Beethoven’s Organ Works

Introduction

[Note: See the post “Book on Beethoven’s Organ Works Available Now.”]

The question of establishing a corpus of Ludwig van Beethoven’s organ works has never been systematically treated. This is due in part to the difficulty of establishing the medium of some works and to the problem of deciding which pieces–though established as works for other media–can be legitimately performed as organ works.

The Beethoven Gesamtausgabe, published in the nineteenth century, included only three organ works, composed while Beethoven was an organist at Bonn.

In 1865 Alexander Wheelock Thayer introduced the first two of a series of pieces for mechanical clock (WoO 33, nos. 4-5). The mechanical genre was further expanded in 1901 when Albert Kopfermann identified three more pieces for mechanical organ (WoO 33, nos. 1-3). Two additional pieces for mechanical clock (Hess 107 and the Adagio for Mechanical Secretary) were announced by Georg Kinsky in 1926, bringing the total of mechanical works to seven.

In 1938 the corpus increased to thirteen with the publication of three organ trios edited by Charles Tournemire. A fourth trio, edited by Marcel Dupré, was published in 1942.

A fourth group of works has recently attracted notice through the work of Wilhelm and Karl Krumbach, who included three works not previously associated with the organ (WoO 55, Hess 64, and Fugue Cycle in D Minor) in their recording of Beethoven’s complete organ works.

In this study three other works are discussed in relation to the organ for the first time: Wellington’s Sieg for Panharmonicon (Hess 108), the Prelude in C Major (Hess 310), and a sketch headed “Orgel Variationen.”

Scholarship has not dealt with this increase in the number of Beethoven’s organ works. In the case of a large corpus of compositions (e.g., Beethoven’s piano music or Haydn’s orchestral music), an increase of seventeen works during one century might not drastically affect general conclusions regarding the genre. When a body of only three works increases to twenty, however, many original conclusions are potentially altered.

This study deals with the question of establishing a corpus of legitimate Beethoven organ works. In so doing, all pertinent manuscripts and published sources are consulted in order to establish or confute the legitimacy of each work. Those found to be valid organ works are given a full stylistic analysis.

— Weldon Whipple <weldon@whipple.org>

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© Weldon Whipple. All rights reserved.

By Weldon Whipple