Lost Beethoven hymn receives premiere

Work from 1820 to be performed in Manchester

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BeethovenA lost work by Beethoven is to receive its first known performance in Manchester this afternoon, 25 October.

The work is an organ harmonisation of an old Gregorian hymn chant, Pange lingua and is thought to have been composed around 1820.

Professor Barry Cooper of the University of Manchester found the piece in a sketchbook in Berlin, alongside sketches for the composer’s Missa Solemnis.

‘This piece is surprising,’ says Cooper, ‘because it doesn’t sound like Beethoven. If I hadn’t seen it in his own handwriting, complete with corrections, I wouldn’t have believed it was by him.

‘Gregorian chant was sung much slower in those days, so it’s striking that he used the same slow chordal style for the Opus 132 quartet written in 1825. I believe this is the first time he did this.’

The only section of the piece that was missing was the opening phrase – which would have been performed unaccompanied by the singers. Otherwise, Professor Cooper simply added the words for the vocal part.

Cooper went on to suggest that the piece may have been written for Archduke Rudolph of Austria and may have been performed at the ceremony where he was made Archbishop of Olm├╝tz.

The work will be performed by music students at 2.30pm on 25 October at the University of Manchester’s Martin Harris Centre. The Journal of the Royal Musical Association will publish the piece early next year.

Update: you can hear the performance by students from the University of Manchester on YouTube.