Guide to Beethoven Research
© Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies
Compiled and described by William Meredith
updated by Patricia Stroh July 16, 2009
The following guide to research on Beethoven was compiled for undergraduate and graduate courses in Beethoven at the School of Music at San Jose State University. It may be reproduced and distributed without the permission of the Center if credit and copyright information is attached. Each section also includes strategies for locating other similar resources using the Beethoven Gateway.
Thematic catalogs and works lists
Standard thematic catalog: "Kinsky-Halm"
Das Werk Beethovens / Thematisch-Bibliographisches Verzeichnis seiner sämtlichen vollendeten Kompositions. (Beethoven's Works / Thematic-Bibliographic List of His Completed Compositions). Compiled by George Kinsky, completed and edited by Hans Halm. Munich: G. Henle, 1955. 808 pp.
Contains entries for Beethoven's works with opus numbers, without opus numbers (Werke ohne Opus = WoO), and doubtful and inauthentic works. Also a number of useful indices, including a list of dedicatees and a list of his song compositions listed by titles and beginnings of the text.
1978 update to thematic catalog: "Dorfmüller"
"Supplement zum Thematisch-bibliographischen Verzeichnis von Kinsky-Halm," ("Supplement to the Thematic-Bibliographic List by Kinsky-Halm"), in Beiträge zur Beethoven-Bibliographie Studien und Materialen zum Werkverzeichnis von Kinsky-Halm. Edited by Kurt Dorfmüller. Munich: G. Henle, 1978. 452 pp.
Also in this volume are several important lists and articles about Beethoven autographs, copies, first and early editions.
The "new Kinsky"
A revised edition of the thematic catalog, edited by Kurt Dorfmüller and Norbert Gertsch, is currently underway by Henle Verlag.
Thematic catalog of works not in Kinsky-Halm: "Hess"
Verzeichnis der nicht in der Gesamtausgabe veröffentlichten Werke Ludwig van Beethovens (List of the Published Works of Beethoven Not in the Complete Edition). Prepared by Willy Hess. Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1957. 116 pp.
English edition of "Hess"
Green, James F., 1949-
The new Hess catalog of Beethoven's works. Edited, updated and translated from the original German by James F. Green. West Newbury, Vt. : Vance Brook Pub., 2003. 227 p.
For other thematic catalogs, search in the Beethoven Gateway in the Category index.
Search term: thematic catalogs
Works list in The New Grove Beethoven. Joseph Kerman and Alan Tyson. New York: Norton, 1983. First published in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie, 1980. 216 pp.
The works list was compiled by Douglas Johnson, who was then working on The Beethoven Sketchbooks. The dates in the list are the most accurate available in a list. The discussion of biography and works is very good as well. Kerman and Tyson are two senior Beethoven scholars.
Updated in Oxford Music Online (including the Grove Music Online).
For other lists of Beethoven's works (including those arranged alphabetically or for specific genre), search in the Beethoven Gateway in the Category index: Search term: works lists
Editions of the letters to and from Beethoven
Standard English-language edition of the letters: "Anderson"
The Letters of Beethoven. Compiled, translated and edited by Emily Anderson. 3 vols. London: Macmillan, 1961.
A number after Anderson normally refers to the number of the letter in her edition. There are a number of problems with Anderson: it was largely her own work; the translations are set in a "timeless English prose" rather than being as literal as possible; and she made significant errors. Since 1961, many new letters have appeared; some of these are found in Albrecht's book.
Ludwig van Beethoven. Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe. Sieghard Brandenburg, ed. Munich: G. Henle Verlag. 1996-
The most recent German critical edition of the letters was prepared by the Beethoven-Haus, Bonn. This edition replaces Emily Anderson's edition as the standard critical edition. Eight volumes, including an index volume, have been published to date. An additional volume with supplementary material is planned.
Theodore Albrecht, ed. Letters to Beethoven, 3 vols. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1996.
The first collection of all of the letters known to have been written to Beethoven. This is a very reliable and fact-filled source that is a fascinating read. It also contains translations of over 70 letters of Beethoven which are not included in Anderson.
