The Great Composer Quiz – September 8, 2020

Beethoven, age 13

Time’s up, pencils down, the Great Composer who seemed to be going nowhere with his youthful attempts at a musical career. Maybe his time was off. Maybe he couldn’t read the market. Today, the score to his Dressler Variations would likely be bought in a hurry for a large price.

The answer is Ludwig van Beethoven, whose teacher in Bonn was Christian Gottlob Neefe. At Neefe’s direction, the preteen Ludwig composed his first published work, a set of nine variations on a theme in C Minor by a contemporary singer-composer Ernst C. Dressler. Neefe approached a Mannheim publisher to issue the work, and in 1982 it appeared under a French title, Variations pour le Clavecin sur une Marche de Mr Dresler Composées . . . par un jeune amateur Louis van Beethoven âgé de dix ans. Presumably, Beethoven’s age was trimmed to ten in order to better market the work. A decade later, 1803, the year of his “Eroica” Symphony, Beethoven revised the Dressler Variations and a second edition was published.

Click to hear Beethoven’s Dressler Variations.

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