Volume 7, December 2015
Beethoven, the Viennese Violone, and the Problem of Lower Compass

by Stephen G. Buckley

3. Explanations for Out-of-range Pitches

Beginning with the Eroica Symphony, op. 55, pitches below F appear in Beethoven's double bass parts with increasing frequency. Apart from the concurrent rise in popularity of the four-stringed bass tuned E A d g, no contemporary development in double bass technology accounts for this change in Beethoven's writing for the instrument; a reliable string that could sound C1 did not appear until much later. Yet C1 appears in the double bass part already in op. 55. It is implausible that Beethoven would simply have forgotten about the limitations of the double bass in his third symphony and forward, when he had so clearly accepted them in earlier music. How can the appearance of pitches from E down to C in his double bass parts then be accounted for in this later repertoire? Possible explanations fall into two different categories. Briefly, some instances might be explained by the practice of reinforcing the double basses with one or more contrabassoons, while other instances appear to be simple oversights in editing or proofreading. Overlap and/or interaction between these two categories, amid the confusion of copying of parts and assembling players for a particular performance, is almost certain.

a. Use of Contrabassoon to Reinforce Double Bass

The contrabassoon in Vienna in 1800 had a lower compass of C (sounding C1; Beethoven even writes low B-flat for it in the ninth symphony). Beethoven may in fact have written pitches below E in the double bass part knowing that the contrabassoon, which would have played from the same part as the double basses, would be present in some cases, and knowing that double bass players would either transpose unplayable notes, or simply leave them out. Before proceeding to evidence supporting the inclusion of one or more contrabassoons to reinforce the double bass part, a brief discussion of eighteenth-century concepts and performance practices surrounding the "basso" voice will shed light on the set of assumptions that may have been in place for Beethoven in the early nineteenth-century.

Prior to the late eighteenth century, the part marked "basso" or "bassi" or "bassi tutti" by a composer was not written for a specific instrument. All bass-register instruments — cello, double bass (violone), bassoon, contrabassoon, theorbo, etc. — played from this same part, and if there were times when one or the other should drop out or play alone, this would be indicated with instructions like senza faggoti or soli violoncelli. According to Adam Carse,

The part in 18th century orchestral music which is most liable to be misunderstood is the bass part. The 19th century editions are apt to treat this as a part written specifically for cellos and double-basses; as a purely string part. Up to the time, quite late in the century, when composers did write specifically for these two instruments, only one bass part was written. It was the bass of the music in general, and was not designed for any particular instrument, nor did it embody the technical characteristics of the bowed string-instrument family. [...] The part was intended for all instruments of the bass register, and for all those whose function included playing the bass of the music.16

More recent scholarship disagrees slightly with Carse's characterization on two particulars: First, his assertion that the bass part was not designed for the "technical characteristics" of the stringed instruments disagrees with Edgerton's research on Haydn's bass parts. Edgerton asserts a high degree of tailoring for the specific characteristics of both the cello and the Viennese violone.17 In addition to an overall compliance with the lower compass of the violone, Edgerton notes features such as the concurrence of the top boundary of the cello's range (a') with that of the violone — this note is an octave harmonic on the top strings of both instruments. In Haydn's writing, passages utilizing this top note are carefully prepared by either rests or stepwise motion. Furthermore, figurations and passage-work utilizing alternation with the open-string notes a and d, common to both instruments, are prominent, while similar figurations employing the cello's G and C strings are avoided unless the violone is resting or has a different role, for example a concertante passage.18 Secondly, the appearance in the late eighteenth century of specific indications for both cello, double bass, and bassoon is often construed, as Carse implies above, to be the moment of the "separation" of the cello from the double bass. James Webster has argued, however, that the appearance of these indications merely follows a late eighteenth-century tendency toward terminological precision — a trend that has continued unabated to the present day — as opposed to reflecting a change in either scoring or performance practice.19

In the eighteenth century, the bassoon was an integral member of the structural bass in orchestral and other ensemble music, although it was not always given a discrete part. Eighteenth-century accounts of the instrument describe both its distinctive tone and its ability to articulate the bass voice in ensemble music.20 Its presence was, in many cases, assumed, and not necessarily indicated in the score. Adam Carse writes that "the old bass parts are also liable to be misunderstood in that it is not generally realized that they often include the bassoon part, even though that instrument was not mentioned by name."21 Carse points out that nearly every eighteenth-century orchestra was well supplied with bassoon players, and that in fact they were used in much greater proportion than they are today. In spite of that circumstance, he writes,

