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Ludwig van Beethoven, Sextett für Streichquartett und zwei Hörner (Es-Dur) op. 81b, Stimmen, Überprüfte Abschrift

Beethoven-Haus Bonn, Sammlung H. C. Bodmer, HCB Mh 58

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Things worth knowing
Double opus number by mistake

Beethoven only composed chamber music for wind or rather for a combination of wind and strings in his early creative period. The Sextet for String Quartet and two Horns was composed in the 1790s. He probably sketched it out while he was still in Bonn, but only completed it in Vienna. It was published in 1810 by the Bonn publisher Nikolaus Simrock. Mozart and Haydn had already written divertimenti for this instrumentation, and Beethoven's sextet also probably continues the tradition of elevated light music. It might even have been intended as dinner music for the Elector's court in Bonn, where Beethoven was employed. The work was given its comparatively high opus number by the publisher, who gave the sextet the number 81. In so doing he did not realize that the piano sonata "Les Adieux" was being prepared by Breitkopf & Härtel at the same time and also had the opus number 81. The Beethoven Catalogue of Works by Kinsky and Halm retains this doubling, putting a small letter after each of the opus numbers: the piano sonata is op. 81a, the sextet op. 81b. In 1846 Simrock published a first edition of the score of the sextet. The handwritten score, which also contains the corrected copies of the parts, is from a later date but was not used as the engraver's model for the first printing of the score. (J.R.)

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