Lost movement of a Beethoven string quartet reconstructed

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Rediscovered work to receive its first performance in over 200 years

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A slow movement of a string quartet discarded by Beethoven in 1799 has been reconstructed and is to receive its first performance in Manchester on 29 September.

Barry Cooper, professor of music at the University of Manchester, has reconstructed the movement, which originally came from Beethoven’s String Quartet in G major, Op. 18, No. 2. The composer wrote the work in 1799 for Prince Lobkowitz for the sum of 200 florins, along with two other quartets (Op. 18 Nos 1 & 3). He then revised the quartet the following year by writing a completely new slow movement – the version familiar today (click on the audio player on the right to hear an excerpt).

Although the movement had been lost, detailed sketches survived. Professor Cooper has put these together, added harmony and made the music performable.

‘The prospect of hearing a Beethoven work that has been absent for over 200 years should be of much interest to anyone who loves his music,’ said Professor Cooper, ‘even if my reconstruction may differ slightly from what the composer wrote.’

The main difference between the discarded movement and its replacement is the time signature: the original is in 4/4, while the final version is in 3/4. In addition, although both are in C major, the original contains passages in C minor and D flat major, whereas Beethoven’s revised movement contains a section in F major.

The reconstructed movement will be performed by Quatuor Danel on Thursday 29 September at 2.30pm during a seminar open to the public in the Martin Harris Centre at the University of Manchester.

Elizabeth Davis