Dozens of scores may be examined without finding any bassoon parts. In operas or oratorios they may be found in only two or three numbers out of 30 or 40. Hundreds of the printed parts of the 18th century symphonies include no specific bassoon parts. Dozens of Haydn's symphonies in the Breitkopf and Härtel Complete Edition are without them, and of Mozart's 41 Symphonies in the same edition, 28 are without bassoon parts, and when they do occur it is almost entirely in the later works written from 1778 and onwards. Are we to suppose that these bassoon players, who were available in every orchestra, sat and did nothing when all these works were played? [...] Of course not. They played with the rest of the bass instruments as a matter of course, and only left the track of the bass part when some special melodic or harmonic part in the tenor register was written for them.22

Normal scoring for orchestral music in the mid-eighteenth century was strings in four parts (first and second violins, viola, and basso), plus pairs of oboes and horns. The oboes or horns might have been replaced or augmented by flutes or bassoons in specific situations. John Spitzer and Neal Zaslaw write that "this à 8 scoring, which could accommodate flutes alternating with oboes as well as bassoons playing along on the bass line — remained standard for published symphonies until the 1780s."23 In other words, in the early and middle eighteenth century the bassoon part was not written out, even though it was nearly always present. Only much later in the century, when the bassoon began to receive occasional obbligato parts, and when it began to function as the bass of the orchestra's wind choir, which sometimes played on its own, would the bassoon be allotted its own line in a score. More likely, a line above the basso part with the indication fagotto solo would suffice. Bassoon col basso, however, remained the rule until well into the nineteenth century, though the precise nature of how this manifested in practice is impossible to know with certainty.

Sara Edgerton has examined in detail practices related to the bassoon and its role in Haydn's ensemble at Esterházy. She reports that "by the second half of the eighteenth century its presence in 'symphonies' or  'orchestras' is clearly enunciated, both as a member of the bass part and as an obbligato voice in the ensemble."24 Modern scholars do not agree about the precise nature of bassoon col basso procedures; Landon has proposed and applied no fewer than five different principles in his editions of Haydn's works. These can be summarized as follows:25 1) Bassoon tacet in strings-only scoring; 2) bassoon tacet in slow movements, regardless of scoring; 3) bassoon col basso throughout; 4) bassoon rests during piano passages; and 5) bassoon plays a varied bass part. Edgerton concludes that the bassoon was most likely normally tacet in slow movements, but would otherwise play col basso throughout. While noting that information about bassoon col basso procedures is wholly absent from "hundreds" of eighteenth-century sources, meaning that a broad contemporary consensus about these practices is simply not available, she writes that "the bassoon is reported to be col basso throughout all symphonic movements primarily in post-1800 Austrian sources," and further, that "col basso throughout scoring for the bassoon [...] seems fairly common in Viennese sources from c. 1800 onward; prior to that time it is rarely reported."26 Use of the bassoon to reinforce the bass is thus reported to have been on the rise in Vienna at the turn of the eighteenth century — Beethoven's Vienna.

Bass instruments in Haydn's ensemble at Esterházy likely consisted of one player each on cello, violone, and bassoon. Interestingly, each of the musicians identified as violone players in Esterházy documents was hired as a bassoonist,27 suggesting a high degree of overlap in the functional duties of these instruments — evidently they were considered practically interchangeable. The age of the instrumental specialist had yet to arrive, and many musicians could, and were often expected to, fulfill multiple roles. Thus the "basso" role could be played by different instruments, according to circumstance, preference, and availability.

This aspect of classical performance practice, in fact a holdover from the baroque period, changed substantially over the course of the nineteenth century. Instrumental territories became more specifically defined in orchestration practices. Beethoven arrived to stay in Vienna in 1792, and commenced to learn his craft; this earlier conception of the "basso" role must have been stock in trade for him. But it is also certain that Beethoven endeavored to expand the sonority and range of the orchestra, and in particular its bottom register. According to Daniel Koury,

The fact that the orchestra changed in size during the course of the nineteenth century needs little documentation. Changes in sound were due not only to the larger number of players but also to the addition of instruments rarely if ever used in the eighteenth century, e.g., the English horn or contrabassoon.28

Referring to Beethoven's chamber music, James Webster has pointed out the systematic use and development of register as a compositional resource.29 The same evolution can be observed in Beethoven's orchestral music, which pushes both upward and downward in tessitura. Still, the double bass in Beethoven's Vienna was simply not capable of C1; nor did he imagine it to be. The contrabassoon, however, was capable of this register.

