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Ludwig van Beethoven, Fantasie für Klavier (H-Dur, Anfang in g-Moll) op. 77, Autograph

Beethoven-Haus Bonn, Sammlung H. C. Bodmer, HCB Mh 8

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Original in its harmonies, difficult to perform

The autograph score of the Fantasia for Piano op. 77 is a fair copy. As the manuscript itself was the engraver's model for Breitkopf & Härtel's original edition, Beethoven wrote out the autograph score in a neat and orderly manner, and it contains almost no corrections. Even Beethoven's contemporaries noticed that the composer had again departed from tradition with this fantasia and begun to use new, unusual forms and harmonies. The reviewer for the Viennese newspaper Wiener allgemeine musikalische Zeitung wrote in 1813, "The talk is often about new works by Beethoven, but almost anyone who is only partially acquainted with Herr B-s compositions will see this new work under two aspects; 1) as being wholly original in its harmonies, form and modulations 2) as being very difficult to perform. This double expectation is perfectly suited to the above Fantasia."
Another aspect of the Fantasia op. 77 is also referred to in the review, the "illusion of improvisation". Although it was the essence of a fantasia to imitate free improvisation and not to follow a fixed scheme, a fantasia was nevertheless a piece, which only imitated improvisation and did not create the impression that the performer was actually improvising. This was not the case with op. 77 - the deception was almost complete for the listeners. Listeners at the time who had already heard the composer improvise freely said that the Fantasia for Piano almost sounded like his free improvisations. (J.R.)

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