Enhancing public perceptions of Beethoven and his music

Submitting Institution

University of Manchester

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

This research investigating many aspects of the life and works of Ludwig van Beethoven led to the publication of a ground-breaking new edition of his 35 piano sonatas. The research has not only influenced and informed the professional and amateur performance practice of Beethoven's works but has also contributed to a wider public understanding of his music, particularly through the performance of previously unheard Beethoven works. It has also contributed to economic prosperity in the creative and publishing sectors. Professor Cooper has used his research to contribute to numerous programme notes, CD liner notes, lectures and pre-concert talks impacting on a diverse and wide-ranging audience.

Underpinning research

The impact is based on research that took place in Manchester from 1994-date, with the first major publication in 1994. The key researcher was Professor Barry Cooper (1994-date).

The research extended from an initial examination of Beethoven's largely neglected folksong settings [3.1] to a new life-and-works study and a detailed examination of all the source material for the 35 piano sonatas. The key research outcomes were:

  1. In 2000, Professor Cooper's monograph [3.2] on Beethoven was first published. It was a thorough re-examination of all the evidence on which previous Beethoven biographies had been based. Many new conclusions were reached, on such diverse issues as Beethoven's relationships with his sister-in-law Johanna and teacher Joseph Haydn, the originality of his earliest works, the genesis of his First Symphony and of the Prometheus/Eroica theme and the origins of the name Elise in his famous Für Elise. The book was reissued in paperback in 2008, suitably updated to incorporate the latest research by Professor Cooper and others.
  2. The research also led to the publication of various articles and shorter studies by Professor Cooper. These include the first complete transcription and commentary on Beethoven's late revisions to his Fourth Piano Concerto [3.4] and a reconstruction from Beethoven's sketches of the original lost slow movement for his String Quartet Op. 18 No. 2 [3.5].
  3. A second major branch of the research was a detailed examination of all the source material for Beethoven's 35 piano sonatas, which culminated in a new edition of them with a 150,000-word commentary [3.3]. Although these works have been published before, Professor Cooper's 2007 edition differs substantially from all previous ones, containing major innovations.

The research combined scholarly textual criticism of the highest order, where every variant is taken into account, with investigation into performance practice and its relationship to Beethoven's notation. An example of the former is provided by the sonata Op. 31 No. 3, where there are two original editions, one from Zurich and one from London. In bar 7, the Zurich edition shows four semiquavers — a reading adopted in all previous modern editions, but the London one shows a quaver plus three triplet semiquavers. Beethoven's sketches confirm that this version is correct.

As for performance issues, these also required much original research, particularly regarding grace notes, trills, staccato signs (dot or dash) and double bars [3.6]. For each of these issues Professor Cooper's research led to somewhat surprising conclusions about how to relate the original notation to performance. The notational and performance research generated detailed bar-by-bar commentaries on each of the 35 sonatas.

References to the research

(AOR — Available on request)

The research was published in leading academic presses including Oxford University Press [3.2], Cambridge University Press [3.4] and the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music [3.3]. Output [3.3] was supported by an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant of £14,013.

Key Publications

[3.1] B. Cooper, Beethoven's Folksong Settings: Chronology, Sources, Style (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994). Monograph. (AOR)


[3.2] B. Cooper, Beethoven: The Master Musicians, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000; 2nd edn 2008). Monograph. (AOR)

[3.3] B. Cooper, Ludwig van Beethoven, The 35 Piano Sonatas, 6 vols. In 3 (London: ABRSM, 2007; German translation, by Albrecht Duemling, of Commentary volumes, 2009; Chinese edition, Shanghai: SMPH, 2010). Edition and Commentary. (AOR)

[3.4] B. Cooper, `Beethoven's Revisions to his Fourth Piano Concerto', in Performing Beethoven, ed. Robin Stowell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 23-48. Journal article. (AOR)

[3.5] B. Cooper, Beethoven's Quartet Op. 18 No. 2. First Performance (Quatuor Danel, Manchester 2011) of Cooper's reconstruction of slow movement. Performance. (AOR)

Other Relevant Publications

[3.6] B. Cooper, `Beethoven and the Double Bar', Music & Letters, lxxxviii (2007), 458-83. Journal article. DOI: 10.1093/ml/gcm003


Details of the impact


Professor Cooper's Beethoven work embraced both biography and musical interpretation. It has adopted an entirely fresh approach, often operating at the interface between these two areas, where previous studies were shown to be inadequate in many ways. His sonatas edition provides a good example. Subsequently his research widely impacts upon music making, professional practice and public appreciation and understanding of Beethoven's life and work.

Pathways to Impact

The research has appeared in leading publications in the field and has fed into numerous programme notes, CD liner notes, lectures, pre-concert talks, radio programmes and performances. As well as incorporating expert knowledge these outputs often include Professor Cooper's own insights, making a significant difference to the accuracy and depth of the available Beethoven knowledge. His research has also impacted on the public perception of Beethoven and his music, in particular through his highly distinctive edition of 35 piano sonatas.