The contrabassoon is described in theoretical works as early as the late sixteenth century. It is mentioned in a newspaper notice describing Handel's upcoming season in 1740, and scored by Handel in two choruses from L'Allegro and in the Royal Fireworks Music. Charles Burney describes it in 1785, and W. T. Parke in his Musical Memoirs (1785-1830).30 It was used at a commemoration of Handel at Westminster Abbey in 1785. Notable technological developments occurred in Belgium in the late eighteenth century in the Tuerlinckx shop.31 The contrabassoon was a sixteen-foot instrument, from reed to bell, having a lower compass of at least C1. According to Lyndesay Langwill, Vienna was an early center for its use in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries:

It would seem that, up to about 1850, the inclusion of the contra in scores depended entirely on whether it was locally available. As Vienna seems to have been the centre where the contra was always procurable, we find it in the scores of Haydn and Beethoven. It received little attention, however, from Mozart and less from Schubert, and it rarely occurs in German scores as it was first considered more suitable for military music.32

This assertion concurs with Adam Carse, who writes:

Some reinforcement of the bass part by a strong and flexible wind-voice was becoming an urgent need when orchestras were growing ever larger during the early years of last century [the nineteenth]. For this purpose Haydn and Beethoven had already made use of the double bassoon in Vienna, but that instrument was not to be found everywhere, and in France and England the choice fell on the old wooden serpent[...]33

Langwill includes a list of bassoon and contrabassoon makers to 1965. Table I presents information culled from his findings. Out of sixteen contrabassoon makers active between 1750 and 1825, seven are Viennese. One of these, Stephan Koch, made contrabassoons exclusively. Nearby Prague also appears to have been a center of production, with three contrabassoon makers active in this period. Referring to Viennese contrabassoons, Langwill notes that "actual instruments (bearing the Viennese makers' names) are preserved and there are records of their use in Vienna in Beethoven's time and after."34 He cites a salary record given by Köchel of the Viennese Hoftheater in 1807 which includes "1 Contrafagott," and notes that Kastner describes the use of two contrabassoons in a Viennese performance of Handel's Timotheus [sic] in 1812.35

The preceding firmly situates Vienna as a center for early use of the contrabassoon. Langwill provides the following list of compositions where Beethoven has included the contrabassoon: Symphonies 5 and 9; the Mass in D; the overture to King Stephen; The Ruins of Athens; and a number of marches and smaller pieces.36 He also refers to a memorandum in Beethoven's papers mentioning the contrabassoon — this same document is described in Thayer-Forbes Life of Beethoven, and is also referred to by Daniel Koury and A. Peter Brown. According to Thayer-Forbes, it was found among papers uncovered by Schindler after Beethoven's death. It reads: "At my last concert in the large Redoutensaal there were 18 first violins, 18 second, 14 violas, 12 violoncellos, 7 contrabasses, 2 contrabassoons."37 The program for the concert in question, from February 27, 1814, consisted of the seventh and eighth symphonies, a vocal trio, and Wellington's Victory. Apparently Langwill did not corroborate his list of Beethoven's works with contrabassoon against the program referred to by the memorandum; if he had, he might have noticed (as Daniel Koury and Asher Zlotnik have done)38 that none of the works on this program call for contrabassoon in their scores.

Table 1

Contrabassoon Makers Active 1750-1825
Taken from Langwill, Bassoon and Contrabassoon, Appendix I.

