Scholar finds 'Beethoven's last piano work' in library

Pauline Askin
Tuesday 09 September 2008 00:00 BST

An Australian musicologist has discovered what he believes to be the last piano work written by Beethoven.

Peter McCallum, associate professor of musicology at the University of Sydney, found the 32 bars of handwritten music while looking at one of the composer's sketchbooks in Berlin's state library. Most of his books have been studied in detail but the final one has attracted less attention.

McCallum said that he didn't know instantly that it was a piano piece because Beethoven often used a chaotic sort of shorthand. "The sketchbooks ... are very difficult to read and need a bit of deciphering, but you can work it out if you look at it for long enough," he said.

McCallum said he believed the piece was written in October 1826, five months before Beethoven died.

"It's got a few little unusual harmonic features which we don't normally associate with Beethoven," he said.

McCallum's pianist wife Stephanie used her husband's transcription to make the first recording of the piece - Bagatelle in F minor – which lasts just 54 seconds. McCallum said he believed the piece, although brief, was complete.

"I suspect if Beethoven had come to it as he very often did with these things he would have added more because it's not very long," he said. reuters

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