Reach and Significance of the Impact

Impact resulting from a new performance edition

The biggest impact of Professor Cooper's research has resulted from his work on Beethoven's piano sonatas, published in his own edition and with commentary. The edition was launched in December 2007 at the Wigmore Hall in London to an audience of well over 200 people. The significance of its impact can be judged partly from the award of `Best Classical Publication 2008' from the Music Industries Association, the award of `Best Sheet Music Edition 2008' from International Piano Magazine and a half-page article on Professor Cooper's work in The New York Times in 2008. [5.10]

The main impacts of the edition are:

  1. Since 2009 an acclaimed British pianist has been recording the complete cycle of 35 sonatas, not just the usual 32, using Professor Cooper's edition. He states that "this edition is now the benchmark for all other editions of these works, as the meticulous scholarship of [Prof] Cooper has brought to light many important details hitherto glossed over." [5.1]
  2. It has been used as the basis for live performances of all 35 sonatas in London by another acclaimed British pianist during 2011 and 2012 (he states that "Cooper's research has undoubtedly influenced and informed my own performance practice of Beethoven's works, as well as that of my students, colleagues and amateurs") [5.3] and for a series of master-classes led by Professor Cooper at the Musikeon in Valencia, Spain in 2010 and 2012.
  3. Two movements from Professor Cooper's edition were included in ABRSM's Grade 8 piano exam syllabus for 2009-10 and another two for 2011-12. ABRSM's graded exams are taken in over 90 countries, meaning that children and adult learners of the piano around the world are benefiting directly from the research by having a better text and performance advice available. [5.2]
  4. Professor Cooper's edition as a whole, or portions of it, has achieved substantial sales. It has also been published in German, and a Chinese edition published under licence by the Shanghai Music Publishing House in 2010 generated additional income for ABRSM [5.2].

Impact on recordings and performances

Professor Cooper's reconstruction of the original slow movement of Beethoven's Quartet Op. 18 No. 2 was reported around the world when it was performed by the Brussels-based string quartet Quatuor Danel in September 2011. It featured in 19 radio and television broadcasts, including reports by the BBC, CBS and PBS, and in more than 100 global newspaper articles. The coverage recognises the significant cultural impact that making an extra Beethoven piece available for performance and recording has. A recording was broadcast in full on BBC Radio 3 on the day of the first performance, with excerpts presented on other radio stations including Radio 4 [5.4]. Several ensembles have requested sets of parts to enable them to perform the piece, notably a leading British string quartet, the Belcea Quartet, who hold concerts around the world [5.5]. Professor Cooper's discovery and performance of Beethoven's hymn `Pange lingua' in 2012 had similar media coverage and cultural impact.

Impact on the public knowledge of Beethoven

Concert Programme notes

Since 2008 Professor Cooper has contributed many sets of programme notes. For example, in 2008 his notes appeared in programme booklets for eight BBC Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. The hall capacity is 5,544, and that year average attendance was 90% of capacity, so the programme booklets were read by potentially 40,000 people. Excerpts from the printed programme are often summarised in the radio announcements too, reaching a potential audience of around 16 million, who benefit from the increased understanding of and insight into the works they were listening to [5.6]. Proms programme notes were also written from 2009-13. Other notable programme notes have been written for the Brighton Festival 2010, the 2010 Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester, the Halle Orchestra and the Edinburgh International Festival.

CD liner notes

CD liner notes written by Cooper have appeared for over a dozen recordings, including those in boxed sets, within the specified period. Two of the most notable are the complete Beethoven symphonies as conducted by Osmo Vänskä and the complete Beethoven piano concertos played by Ronald Brautigam, conducted by Andrew Parrott and issued by BIS Records between 2008 and 2011 (more than 137,000 copies sold) [5.7].

Public Lectures

Professor Cooper's research on Beethoven's life and works has had a very extensive reach, interpreting cultural heritage for the benefit of many audiences external to universities. Key examples include the 2008-9 year-long celebration `Beethoven Unwrapped' at Kings Place in London. 19 lectures were given by Professor Cooper, supported by other specialists of his choice. Professor Cooper has also held pre-concert talks for Manchester Camerata and other orchestras. Further afield he has spoken at concerts given by the Vanbrugh Quartet in Cork, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra ("Cooper's two talks were each attended by at least 300 members of the general public [several of whom] commented to our staff about how helpful and interesting they found the talks, and urged us to book him again") [5.8]. Cooper was invited to be one of the main speakers at the 2012 Musical Brain "The Beethoven Question: Can Art Make Life Worth Living?" conference at the Southbank Centre, London. In feedback questionnaires, numerous attendees cited Professor Cooper's contributions as their highlight [5.9].

Sources to corroborate the impact

All claims referenced in section 4.

[5.1] Letter from the acclaimed British pianist and Professor of Piano at GSMD confirming the recording of the complete sonatas using the Cooper edition

[5.2] ABRSM Publishing syllabus requirements

[5.3] Letter from the acclaimed pianist and Professor of Piano and Chamber Music at the Royal College of Music confirming performance of the complete sonatas using the Cooper edition

[5.4] Details of media coverage of quartet reconstruction performance and `Pange lingua' performance from the Media Relations Officer at the University of Manchester

[5.5] Email from the Belcea Quartet confirming the influence on professional practice

[5.6] Confidential document- BBC Proms programme notes

[5.7] Letter from the Media Officer at BIS confirming the reach of CD notes

[5.8] Letter from the Senior Education and Ensembles Co-ordinator at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra confirming the reach of pre-concert talks

[5.9] The Musical Brain's 2013 conference programme.

[5.10] http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/20/arts/music/20whit.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0