Name Location Dates Comment
Baumann Paris 1800-30 Contra advertised
Doke, Karl Linz 1778-1826  
Finke, F.H. Dresden c. 1822  
Horak, Wenzel Prague (b)1788-(d)1854  
Kies, W. Vienna c. 1820  
Koch, Stephan Vienna (b)1772-(d)1828 Contra only
Kuss, Wolfgang Vienna 1811-1838  
Lempp, Martin Vienna 1788-1822  
Peuckert & Sohn Breslau 1802-1835  
Rott, Vincenz Josef Prague pre-1854 (dates uncertain)
Schott, B. Söhne Mainz 1780  
Tauber, Kaspar Vienna  1799-1836  
Tuerlinckx, J. A. A. Malines (b)1753-(d)1827  

The order in which Beethoven lists the instruments is also interesting. The contrabassoons are mentioned after the double basses, as though they belonged to the string group, or more specifically to the "basso" group; no other wind instruments are mentioned. An earlier note from Mozart suggests that this manner of grouping instruments is not without precedent. Describing the forces at a benefit concert at Vienna's Tonkünstler Societät, Mozart wrote to his father in 1781: "There were forty violins, the wind instruments were all doubled, there were ten violas, ten double basses, eight violoncellos, and six bassoons."39 Again, the bassoons are listed along with the other members of the "basso" corps, and after the strings. By category, Mozart names, in order, violins, winds, and the members of the "basso" (viola, cello, double bass, bassoon). Tonkünstler benefit concerts were unusual events that required participation from all the society's members, and often presented oratorios with enormous forces; the numbers indicated in Mozart's list should therefore not be viewed as normative in any sense. But as Peter Brown has pointed out, what should be noted are the proportions,40 and in particular that the bassoons in this case are not merely doubled, as with the other winds, but rather tripled.

Two further pieces of documentary evidence support the existence of this practice. The first is a set of parts was created for a performance of the Fourth Symphony, op. 60, in 1821, under the sponsorship of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. This work does not call for contrabassoon in its score. The performance took place in the Reitschule, a large hall normally used for training with horses. The orchestral forces employed were commensurately large, and Beethoven apparently added solo and tutti markings in the parts, indicating where the winds should be doubled and where they should play solo. Peter Brown41 and Bathia Churgin42 both refer to this performance and these parts. According to Nikolaus Harnoncourt43 the parts, which are now housed in the library of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, also include indications for contrabassoon. Second, the musician Joseph Melzer (1763-1832), listed by Köchel as both "Violonist" and "Fagottist", is described by Focht as having a secondary obligation to play contrabassoon.44 Köchel gives Melzer's tenure as "Violonist" with the Hofkapelle as 1813-1832, and as "Fagottist" from 1811-1824.45 This evidence shows that the overlap of the bassoon/double bass roles described above extended well into the nineteenth century. Moreover, it shows that contrabassoon was in fact present in this Viennese orchestra from at least 1811 to 1824, which agrees with Beethoven's description of its use at his concert in 1814, and with the 1821 performance at the Reitschule. Kastner's mention of the inclusion of contrabassoon in an 1812 performance of Handel's music (see above) also supports the existence of this practice.

Beethoven did specifically indicate contrabassoon in the fourth movement of the Fifth Symphony, op. 67. This work, along with the Sixth Symphony, op. 68; the Fourth Piano Concerto, op. 58; and the Choral Fantasy, op. 80; was given its first performance at Beethoven's Akademie of December 12, 1808. The notated part for the contrabassoon is exactly the same as the double bass part in this piece, apart from sections where the contrabassoon is tacet. When the contrabassoon plays, its part is the same as that of the double bass. That the contrabassoon part is extracted from the double bass part is made clear by the following example:

Example 1

Example 1: op. 67, iv, mm. 32 and 238.

In measure 32, Beethoven clearly accommodates the lower compass of the double bass; the arpeggio in the cello part starts from its open C string.46 Yet when the same material returns in measure 238, the correction is absent, and suggests possible oversight. Yet the correction in measure 32 for the double bass appears in the contrabassoon part as well, where it is not necessary; presumably, the extended lower compass of the contrabassoon was one of the principal reasons for its inclusion in the orchestra.

