New Research Guide Highlights the Music Division’s Beethoven Collections

Ludwig van Beethoven. 1945. Prints & Photographs Division.

The Library of Congress Music Division is excited to announce the publication of a research guide focused on the music of one of the most influential composers of the 19th century, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

Because the Music Division has no single “Beethoven collection,” locating the wide variety of materials—including many rare and unique items beyond music manuscripts and scores—can prove incredibly daunting. This research guide brings those disparate resources together and demonstrates the richness of material available, particularly those materials available online.

Through this new guide, those interested in Beethoven can learn how to access music manuscripts, facsimiles, first and early editions of music scores, critical editions, scholarly literature on Beethoven, correspondence, special collections, artwork, and other ephemera.

Ludwig van Beethoven, composer. Piano sonata No. 30 in E major, op. 109. [1820]. Music Division.

For example, the Music Division holds manuscript scores and sketches for over a dozen of Beethoven’s works, all written in his own hand. Almost all of these manuscripts have been scanned and are available to freely view and download on the Library’s website. Some of the most important manuscripts include sketches for the third and fourth movements of the op. 106 “Hammerklavier” piano sonata. No complete manuscript in Beethoven’s hand exists for the work, but the Music Division holds eight pages of sketches from the piece’s third and fourth movements. The Division also holds the complete manuscript for the Piano sonata in E major, op. 109, as well as several sketches for the first and final movements of the op. 131 string quartet.

But the Music Division also has manuscript arrangements of Beethoven’s works created by others. The prolific composer and virtuosic pianist Franz Liszt (1811-1886) arranged several of Beethoven’s works for piano, such as the Piano concerto No. 4 in G major, op. 58, which he arranged for two pianos.

For those interested in reading handwritten 19th-century German, the Music Division has thirty letters written by Beethoven to others. Almost all of these letters have been scanned and are free to read and download on the Library’s website.

And for those individuals hoping to learn more about Beethoven as well as hear performances of his music, this research guide provides links to past concerts, lectures, and interviews with performers focused on his music.

For example, on April 12, 2019, the Jerusalem Quartet presented a program including Beethoven’s Quartet in A major, op. 18/5 (1798-1800).

Ludwig Van Beethoven. Portrait by Johann Christoph Heckel. 1815. Music Division.

Readers may also be interested to learn of the variety of iconography and other non-musical Beethoven material that can be found at the Library, from his statue in the Main Reading Room to a lock of his hair with an authenticating letter! One of the most important pieces of iconography is a painting by Johann Christoph Heckel of Beethoven at age 45. Painted in 1815, the original painting currently hangs in the Whittall Pavilion in the Jefferson Building.

Those readers who can’t get enough of Beethoven will also be thrilled to learn that the Music Division’s Concert Office will be presenting a special virtual seven-event festival running from Nov. 20 through Dec. 17 titled “(Re)Hearing Beethoven.” The composer’s nine symphonies will be performed in transcriptions for solo, duo and chamber ensemble performances.

Whether you’re interested in Beethoven’s manuscripts, first and early editions of his music, or more modern performances and interpretations of his works, we hope this new Beethoven research guide can serve as both an impetus for those who wish to learn a little bit more about the composer and a means to stimulate further research on his life and music.

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