement 4: Adagio
Movement 5: Allegretto alla Polacca
Movement 6: Andante quasi Allegretto
Movement 7: Marcia: Allegro

Notturno, Op 42
The growing amateur market for music in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries encouraged publishers to increase their profits by issuing suitable works in all manner of instrumental arrangements. In the great majority of cases the task of making the arrangement would be entrusted to someone other than the original composer; publishers must have maintained a ‘stable’ of small-time musicians prepared to undertake a job which did not in theory prevent the display of genuine musical creativity and sensitivity, but which in practice was largely a matter of routine hack-work. It goes without saying that, in the absence of any copyright protection, the original composer might be the last person to be involved or even consulted. And payment was of course entirely out of the question: this was a publishers’ market.

Beethoven’s early-won popularity, like that of Haydn, made his music a natural resource for the arrangement industry, though he had little respect for the practice and attempted to exercise some control over it. The Notturno, Op 42, is not an original work for viola and piano but an arrangement of his Serenade for string trio, Op 8 (‘notturno’ and ‘serenade’ were essentially synonyms; the former term is not to be equated with the piano nocturne). Beethoven had composed the Serenade in 1796/7 and it had been published by Artaria in the latter year. The Notturno, published by the Leipzig firm of Hoffmeister and Kühnel in 1804, is not his own work but that of Franz Xaver Kleinheinz (c1770-1832) who was also responsible for Beethoven’s Op 41, an arrangement for piano and flute (or violin) of the Serenade, Op 25, for flute, violin and viola. Beethoven corrected and approved Kleinheinz’s score in each case, however, so Op 42 may safely be regarded as an ‘authorized’ arrangement, even if grudgingly so: ‘I have gone through [the arrangements] and made drastic corrections in some passages. So do not dare to state in writing that I have arranged them’, he wrote to the publishers; ‘If you do, you will be telling a lie, seeing that, moreover, I could never have found the time, or even had the patience, to do work of that kind.’ (In addition to straightforward correction of the transcription, Beethoven permitted himself an odd extra bar and occasional new imitative counterpoint.)

The seven movements of the Serenade/Notturno typically alternate fast and slow tempi, although this bare description does not do justice to the central (fourth) movement, which alternates a D minor Adagio with a tiny D major Scherzo (Allegro molto). The overall scheme of this movement is Adagio – Scherzo – Adagio – Scherzo – Adagio. Moreover, the second appearance of the Scherzo is truncated, consisting of a modified first section followed by a new ending which leads directly into the closing (again, modified and shortened) Adagio. The idea of building a movement out of two discrete and opposed bodies of material was one that Beethoven was to exploit further, most immediately in the finale of the String Quartet in B flat, Op 18 No 6, and more remotely in several movements from the late quartets. Another connection to the Op 18 quartets is discernible in the sixth movement of the Serenade/Notturno, a theme and variations. Not only does this share its key (D) and form with the slow movement of Op 18 No 5, but both movements also make a surprise turn to the key of B flat near their end. In the Serenade/Notturno this turn heralds a free variation which acts simultaneously as a transition to the reprise of the opening march movement.

from notes by Nicholas Marston © 1997

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Details for CDA66946 track 2
Recording date
4 January 1997
Recording venue
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Tryggvi Tryggvason
Recording engineer
Tryggvi Tryggvason
Hyperion usage
  1. Beethoven, Mendelssohn & Schumann: Music for viola and piano (CDA66946)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: July 1997
    Deletion date: June 2004
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