The significance of this example is twofold: first, it provides a clear indication that Beethoven did not suppose a lower compass of C1 on the double bass, even in works after op. 55; second, the appearance of Beethoven's accommodation for the compass of the double bass in the contrabassoon part provides evidence that the contrabassoon did not have its own discrete part. It is conceivable, though unlikely, that the discrepancy between measures 32 and 238 is intentional, and not an oversight; that Beethoven meant to show two different ways of executing the passage, taking for granted that the respective players would understand which one applied to them. Perhaps he even intended this subtle variation in contour; this last seems far-fetched indeed, since the effect would have been obscured by the cello part, which is the same in both instances. Indeed, why would Beethoven write the ungainly version appearing in measure 32 unless it was dictated by instrumental limitations? It is awkward, it changes the trajectory of the arpeggio, and it breaks the desirable octave doubling between cello and double bass. Far more likely is that the presence of the contrabassoon as reinforcement resulted to one extent or another in Beethoven's relaxed disposition toward the careful editing of the bass part for the compass of the double bass. Perhaps it was just plain carelessness. In either case, what this example and others like it make clear is Beethoven's awareness that the limited lower compass of the double bass was something that needed to be accounted for in crafting the bass part. Beethoven demonstrates this awareness repeatedly throughout his orchestral music, even in much later works, and even if he seems to forget the same in certain instances. The subsequent editorial decision to have the contrabassoon follow the double bass is probably a result of a too literal interpretation of "contrafagot col basso." It makes much more sense for the contrabassoon to follow the notation of the cello in this and other instances, thereby providing the sixteen-foot doubling that it is capable of, and that would seem to be the central reason for its inclusion in the orchestra. Given the ambiguity of contemporary information about col basso practices described above, a definitive conclusion on this matter may well be impossible to reach.

Beethoven's memorandum demonstrates that he used contrabassoons in a performance of the seventh and eighth symphonies, where they are not called for in the score. One may assume that at least one contrabassoon was also present for the concert of December 12, 1808, where the instrument is called for, in the Fifth Symphony. It is reasonable then to postulate that contrabassoon(s) might also have played in the other works on the program (Wellington's Victory and the Sixth Symphony, where the double bass part descends to C1 on several occasions), and therefore that Beethoven wrote down to C knowing that the contrabassoon would be present on this program. It is, however, curious that Beethoven indicated contrabassoon in the score for op. 67, and not in other scores, where it was evidently used in performance — perhaps he simply wanted to be certain of the weightiest possible bass sound in the fourth movement of the fifth symphony, where in other cases he adjusted the size (and instrumentation) of the bass group based on the performance venue and the size of the rest of the orchestra. Several sources describe the practice of varying orchestral forces based on venue and occasion in this period,47 and we also know that Beethoven was keenly aware of the "dynamic impact" of his music, as Daniel Koury has called it, and would have wanted to maximize its effect in any given venue — Koury describes a letter from Beethoven where he is keenly interested in the both the size and power of the orchestra and the characteristics of the hall for a performance of his music by the Philharmonic Society in London.48

Numerous examples from op. 55 and onward show that Beethoven clearly accommodated the lower compass of the double bass, while at the same time deploying the lowest part of the cello register — a departure from earlier classical practice, and from his own practice up to op. 50. This technique appears for the first time in the Creatures of Prometheus Overture, op. 43 (example 2), and reappears throughout Beethoven's orchestral works. Clearly, Beethoven wanted to utilize the deepest sonorities available to him, and to make the most of the orchestral resources at his disposal. He must therefore have had a keen awareness of the instrumental limitations he faced. Use of the contrabassoon to reinforce the double bass part in performance provides a logical explanation for the appearance of pitches in Beethoven's double bass parts descending to C1, and could in some measure account for the lack of attention to detail that is sometimes evident in the editing of these parts for the compass of the double bass. In other words: perhaps Beethoven was less than concerned with precise editing of these parts because he knew that they were playable on the contrabassoon. His memorandum certainly suggests that he counted the contrabassoon among the instruments of the bass instrumentarium.

Example 2

Example 2: op. 43, mm. 4-12.

b. Possible Errors in Proofreading or Editing

Another way to account for the appearance of notes below E in Beethoven's double bass parts is to demonstrate inconsistencies in proofreading in the source material. It is well known that Beethoven's manuscripts present considerable challenges to an editor; the most cursory examination of any autograph score is sufficient to make this point clear. Adam Carse has described Beethoven as a composer "who was maddeningly careless, who made untidy or illegible corrections, who often changed his mind, who sometimes appeared to be unable to make up his mind, and was clearly a most inefficient proofreader."49 Regarding the appearance of out-of-range pitches in the music of Mozart and Haydn, James Webster writes that

