Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Numbers in Beethoven's Manuscript of the Fifth Symphony


There is an incomplete early manuscript of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony available through the Petrucci Library that presents something I have never seen before. Instead of using clefs or names of instruments, Beethoven puts numbers next to each staff as an indicator of which instrument is playing which line. This is how I translated his code:


8 = Violin 1
9 = Violin 2
10 = Viola

4 = Flute
5 = Oboe
6 = Clarinet
7 = Bassoon

3 = Horn
2 = Trumpet

1 = Timpani

11 = Cello
12 = Bass


This order lasts until page 41, when he starts using 16-stave manuscript paper. Here's a shot of page 42, and you can see that he has a new number-for-instrument code (this page has a couple of corrections).



From what I have been able to tell through the sources available to me, Beethoven didn't use this system for any of his other symphonies. I would love to know what people of the logic behind his numbers. I'm pretty baffled. I do like the fact that the timpani is number 1. I wonder if it has some special significance?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Keeping the less thinking parts' copyists in line....

Elaine Fine said...

This manuscript is a really early one, so it certainly wasn't intended for copyists to use. It is so oddly human to see that Beethoven might have been trying out a system to streamline the process of writing his drafts. Orchestral score order was not really standardized, I suppose, but I do find it odd the way he orders his parts.