For other editions of Beethoven's correspondence, search in the Beethoven Gateway in the Category index (search terms: letters from Beethoven; letters to Beethoven). For discussions of specific letters, enter the letter number from the Anderson collection (e.g. Anderson L289 or Brandenburg no. 301) in the Major Subject or Subject indexes.
Beethoven. Ed. H.C. Robbins Landon. London: Macmillan, 1970. 400 pp.
The standard book which contains contemporary accounts of Beethoven by his friends, enemies, peers, etc. Also contains a very good selection of pictures of important Beethoven people, etc.
For other documentary or illustrated biographies, search in the Beethoven Gateway in the Category index (search terms: documentary biographies; iconographies).
German edition of conversation books: "CB":
Ludwig van Beethovens Konverstionshefte. Edited by Karl-Heinz Kohler, Grita Herre, and Dagmar Beck. Leipzig: 1968-1993.11 vols. to date.
Very carefully annotated and hence a good source of information on Beethoven's last decade. Vols. 4 and 5 lack indices. Beware of Anton Schindler's forged entries!
English edition. Unfortunately, there is not yet an English translation of the complete conversion books. However, selections appear in several English-language compilations of biographical sources (see below)
For other editions of the Conversation Books (including excerpts translated into English), search the Beethoven Gateway in the Category index (search term: conversation books). For discussions of the Conversation Books, enter the search term in the Major Subject or Subject indexes.
Reviews of the music
Collections of contemporary reviews of Beethoven's music
Ludwig van Beethoven, die Werke im Spiegel seiner Zeit: Gesammelte Konzertberichte und Rezensionen bis 1830 (The Works in the Mirror of their Time: Collected Concert Reports and Reviews up to 1830). Laaber: Laaber Verlag, 1987, reprinted 1996. 672 pp.
Wayne Senner, gen ed., Robin Wallace, William Meredith, ed. Contemporary German Reception of Beethoven. 4 vols. Univ. of Nebraska Press. Vol. 1-2 (1999-2001): University of Nebraska Press; Vols. 3-4: forthcoming (Pendragon Press).
English version: "Thayer-Forbes":
Thayer's Life of Beethoven. Revised and edited by Eilliot Forbes. Rev. ed. Prineton Univ. Press, 1967.
Now a two-volume work highly edited from the original five-volume set in German. Very badly in need of revision, but so badly in need that it is a daunting task.
Other important English-language biographies:
Barry Cooper. Beethoven. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
This new biography replaces Denis Matthews's volume published in 1984 for the Master Musicians series. Cooper combines discussion of Beethoven's life and music, proceeding chronologically in chapters that encompass three to four years of Beethoven's life.
Martin Cooper. Beethoven / The Last Decade 1817-1827. London: Oxford Unv. Press, 1977.
Cooper's survey of Beethoven's life and works is the only full-length study of Beethoven's last decade. It is well-written and perceptive. Part 1 covers the biography; Part 2 covers the music. Appendix A, written by Edward Larkin, is "Beethoven's Medical History"; Appendix B is "A Note on Beethoven's Metronome Markings."
Carl Dahlhaus. Ludwig van Beethoven / Approaches to His Music. Trans. Mary Whittal. Oxford: Clarendon, 1991
As is obvious from the subtitle, Dahlhaus' book is primarily oriented toward a "biography" of the music. However, there is a great deal of general biographical information contained herein, and Dahlhaus is one of the most important musicologists of the 20th century. The book is densly packed with ideas on the context and interpretation of Beethoven's music.
Joseph Kerman and Alan Tyson. The New Grove Beethoven. New York: Norton, 1980.
Reprint and revision of the long article in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Though a dictionary article, this brief biography and account of the composer's works is an invaluable reference guide and an informative survey of Beethoven's life and works. An updated version of the Kerman/Tyson article is available through Oxford Music Online.
William Kinderman. Beethoven. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
This is a study of Beethoven's creative development, so it focuses on Beethoven's music rather than biography.
Lewis Lockwood, Lewis. Beethoven : The Music and the Llife. New York: Norton, 2003.
The primary focus of this biography is Beethoven's music, although no musical examples are printed in the book. Instead, readers must consult the publisher's website.
George Marek. Beethoven / Biography of a Genius. New York: Crowell, 1969.
