By Jessica Duchen

The mystery of Beethoven's lost love – Immortal Beloved.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Rage over a lost...Hungarian Rondo?

Dear friends and supporters,

You're probably familiar with a Beethoven stand-alone piano piece usually known as "Rage Over A Lost Penny". It is published as his Op. 129. I'm attaching a video in which we can follow the sheet music while listening.

Of course it has nothing to do with a lost coin, whether penny or florin. The only reason we think it has is...Anton Schindler. Yes, it's good old reliable (not) Schindler again. Why did he pin such an association onto it? You can see how dangerous this is if/when you reflect that many of us overlook the thing as inconsequential and don't think to look into its raison d'etre until it's too late.

The real title is 'Alla ingherese' - a word that doesn't exist. He could have put 'Ungherese' - Hungarian - or 'Zingarese' - Gypsy style. 'Ingherese' is a kind of composite, a description that is more apt than it might seem: it fuses the other two possibilities at a time when they were very much conflated in the musical imagination of the day. (See also: Franz Liszt a few decades later.) 

Moreover, it's not a late work. It's an earlyish one. It is thought to date from the late 1790s. It's a pretty good piece - catchy, showy, fun - but it was left unpublished. Why? 

It was in 1799 that Beethoven met the Brunsviks for the first time. It's possible that this rondo predates that, if by not very long. The main influence is his teacher Haydn's whirling, thrilling Gypsy finales - and reflecting on that, perhaps the dizzying semiquaver patterns in this piece suddenly make sense. Perhaps he already had "a bit of a thing" about Hungarian-style music before the Brunsviks of Korompa and Martonvásár walked into his life. Perhaps he wrote it just a tad later. Perhaps it's all happy coincidence. One way or another, though, there was some reason a little misinformation about it started doing the rounds that encouraged people to consider it something it was not. That whooshing sound is a busy broom close to a welcoming carpet.

Such is the deeply ingrained preconception that resulted that, regrettably, the lost penny is now also missing from IMMORTAL. Now I am in a rage over a lost reference, because the proofing is finished and it's too late to add it. 

Anyway, there's no proof of anything and the book is quite long enough already. That's one useful quality of the Unbound 'writing shed' updates - I can tell you about it here instead. 


Love and best wishes,
Jessica x


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