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Complete edition of the Beethoven piano sonatas by Heinrich Schenker, published by Universal Edition of Vienna between 1921 and 1923.

UE's publicity of the time claimed that it was: a new edition of the complete sonatas in which all the alterations and contaminations that are perpetuated in most other editions to the detriment of the content have been eliminated by reference to manuscripts, revised copies, and original editions, and so Schenker's edition presents for the first time a reproduction of the greatest musical creations faithful to the originals.

Publication History

First Edition

The original edition was published first individually (UE 4010–4041) in 1921–23, with the collective title: L. van. Beethoven: Klaviersonaten: Nach den Autographen und Erstdrucken rekonstruiert von Heinrich Schenker L. van Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, reconstructed from the autograph manuscripts and first editions by Heinrich Schenker.

In this edition, Schenker eschewed editorial phrase-markings, dynamic marks, etc. (all of which he deplored in the work of other editors, maintaining that Beethoven provided all such markings as were necessary), but did supply fingerings, and also "elucidations" (Erläuterungen), i. e. explanatory comment.

It was then published in four volumes (Vierbändige Gesamtausgabe) as follows: I: Opp. 2, 7, 10 (UE 8a) — II: Opp. 13, 14, 22, 26, 27, 28 (UE 8b) — III: Opp. 31, 49, 53, 54, 57 (UE 9a) — IV: Opp. 78, 81a, 90, 101, 106, 109, 110, 111 (UE 9b). (UE 8‒9 were originally assigned to their two-volume bound "Prachtausgabe" of the sonatas, and seem to have been re-used at this time, and again for the second edition, by Erwin Ratz.)

Some sonatas were edited a second time by Schenker during the later 1920s, notable Op. 57 ("Appasasionata") and Op. 90.

The draft contract for this work was dated March 23, 1920, the revised contract July 10, 1920 (OC 52/447 and 448). This is one of two contracts (the other being that for the Kleine Bibliothek ) that Schenker contested vigorously under advice from the attorney Leo Fischmann. The contract made provision for publication as a single volume, collectively in several volumes, and individually, and for each sonata to be supplied with an introduction. For each sonata, Schenker inspected directly or obtained photographs of all the autograph manuscripts and first editions that were known and available to him.

Second Edition

A second edition, with revisions by Erwin Ratz, was published by Universal Edition (UE 8–9) c. 1946–47 as part of the Wiener Urtext Ausgabe, with Foreword in German, French, and English, bearing the title: L. van Beethoven: Klaviersonaten, nach den Autographen und Erstdrucken revidiert und mit Fingersätzen versehen von Heinrich Schenker. Neue Ausgabe revidiert von Erwin Ratz L. van Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, revised according to the autograph manuscripts and first editions and provided with fingerings by Heinrich Schenker. New edition revised by Erwin Ratz.

In this edition, Ratz modernized Schenker’s bar-numbering and, significantly, refined some of his editorial work in the light of primary sources that Schenker had undervalued or did not know. (It was this edition that was reprinted for Oswald Jonas’s revised edition of the Erläuterungsausgabe, 1971–72, with the consequence that Schenker’s commentary and the musical text are often contradictory.)

New Edition

A two-volume reprint of Schenker’s original edition, with Foreword and additional textual notes by Carl Schachter, was published by Dover Books in New York in 1975 as Ludwig van Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas.


  • Ian Bent and William Drabkin

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