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Notes 60.1 (2003) 46-129

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Evolution of an Edition:
The Case of Beethoven's Opus 2

Part 2
Partners and Pirates, Correction and Corruption:
The Reprint Publishers and Their Editions from 1798 to 1826

Patricia Stroh



In her article on the "International Dissemination of Printed Music during the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century," Sarah Adams describes three paths to publication. 1 The composer instigated two of these routes, either through negotiation directly with a publisher or indirectly through a publisher's agent. The most prevalent method of dissemination, however, particularly for works in high demand, was migration from publisher to publisher. By the 1780s, at the beginning of Beethoven's career, music publishers had forged international trade alliances that allowed them to expand their local businesses into the export market. 2 "Examples of international trading and connections between publishers," Adams states, "support a view of the eighteenth-century music trade as having been much more well-established and internationally based than has been traditionally believed. Acceptance of such a view calls into question some of the commonly-held beliefs about the distribution of music at this time, particularly the nature of piracy, multiple publication of a given work, and the isolation of places like Vienna from the trade." 3 The acclaim that Beethoven earned during his lifetime owed [End Page 46] much to the wide dissemination of his music through legitimate trade between publishers.

Pirated copying, however, remained an economic and legal dilemma for both Beethoven, at home in Vienna, and his publishers near and far well into the nineteenth century, with all parties complicit to some degree. Because the composer's involvement with the spread of his music from publisher to publisher was at best uncertain, the editions produced by these means are often dismissed as unauthorized printings whose value as both historical documents and textual sources is negligible. With multiple editions of the same work appearing nearly simultaneously in distant cities, it is not surprising that some conveyed widely divergent and errant readings of the text. Bias against reprint editions, however, whether produced through legitimate or spurious means, ignores their important role as records of publishing and performing practices in the early nineteenth century. By studying the relationships between these variant reprints, the origins of the textual changes, and their impact on later editions, we gain a clearer picture of the transmission and reception of major works.

This study presents the case of Beethoven's three sonatas for piano, opus 2, to reconsider these issues. It begins by reviewing Beethoven's opinions on corrected editions, his efforts to control publication of his music during his first decade in Vienna, and his connections to the reprint publishers. Some documented examples of publisher partnerships as well as unauthorized copying provide a historical background for the case study. The dominant concerns, however, are the origins of the textual variants in the reprint editions and their transmission across international boundaries. Lacking manuscript sources and other primary evidence of editorial involvement with the reprint editions of opus 2, our sole means of determining the validity and influence of the textual differences is through meticulous collation. 4

Beethoven and his opus 2 sonatas are prime candidates for this study for several reasons. One is the multitude of editions that appeared in response to Beethoven's growing fame and the resulting demand for his music. Following Artaria's original edition of the sonatas issued in 1796, at least twenty-two other editions of one or more of the sonatas were advertised before 1828. Of these, nine were published in Germany, six were announced in Paris, and seven London publishers offered editions for sale. Appendix 1 provides a list and an approximate chronology of these [End Page 47] editions based on plate numbers, publishers' catalogs and announcements, imprint addresses, and physical evidence.

Another reason why the opus 2 sonatas offer a valuable case study was their publication by Artaria, a leader in the...


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