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School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

A new side to Beethoven

New perspectives, fresh performances - a new side to Beethoven sonatas and other works.

A re-examination of Beethoven's work has influenced professional and amateur musicians alike. A new performance edition of 35 sonatas – along with programme and CD notes, lectures and pre-concert talks – has enhanced public appreciation of Beethoven as a significant part of cultural heritage.

Image of Beethoven sheet music on music stand
"Re-examination of Beethoven's life and works has informed new interpretations of his composing and fresh performances of his sonatas."

Decades of extensive research and re-examination of Beethoven's life and works have led to widespread reinterpretations of his composing and fresh performances of his sonatas. The findings of our historical and musical studies have informed concert programme notes and CD inserts.

Most notably, Professor Barry Cooper published a new complete performance edition of the 35 sonatas, accompanied with extensive notes, which has received widespread acclaim.

Key achievements of the new edition:

  • Success of "Ludwig van Beethoven, The 35 Piano Sonatas", launched to an audience of over 200 and awarded 'Best Classical Publication 2008' and 'Best Sheet Music Edition 2008'
  • Sales of 27,000 copies and translation to German and Chinese
  • New recordings of the complete cycle of 35 sonatas (rather than the usual 32)
  • Live performances in London in 2011 and 2012
  • Masterclasses at the Musikeon in Valencia, Spain in 2010 and 2012
  • Inclusion of two movements of the edition in the ABRSM's Grade 8 piano exam syllabus 2009-10 and two more in 2011-12, reaching roughly 20,000 amateur pianists every year in 90 countries

Media coverage and comment on the reconstruction of the original slow movement of Beethoven's Quartet Op.18 No.2, and the previously undiscovered hymn "Pange Lingua" bear testament to the cultural significance of Professor Cooper's work.

The September 2011 performance of the quartet movement by the Quatuor Danel featured in 19 radio and television broadcasts, 100 global newspaper articles. BBC Radio 3 broadcast the performance in full, with excerpts on Radio 4. "Pange lingua" received similar coverage in October 2012.

The research findings reached up to 40,000 people through programme booklets at eight BBC Promenade concerts in one year alone. CD liner notes on 12 recordings (including one with sales of 137,000) and 19 lectures at the 2008-9 'Beethoven Unwrapped' celebration also demonstrate the wide reach of the research and its influence on more accurate knowledge and appreciation of Beethoven and his cultural legacy.

The research

Professor Barry Cooper reading sheet music
Professor Barry Cooper.

Professor Cooper's research has extensively re-examined the life and works of Beethoven over more than ten years.

Key areas of study:

  • All previous biographical evidence reassessed in the Master Musicians book "Beethoven", which drew many new conclusions about both life and works
  • Source material for the 35 sonatas resulting in a new edition with innovative commentary on both practical and textual matters
  • Late revisions of the Fourth Piano Concerto, leading to the first complete transcription and commentary, performances and recordings
  • Reconstruction of the original lost slow movement for the String Quartet Op. 18 No. 2 based on Beethoven's sketches
  • Neglected folksong settings

Academic profile