Marek's biography has long been out of print, but is readily found in used book stores. Though in need of revision, it remains one of the most popular general biographies of the composer for its straightforward prose and rendition of the composer's life.
Anton Schindler. Beethoven As I Knew Him / A Biography by Anton Felix Schindler. Ed. Donald W. MacArdle and trans. Constance S. Jolly. London: Faber and Faber, 1966.
Anton Schindler was Beethoven's secretary for a few years in the 1820s. His first-hand accounts of the composer's life would be invaluable if he was trustworthy. Schindler destroyed many of the conversation books in his possession, forged entries in his own hand in many of the ones that he did not destroy, has been caught in several lies, and sold his Beethoven collection for a state pension. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of information in Schindler's biography which is not available elsewhere.
Marion Scott. Rev. by Jack Westrup. Beethoven. London: Dent, 1974.
This is the volume on the composer in the Master Musician series. A new biography from Barry Cooper is in the works and is due to be published in 2000. Scott's biography was originally written in the 1940s and was revised for the 1974 edition. A standard survey of the life and works.
Maynard Solomon. Beethoven. New York: Schirmer, 1977; 2nd. ed., rev., 1988.
Solomon's biography occupies a central position in Beethoven studies. The approach to Beethoven's life and works is pyschoanalytic, and Solomon's theories have been influential in the field of Beethoven studies. The book contains a chapter which argues that Antonie Brentano was Beethoven's Immortal Beloved. Solomon updates some of the information in his biography in his collection, Beethoven Essays (Harvard Univ. Press, 1988).
David Wyn Jones. The Life of Beethoven. Musical Lives. Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1998
An abbreviated (204 pp.) biography that provides a good introduction to Beethoven's life.
For other Beethoven biographies, search in the Beethoven Gateway in the Category index (search term: biographies) and limit your search to English-language materials if desired.
Bibliography of bibliographic sources:
Beethoven-Bibliographien. Compiled by Karl Stock, Rudolf Heilinger, Marylene Stock. Graz: Selbstverlag Stock & Stock, 1986. 78 pp.
Includes 385 citations for works up to 1985 containing Beethoven bibliographies. Indexed by title and editor.
Beethoven Abstracts. Compiled and annotated by Donald MacArdle, but completed and edited after his death in 1964 by Sonja Pogodda. Detroit: Information Associates, 1973. 432 pp.
Lots of problems here, but a useful annotated bibliography all the same. Abstracts primary and secondary periodicals.
Beethoven Gateway. Co-directed by William Meredith and Patricia Stroh at the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, San Jose State University. 1990 - . Gateway through the Center's web page:
The Beethoven Gateway is designed to be a comprehensive, computer-based Beethoven bibliography with enhanced online search capabilities. Over 14,000 bibliographic records have been entered to date.
Beethoven "yearbooks" and other collections of scholarly essays
These publications also include bibliographies, reviews, and reports of Beethoven conferences and activities around the world. All of the individual essays included in these publications are indexed in the Beethoven Gateway.
Beethoven-Jahrbuch, published by the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn.
Vol. 1 (1953-54) Published 1954
Vol. 2 (1955-56) 1956
Vol. 3 (1957-58) 1959
Vol. 4 (1959-60) 1962
Vol. 5 (1961-64) 1966
Vol. 6 (1965-68) 1969
Vol. 7 (1969-70) 1971
Vol. 8 (1971-72) 1975
Vol. 9 (1973-77) 1977
Bonner Beethoven-Studien, published by the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn.
Scholarly essays; include some contributions in English.
Vol. 1: 1999
Vol. 2: 2001
Vol. 3: 2003
Vol. 4: 2005
Vol. 5: 2006
Vol. 6: 2007
Beethoven Forum, first published by the Univ. of Nebraska Press then transferred to the University of Illinois Press.
Scholarly essays on Beethoven's works and life, reviews of books and recordings.
