Atelier Anima: Van Beethoven

The Seventh Symphony was published in 1816 in Vienna by “Steiner und Comp.”. There were several versions including the original symphonic version and an arrangement “in Harmonie für 9 Stimmen”. There is no evidence supporting the “Harmonie” version having been either written entirely by Beethoven or partially by a student. Many orchestral works were arranged for “Harmonie” (wind ensemble) in Mozart and Beethoven’s time. Princes and counts such as Lobkowitz, Esterhazy and Razumovsky often had their own ensembles and they had “composers” who arranged many works for “Harmonie”, such as Josef Triebensee, Johann Went and Wenzel Sedlak. These Harmonies usually consisted of 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns and contrabassoon. The works were usually transposed so that all the notes in the symphonic version would fit the ranges of the instruments (the Seventh Symphony, for example, was transposed from A Major to G Major). The arrangement was also somewhat shorter, from the knowledge that the winds, who normally have time to catch their breath when playing in a full orchestra, would be playing the entire time. The adaptations are particularly interesting, and they do sound partly like “new compositions”. Mozart wrote to his father in 1782 about an opera arrangement: “You won’t believe how hard it is to set a piece for Harmonie – to make it sound idiomatic for wind instruments, without losing any of the original effect.

Jos van Immerseel

Translation by Anne Hudgkinson