Work: Rage Over a Lost Penny (Rondo a capriccio)
About This Work
Though Beethoven's Rondo a capriccio in G major, Op. 129 is today a recital favorite, it was apparently unknown in the composer's own lifetime. Indeed, the incomplete manuscript, dating to 1795, came to light only at an auction of Beethoven's
personal effects following his death in 1827. The work was first published in 1828 by Beethoven's colleague, the publisher Anton Diabelli, today best remembered for his association with Beethoven's monumental set of 33 Variations, Op. 120. It has been suggested that Diabelli himself completed the Rondo, although the original edition gives no indication that the work was incomplete and had been significantly rearranged. The manuscript disappeared for many years and was considered lost until it turned up in the United States just after World War II. From the original manuscript, musicologist Erich Hertzmann prepared a new edition, published in 1949.
The title on Beethoven's manuscript of the work is "Alla ingharese quasi un capriccio"; the familiar subtitle "Rage over a Lost Penny" was later added by Anton Schindler. Marked Allegro vivace and in 2/4, the Rondo a capriccio combines a familiar rondo scheme with Beethoven's singular variation technique. The Rondo theme itself has two parts, each consisting of an eight-measure antecedent-consequent phrase. The statements of this darting, quicksilver theme are separated by episodes that are just as frenetic. In one of the Rondo's most distinct features, each return of the main theme is different from its initial presentation. Such alterations range from graceful ornamentation of the melodic line to changes of mode from major to minor. During one statement, the tune appears in the left hand, while in the lengthy coda, Beethoven's treatment of the material becomes conspicuously developmental. It is possibly this departure from a more conventional conception of the rondo that led Beethoven to use the expression "quasi un capriccio" (like a fantasy).
-- John Palmer, All Music Guide
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