Vol. 1: 1992
Vol. 2: 1993
Vol. 3: 1994
Vol. 4: 1995
Vol. 5: 1996
Vol. 6: 1997
Vol. 7: 1999
Vol. 8: 2000
Vol. 9: 2002
Vol. 10: 2003
Vol. 11: 2004
Vol. 12: 2005
Vol. 13: 2006
Vol. 14: 2007
Standard text on Beethoven's sketches:
The Beethoven Sketchbooks / History, Reconstruction Inventory. Douglas Johnson (early period), Alan Tyson (middle period), and Robert Winter (late period). Edited by Johnson. Berkeley: Univ. of California, 1985. 611 pp.
Sketch catalog: "SV" numbers:
"Verzeichnis der Skizzen Beethovens" ("List of Beethoven's Sketches") in Beethoven-Jahrbuch 6 (Jahrgang 1965/68, 1969): 7-128. Prepared by Hans Schmidt.
Lists sketches by city, gives each a number and limited bibliographic information, and has an index by Opus, WoO, and Hess numbers, and a list of sketches for incomplete works. The list is unfortunately incomplete and inaccurate; some corrections may be made by consulting no. 4a.
For other major studies of Beethoven sketches, search in the Beethoven Gateway in the Category index (search term: sketch studies). Additional books and articles that discuss Beethoven's sketches may be identified by searching "compositional process" in the subject indexes.
Handbooks and guides
Beethoven handbooks in English:
Peter Clive. Beethoven and His World: A Biographical Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
This updated guide includes many new names and relies on the more current research than found in Nettl's Beethoven Encyclopedia (see below).
Barry Cooper, ed. The Beethoven Compendium / A Guide to Beethoven's Life and Music. London: Thames and Hudson, 1991. 351 pp.
Very handy up-to-date guide to Beethoven's life and works. Includes the following sections:
Calendar of Beethoven's life, works and related events
Beethoven's family tree
Who's who of Beethoven's contemporaries
Beethoven as individual
Beethoven's beliefs and opinions
Biographical and musical source material
A conspectus of Beethoven's music
Performance practices in Beethoven's day
Beethoven Encyclopedia. Paul Nettl. New York: Philosophical Library, 1956.
(Retitled Beethoven Handbook in 2nd ed. published by Ungar in New York in 1967; reprinted as The Beethoven Encyclopedia by Carol Publishing, Secaucus, NJ, in 1994) 335 pp.
Short entries on important people, places, titles, etc.
The Beethoven Companion, ed. Thomas K. Scherman and Louis Biancolli. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1972. 1,230 pp.
Huge systematic survey of Beethoven's life, places he lived, family background, letters, and music. Commentaries on the music are by many different authors, mostly selected from previously published sources.
The Beethoven Reader. ed. Denis Arnold and Nigel Fortune. New York: Norton, 1971. 542 pp. The London edition from Faber and Faber, also 1971, is called The Beethoven Companion.
Essays by different authors on the man and artist, the pianos and piano music, the chamber music, the orchestral music, the operatic and vocal music, practical matters, and the view of posterity.
Beethoven handbooks in German:
Beethoven Handbuch. Compiled by Theodor Frimmel. 2 vols. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1926.
Includes short articles on Beethoven's life and works arranged in alphabetical order.
Das Beethoven-Lexicon. Edited by Heinz von Loesch and Claus Raab. Das Beethoven-Handbuch, Band 6. Laaber: Laaber Verlag, 2008.
This book attempts to replace Frimmel's Beethoven-Handbuch. Includes entries on Beethoven's works and their reception and influence on other music, literature, arts, politics, philosophy, and other historical aspects. Somewhat selective in the choice of topics, and lacks and index.
Beethoven Handbuch. Edited by Sven Hiemke. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2009.
Encyclopedia entries on Beethoven's works, with a long introductory essay on Beethoven and his world. Includes bibliographies and indexes.
Other Beethoven periodicals
The Beethoven Journal (formerly The Beethoven Newsletter). Edited by William Meredith. San Jose: American Beethoven Society. Vol. 1 (1986) - present
The Journal contains information and news on Beethoven written for the general Beethoven enthusiast. It is available with membership in The American Beethoven Society.
Arietta. London: Beethoven Piano Society of Europe. No. 1 (1999) - present.
Short articles and reviews. Available with membership in the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe.
Beethoven, la revue de l'ABF (2003-present)
Publication of the Association Beethoven France et Francophonie. List of contents of all issues available on the association's website.