It would naturally be premature to conclude on the basis of the evidence presented here that pitches beneath the normal range of the double bass in music for that instrument by Mozart and Haydn are mere slips of the pen. But almost all such instances are, indeed, lacking in compositional weight, and there are very few of them that cannot be explained away on reasonable grounds. The alternative is to conclude that, contrary to documentary and stylistic evidence, Viennese double basses went down to C1 after all. The case for casual error seems far more plausible, however, especially in view of the occasional "corrections" these low pitches receive.50

Some instances of unplayable pitches in Beethoven's music are not similarly lacking in "compositional weight." But this does not preclude the possibility that many of them can be explained by carelessness. Jonathan Del Mar, editor of Bärenreiter's recent urtext edition of Beethoven's nine symphonies, has written that the "central problem" in editing Beethoven is that he "was human, and indubitably there are places where he made mistakes."51

A frequent consternation in Beethoven's bass parts, as described above, is that a part is "corrected" to accommodate the compass of the double bass in one instance, but then not similarly modified when the same material reappears at a parallel spot in the music. Another example of this type appears in the slow movement of the fifth symphony. Measures 31 and 80 are parallel, containing the same cadence. According to Adam Carse, the autograph score has low C for both cello and double bass in both instances, while the 1826 score, which was authorized by Beethoven, has the low C for double bass in measure 31, but corrects this to c in measure 80. Carse also notes that the 1809 set of parts has low C in both instances; these were prepared by copyists, and it is entirely possible that Beethoven never even saw them, much less carefully inspected them.52 Modern editions follow the reading of the 1826 score. The version appearing in measure 80 strongly indicates Beethoven's awareness of the lower compass of the double bass, and suggests that the version in measure 31 is the result of simple oversight. The autograph score came first, of course, heeding only the lower compass of the cello, and was handed over to a publisher, who would prepare a galley score for correction by the composer. It is hardly remarkable, particularly for Beethoven, that the correction phase was often left incomplete. The copying and subsequent checking of parts was an extremely laborious and time-consuming process, while rehearsal and production periods were extremely short in Beethoven's early concerts — indeed for all concerts in Vienna in Beethoven's time — and conditions were not at all favorable for musicians in general.53  Considering these circumstances together with Beethoven's notorious lack of thoroughness and attention to detail, the resulting inconsistencies in his bass parts become somewhat easier to understand.

Example 3

Example 3: op. 67, ii, mm. 31 and 80.

In some cases, editing for the compass of the double bass seems to proceed to a certain point in a movement, and then suddenly stop. The Ninth Symphony, op. 125, provides an example of this type. In measures 18-19 of the first movement (Example 2.3), the lower compass of the double bass is clearly accommodated to avoid D:

Example 4

Example 4: op. 125, i, mm. 18-19.

A similar accommodation occurs again in measure 52. With the possible exception of measures 102-3, and 106-7, where the bassoons split D and d but the cello and bass remain on d, editing for the compass of the double bass stops entirely after this point. C-sharp and especially D appear extensively in the remainder of the first movement, but always when the cello and double bass parts are at written unison. The second movement seems likewise to be entirely unedited for the double bass. Passages where the double bass is separate from the cello, however, do not descend below E; all instances of pitches below E appear when the two parts appear in written unison. These two circumstances suggest once again that 1) Beethoven did not believe the double bass to be capable of C1, and 2) that not all of the written unison sections have been "corrected" for the compass of the double bass. It is also possible, as discussed above, that these sections were left unedited because Beethoven knew that the double bass part would be joined by contrabassoon, since that instrument is in fact called for in this piece. The precise degree of overlap and interaction between the potential presence of the contrabassoon on the one hand, and the lack of consistent editing for the double bass on the other is, unfortunately, impossible to ascertain with certainty. Some instances lean one way or the other, while some tolerate both explanations; still others remain ambiguous.

