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Beethoven Piano Sonata Op.31 No.3: First Edition at the RBI

By Sean Burnham

Lithograph

Lithograph cover from Répertoire des Clavecinistes

Description

This item from the Riemenschneider Bach Institute (RBI) is unique in that it is a first edition from Hans Georg Nägeli's series Répertoire des Clavecinistes. This series compiled works from over twenty contemporary artists of the 1800s, including works from Beethoven, Clementi, and Cramer to name a few. This first edition from 1803, published by Nägeli in Zürich, helped establish Beethoven as an independent composer. Beethoven lacked a full-time position, typical of composers of the era, but managed to drive hard bargains with most publishing houses due to his renown as a virtuoso performer in the Viennese music scene. Beethoven, although unstable in his relationships, eventually worked again with Nägeli in 1824 on another series for a collection of songs titled Liederkreis.

This series, Répertoire des Clavecinistes, features an atypical cover page. While the rest of the work is engraved printing, this elegant cover for the series uses lithography. Lithography utilizes the immiscibility of oil and water, along with chemical reactions, to transfer words or artwork from flat surface such as limestone or later metal plate to a paper or other suitable material. The process was developed in Germany in 1795 as a cheaper method for producing more delicate theatrical works. The rest of this series was produced via engraved printing, as seen by the rounded press markings around each page. Reliefs of the second title page as well as the opening movement can be faintly seen through the pages due to the immense pressure used during the printing process.

Provenance

This item comes from part of the Emmy Martin collection here at the RBI. The wife of a prosperous Cleveland industrialist, Martin contributed many first edition and early works in her collection. Unfortunately, the provenance of many of the works in her collection, including this first edition, were not well documented. It is unknown where this piece may have come from.