Beethoven’s unfinished trio compiled

Ingrid Kammin and Elizabeth Anderson, soprano and mezzo-soprano, respectively, perform with the UI Oratorio Society, the Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Singers Thursday night at the Krannert Center of the Performing Arts in Urbana. Rick Wiltfong

Ingrid Kammin and Elizabeth Anderson, soprano and mezzo-soprano, respectively, perform with the UI Oratorio Society, the Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Singers Thursday night at the Krannert Center of the Performing Arts in Urbana. Rick Wiltfong

By Lane Song

Ludwig Van Beethoven joins artists like Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. who continue to release new music after death.

William Kinderman, professor of music at the University, recently pieced together remnants of Beethoven’s sketches to produce the first movement of an unfinished piano trio.

In piecing together the unfinished trio, Kinderman traveled between Berlin and Princeton, N.J. to examine compilations of Beethoven’s sketches.

“When Beethoven usually made sketches, they were a very basic blueprint that needed to be expanded,” Kinderman said. “However, when you conceptually combine these two sketchbooks together, you can see a polished piece.”

Kinderman, a published authority on the life of Beethoven, put together the unfinished trio using his familiarity with the composer’s work.

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“There are places where Beethoven’s harmony suddenly changes,” Kinderman said. “I’ve worked with his sketches and I know where he would break off.”

After transcribing the rough sketches onto paper, Kinderman would design a clean copy of the sheet music with help of graduate student Bradley Decker.

“Kinderman would go into the sketches and come up with a rough rendering,” Decker said. “I would take the rendering and input it note by note into a computer.”

The unfinished trio lasts approximately three minutes, which was as much as Kinderman could find without trying to extend Beethoven’s ideas. The piece was put together from the Scheide Sketchbook at Princeton University and the Grasnick 29 manuscript from the Staatsbibliothek preuissisher Kulturbesitz in Berlin.

Kinderman explained that the unfinished trio was originally meant to be sold to a British publisher. During 1816, the London Philharmonic Symphony requested Beethoven write a symphony specifically for them, but the piece was never completed. Kinderman theorized that Beethoven dropped the piece because of his newfound duty as the legal guardian of his ten-year-old nephew. The ensuing legal battle with his sister-in-law might have prevented Beethoven from resuming work on the piece later.

The unfinished trio represents only a small percent of Beethoven’s unfinished work. Kinderman noted that Beethoven was always writing music wherever he went and plenty of his sketches still exist around the world. He estimated that there were probably around 40 to 50 incomplete projects at the time of Beethoven’s death.

“There are lots of pages of his sketches and drafts,” Kinderman said. “For example, though he only had one finished opera, he had half a dozen more in progress.”

Beethoven’s sketches ranged from fragments, sometimes barely 10 seconds long, to complete thoughts like the unfinished trio. Kinderman said Beethoven would often compose miniatures, short musical phrases that would loop at the end.

At some point, Kinderman would like to compile all Beethoven’s unfinished works into an album.

Kinderman’s work was received with enthusiasm by other faculty members in the School of Music.

“I think it’s a very exciting new discovery,” said William Heiles, chair of piano. “As a pianist, I’m really looking forward to hearing this music be performed.”

The work will also have a lasting effect on the field of Beethoven.

“The project will help other Beethoven researchers in their work,” Decker said. “It might show more about what was going on in Beethoven’s creative process.”