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Beethoven discusses the difficulties of arranging piano music for string quartet

June 1, 2008

This is an extract from a letter by Beethoven to the publisher Brietkopf and Haertel.

To The Publishing House of BREITKOPF AND HAERTEL, Leipzig
(fragment)
July 13, 1802

…..With regard to arrangements, I am heartily glad that you decline them. The unnatural mania, at the present day, to wish to transfer pieces for the pianoforte to string instruments, which in every way are so different, ought to be stopped. I firmly assert that only Mozart himself could transfer his pianoforte music to other instruments, and the same of Haidn; and without placing myself on a level with these two great men, I make the same assertion with respect to my pianoforte sonatas; not only would whole passages have to be omitted or entirely rewritten, but further additions made – and herein lies the true stumbling block – to overcome which there must be either the master himself, or at least one possessing the same skill and inventive power. I changed just one sonata of my own into a quartet for strings, which I was pressed to do, and am sure that no other man could have accomplished the task as I have done.

Beethoven’s Letters with explanatory notes by Dr. A.C. Kalischer, J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., London & Toronto, 1926, pp.37-38.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 26, 2008 3:31 am

    Great post. I’m going to have to share this with my students!

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