British Professor Reconstructs Some Rejected Beethoven

In 1800 Ludwig van Beethoven dumped and re-wrote the whole second movement of his String Quartet in G, Opus 18, No. 2. Most scholars thought the original draft was lost, but a music professor from the University of Manchester has reconstructed what he thinks that first version might have sounded like. Host Audie Cornish talks with violinist Vlad Bogdanas of the Quatuor Danel string quartet, which debuted the piece last week.

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AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

Ludwig van Beethoven was a perfectionist - rewriting and tweaking his works from time to time. For instance, in 1800 he dumped and rewrote the whole second movement of his String Quartet in G, Opus 18, No. 2. And it came to be the version that's traditionally played today.

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CORNISH: Most scholars thought Beethoven's original draft was lost - until now. A music professor from the University of Manchester has reconstructed what he thinks Beethoven's first version might have sounded like. Professor Barry Cooper based his creation on fragments of sketches that Beethoven left behind - mostly a melody line for the higher instruments.

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CORNISH: And last week the Quatuor Danel String Quartet got to play it. We turned to Vlad Bogdanas, the group's violist, about what it was like.

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VLAD BOGDANAS: The lost version is very Beethoven because it has this very, he's very tormented. And violin, it's like a shout.

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BOGDANAS: This is something that you don't have in the final version, and somehow it works because better than with all this chaos.

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CORNISH: We know that Beethoven revised this work, and so what was the sound that we knew?

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BOGDANAS: In this one, you have in the middle section something exciting and happy.

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BOGDANAS: And what also is interesting is that in the final version, he took some elements but then did something totally different.

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BOGDANAS: Of course, he's a genius, but he's a very different type of genius. He's not like Mozart or Shubert, where they could write without any mistake from the first to the last note. And better than sometimes you can feel like he was sweating more.

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CORNISH: Vlad Bogdanas. He joined us from the BBC studios in Manchester, England. Thank you so much.

BOGDANAS: Thank you very much.

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CORNISH: This is NPR News.

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