A piece of music composed by Beethoven in about 1820 has been discovered by Professor Barry Cooper, a University of Manchester academic and leading expert on the composer. The music is a harmony for an ancient hymn and was recently performed in Manchester.
Professor Cooper found the work alongside some original sketches of the famous Mass known as the Missa Solemnis in a sketchbook now in Berlin. It had previously been assumed it was a sketch for this Mass. He believes it was probably written for Archduke Rudolph of Austria and if it was ever performed it would have probably been at the ceremony where he was made an Archbishop.
When he saw it Professor Cooper realised it wasn’t just a series of notes, but a hymn’s tune and identified the two-minute piece as a previously unknown Beethoven work. It was an organ harmonisation of the thousand-year-old Gregorian hymn chant called ‘Pange lingua’.
Professor Cooper said in a press release: “This piece is surprising 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”.
He went on to comment on how the work informs us about the composer’s faith: “It’s quite telling that Beethoven wrote what is after all a simple piece of functional liturgical music – and must in some way indicate his devotion”
The first known performance of the piece was by music students at the University of Manchester’s Martin Harris Centre on October 25th. This performance can now be heard online.
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