A third type of explanation is worthy of mention. Certain works or single movements seem to assume a consistent lower boundary in the bass part of E-flat or D. Examples are the first movement of the Septet, op. 20, and the March and Chorus from The Ruins of Athens, op. 114. In the case of the Septet, the lowest note throughout for either cello or double bass is E-flat; the later example has a lower compass of D. Interestingly, low D-flat seems to be avoided in op. 114, despite two occasions where it would have seemed to work very naturally, and where the cello could easily have executed it. These and similar examples suggest that Beethoven might have been aware of the practice of re-tuning the bottom string of the double bass as needed to D, E, F, or F-sharp. This practice is purported by Focht54 to have been in use in late eighteenth-century Vienna. It cannot have been used in works where, for example, E-flat is used in one passage and then C or C-sharp is found later, as in the first movement of the Seventh Symphony. Yet certain works seem to assume a consistent boundary that suggests the possibility of scordatura, where there would have been time to re-tune between movements of a piece or between pieces on a program. Beethoven's slow movements in particular often show a lower limit of E-flat, indicating that perhaps Beethoven thought this was practically feasible in slower tempi. This agrees with Johann Hindle's assertion of the effectiveness of lower notes "in adagios and pianos."55

Tables 2 and 3 list all instances of out-of-range pitches in the bulk of Beethoven's orchestral music. Table 2 lists works up to op. 50, where F is assumed to be the lower boundary, and Table 3 gives opp. 55 to 125, where E obtains. A series of late overtures (opp. 113, 115, and 124), are written in such a way that they could just as well be included in the first group of works, op. 15 to op. 50. These contain nothing whatsoever below F for the double bass, but on occasion make effective use of the cello's bottom register. Their editing seems to be, by contrast, careful and complete. Opp. 55 to 125 consists of 50 movements or single-movement works. 15 of these, or 30%, contain nothing at all below either F or E. The total number of notes exceeding the boundary of E is 417; of these, only 24, or 5.8%, occur in non-unison contexts, which is to say that they are less likely be explained by proofreading error. Thus 94.2% of out-of-range pitches in op. 55 to op. 125 occur when written unison obtains between cello and double bass.

Symphonies in this later group are the most problematic in terms of their editing for the double bass. With the exception of op. 93, these contain numerous instances of pitches below the compass of the double bass. A great many of these can probably be categorized as oversights, since Beethoven demonstrates his awareness of the compass of the double bass with numerous accommodations in these same works. The preparation by hand of a set of parts for the performance of a symphony would indeed have been a daunting task, and it is perhaps not surprising that some of the minutiae on occasion might have been neglected. Shorter works such as overtures presented less of a challenge in this respect, and this may explain their more careful editing as a group. Symphonies were certainly Beethoven's most highly anticipated works. In addition to writing and editing the music, the composer had to manage all of the logistical aspects of the performances, which may well have infringed upon his available resources — temporal, physical, and mental — for the careful editing of bass parts. Moreover, inclusion of the contrabassoon to reinforce the bass part in the sixteen-foot octave is a factor that could have made Beethoven less concerned about the careful editing of these parts. Still, it remains clear that Beethoven accommodated the compass of the double bass throughout his orchestral music, from op. 15 to op. 125. His demonstration of this awareness suggests that instances where that same accommodation is lacking are likely to be cases of simple oversight.

Table 2

Downward Range of Beethoven's Orchestral Works to op. 50

Opus no./mvt. Lowest Note Notes Below F vc/cb
measure no: pitch
15/i F none
15/ii F none
15/iii F none
19/i F none
19/ii E-flat 69, 91, 92: E-flat
19/iii F none
21/i C 292: E; 293, 296, 297: C
21/ii F none
21/iii F none
21/iv F none
36/i F none
36/ii F none
36/iii F# none
36/iv F# none
37/i F none
37/ii F# none
37/iii F none
40 G none
43 F# (cb)/C (vc) for vc: 5, 6, 9, 10: C
50 F none

