The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: The discovery of Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony wins first prize from The Ear for The Best April Fools’ Day Story | April 9, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

On April 1, I posted a contest — the first one ever on The Well-Tempered Ear — to see who could come up with the best or most believable classical music story for April Fools Day.

I talked about how I am probably too sincere and gullible to be a fan of April Fools Day stories, be they on-line, in-print or on-the-air.

But I didn’t have to worry.

It turned out to be pretty popular, judging from the number of hits and comments.

Here is a link to that posting:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/

Now I am back home from being on the road and can announce the results.

Several readers sent in very good ideas, as you can see for yourself.

Among others — including Yo-Yo Ma turning to rock on a solid gold cello — the most credible entries included:

Bach Hits Broadway in Baroque Follies

PDQ Bach Was Real”

A piano that was rigged so it wouldn’t sound during an accompanying session proved to be a real-life April Fools’ practical joke or prank.

But the clear winner was Rita Stevens who said: “How about the discovery of a 10th Beethoven symphony?”

Well, great minds think alike.

Naomi Lewin, of NPR’s Weekend Edition, had a similar story, which was the April Fools Day story that was featured by Tom Huizenga on NPR’s outstanding classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence.”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/04/01/149697309/beethovens-10th-symphony-for-real

In retrospect, the story about Beethoven (below, another make-believe in the form of a recreation by Getty Images) seems pretty obvious. But only one reader suggested it and she wins.

Let me just say that to add a touch of credibility, I might have suggested qualifying it just a bit: “Extensive Sketches for Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony Discovered.”

That way, Beethoven’s Tenth would be on par with sketches left for unfinished symphonies and other works by Schubert, Mahler and Bruckner among others. And those are for real!

Anyway, the promised prize of a book and a CD will be in the mail shortly.

Thanks to all of you for your help in suggesting entries and reading the post.

Maybe we’ll have to do another kind of contest soon.

Any suggestions?


8 Comments »

  1. Beethoven Symphony Rock

    Comment by liver deux — September 1, 2019 @ 10:45 am

  2. Eureka!
    Puccini’s completed finale to TURANDOT!

    Comment by Michael Goldberg — April 10, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

    • Hi Michael,
      EUREKA, INDEED!
      That is a fantastic answer — right up with discovering a 10th Beethoven symphony.
      Maybe it would more like finding a version of Mozart’s Requiem that was completed by Mozart himself instead of Sussmayr!
      There is something particularly frustrating about a work that is almost finished by the composer — and not just some sketches for a work or a movement that was never really even begun.
      And Puccini’s “Turandot” certainly qualifies on that score.
      What would Puccini have done?
      Very intriguing question to ask.
      Thanks for reading and replying.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 10, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

  3. The symphony I was in, San Jose Symphony, back in the 80s did the Cooper version. I don’t remember much, other than it really didn’t work very well.

    I liked my April Fool’s I posted, but most didn’t get it at all so it was a whopping failure. Oh well. (See http://oboeinsight.com/2012/04/01/mqod-581/ to read it.)

    Comment by pattyobo — April 10, 2012 @ 12:08 am

    • Hi Patty,
      Thank you for the first-hand account.
      It helps to explain why I have never heard of this particular reconstruction of a Beethoven 10th!
      Glad you read and replied.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 10, 2012 @ 10:27 am

  4. Welcome home Jake.
    Actually, truth is stranger than April foolishness.
    In fact (I’m not making this up, honest!) in the mid-1980’s the distinguished British Beethoven scholar Barry Cooper put together a 10th symphony by Beethoven from a variety of late sketches. There were two recordings made of the resulting one-movement work which lasts about 15 minutes, and I remember that it got some airplay back in 1988 when I was working at Wisconsin Public Radio.

    Beethoven made references to another symphony during his final years and left a number of fragmentary sketches for something that might have been a symphony. But the work I’m referring to is much more of a hypothetical assemblage of sketch material than an actual work (unlike Mahler’s 10th, or Elgar’s 3rd, or the Schubert 7th, for instance). Still, it created a bit of a stir back in when it appeared…
    All this is verifiably true..there is even a Wikipedia article about it!

    Now the discovery that Igor Stravinsky is actually still living in a monastery outside Venice, watched over by a team of dedicated monks and their faithful Russian wolf hounds…and he’s actually writing new pieces, not just de-composing…that would be a good story, don’t you think?

    Comment by Bill Lutes — April 9, 2012 @ 7:27 am

    • Hi Bill,
      Thank you for the good wishes and welcome home.
      And special thanks for the background on a 10th symphony by Beethoven. Who knew?
      You offer fascinating information that I know nothing about. But then you really are an encyclopedia of music history!
      I am glad to hear that the fragments really are small fragments, which doesn’t completely invalidate the April Fools prize for the best story.
      Apparently, the NPR person also didn’t know about these Beethoven sketches.
      But the sketches make sense, given Beethoven’s notebooks and his careful, conscientious way of work and composing.
      I wonder why some kind of finished version of even a 15-minute movement hasn’t been performed more widely, or at least isn’t known about more widely.
      Beethoven is certainly one of THE icons, after all.
      As for Stravinsky, I will let your anecdote speak for itself, though it would have been a good April Fools Day story, especially given the age of 100-plus he would be.
      I will look into finding a link to a version of Beethoven’s 10th and pass it long to others if I find it.
      Thanks again.
      Talk to you soon.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 9, 2012 @ 8:27 am


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