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article imageBeethoven Specialist Vets Every Note Composer Wrote to Explain Meaning

By Angelique van Engelen     Dec 16, 2007 in Science
A professor of music has examined every note of every authentic source of every Beethoven piano sonata to produce what he feels is the truest representation of the composer’s work.
Professor Barry Cooper, a Beethoven specialist, has taken to revising all of Beethoven's 35 sonatas in his three volume work.
The revamped Beethoven also includes small works from when the composer was 12 years of age and was published on behalf of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.
“What I’ve done is try to reproduce what Beethoven actually wrote – and what he meant to write – more accurately than in any previous edition", said Professor Cooper.
The last ten years the professor has carefully dissected thousands and thousands of notes. He also wrote 150,000 words of detailed commentary.
The professor has dedicated particular attention to one note; known as the hammerklavier, the A sharp note in opus 106 Sonata in B flat major has been the issue of hyped controversy since long.
“Beethoven probably forgot to cancel the sharp and an ‘A natural’ makes more sense," Professor Cooper says confidently. “And what I’ve also done, which has not been done before, is to relate what Beethoven wrote to what we know about the notation and performing styles of his day, wherever there’s any uncertainty", he added.
He believes that the detailed commentary should be of great help for all performers. “If you know the sonatas well, you’ll certainly be able to tell the difference,” says Professor Cooper. “All other recent editions have 32 sonatas. The three extra ones are normally omitted as they were very early works written when Beethoven was 12. I feel there is no reason to omit them as they are full scale works."
He says that the case for including them is strong. The first complete edition of Beethoven’s piano sonatas were published by Beethoven’s friend Haslinger and he, almost certainly with the consent of Beethoven, also included the extra three. “Beethoven [...] would have approved,” the Professor says.
“Professor Cooper's remarkable forensic examination of the history and sources of this essential canon of the piano literature is matched by the immensely practical and educationally valuable insights he brings to issues of interpretation and performance.
Professor Cooper is attached to the University of Manchester’s School of Arts, Histories and Cultures. Professor Cooper is famous for completing the first movement of Beethoven’s unfinished tenth symphony, which was premiered at the Royal Festival Hall in 1988.
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