Table 3

Out-of-Range Notes in op. 55 to op. 125

Opus no./mvt. Lowest
Note cb
Notes Below E for cb
measure no: pitch
Unis vc?
55/i C 42: Eb Y
    254: C Y
    346-60: C, Db, Eb Y
    486: Eb Y
    512: Eb Y
55/ii Eb 3: Eb N
    107: Eb N
    181: Eb N
55/iii F none  
55/iv D 84: Eb Y
    213: D Y
    217: D (2x) Y
    221: D Y
    225: D (2x) Y
    233: D (2x) Y
    241: D (2x) Y
    245: D Y
    357: Eb Y
    400: Eb Y
    403-407: Eb (8x) Y
    459: Eb Y
56/i C 72: D Y
    74: C Y
56/ii Eb 3: Eb Y
    12: Eb Y
(56/ii)   23: Eb Y
56/iii C 59-61: C (2x) Y
    76-77: D (2x) Y
58/i D 65-66: D, Eb Y
    97: D (2x) Y
    99: D (2x) Y
58/ii E none  
58/iii D 248: Eb Y
    351: Eb Y
    353: Eb Y
(58/iii)   401: D Y
    490: D Y
60/i Eb 245: Eb Y
60/ii C 33: Eb Y
    53-4: Eb, Db Y
    100-01: C, D, Eb Y
    104: Eb Y
60/iii F none  
60/iv Eb 103b: Eb  
61/i D 334: D Y
61/ii F none  
61/iii F none  
62 D 45-50: Eb (5x), D (4x) N
    254: Eb Y
67/i D 479: Eb Y
    481-2: D Y
67/ii C 7: Eb N
    9: Eb Y
    31: C Y
    56: Eb (3x) N
    58: Eb Y
    105: Eb (3x) N
    113: Eb N
    184: Eb Y
    191: D, Eb Y
    204: Eb Y
67/iii Eb 39-43: Eb (4x) Y
67/iv C 8-12: C, D (3x ea.) Y
    80: C Y
    214-18: C, D (3x ea.) Y
    238: C Y
    431: C Y
68/i D 175-81: D (6x) Y
68/ii Eb 5: Eb Y
    118: Eb Y
68/iii F none  
68/iv C 41-43: C, Db, Eb Y
    49-50 C, D, Eb Y
    135-6: C, D Y
68/v C 45: D Y
    49: D Y
    175-6: C (3x) Y
    192: D Y
    205: C Y
    221: D Y
    225: C Y
    254: C Y
    257: C Y
72/no.2   19: D# Y
    29: C# (3x) Y
    35: Eb (5x) Y
    104: C N
    106: C N
    307: Eb Y
    478: C Y
    485-6: C Y
72/no.3   16: D# Y
73/i Eb 90: Eb (2x) Y
73/ii F# none  
73/iii Eb 30: Eb Y
    275: Eb Y
80 E none  
84 Eb 3: Eb Y
    11: Eb Y
    74-81: Eb (8x) Y
    148: Eb Y
    245: Eb Y
92/i C 40-1: C (3x) Y
    122: D# Y
    137: C Y
    142: D# Y
    144: D# Y
    146: D# Y
    177: D# Y
    218-19: C# (6x) Y
    366-67: D (2x) Y
    373-74: D (2x) Y
    425: D Y
    432-3: D# (6x) Y
    434-5: D (6x) Y
    436: C#, D (2x) Y
    438: D (3x) Y
    440: D (3x) Y
92/ii E none  
92/iii E none  
92/iv C 13: D (2x) Y
    14: C# (2x) Y
    15: D (2x) Y
    16: C# Y
    18: C# Y
    138: D# Y
    140: D Y
    142: C# Y
    144-5: C (2x) Y
    259: D Y
    318: C# Y
    386-408: D# (22x) Y
    413-16: D# (4x) Y
    446: D Y
93/i E none  
93/ii E none  
93/iii C 67: C N
    71: C N
    73: C N
93/iv E none  
113 F none  
115 C 57: C Y
    102: C Y
117 D 144: D Y
    145: Eb Y
    147: D Y
    149: D Y
    151: D Y
    221-2: Eb (2x) Y
    476: Eb Y
124 F none  
125/i C# 156: D (2x) Y
    224-28: D (4x) Y
    391: C# Y
    395: C# Y
    397: C# Y
    426: D (4x) Y
    531-8: D (8x) Y
    541: D (2x) Y
125/ii C 6: D (2x) Y
    93-108: C (32x) Y
    143: C Y
(125/ii)   151: D Y
    268-283: D (16x) Y
    350: C Y
    374: D Y
    536: D Y
    623-38: (32x) Y
    673: C Y
    681: D Y
    798-813: D (16x) Y
    880: C Y
    904: D Y
125/iii Db 73-80: D (8x) N*
    133: Db Y
    135: Eb Y
125/iv D 316-319: (11x) N
    919: D N

*Pitch content exactly the same as cello