Beethoven, Ludwig van


Beethoven, Ludwig van

Triumphal March WoO 2a, incidental Music for Christoph Kuffner’s tragedy Tarpeja / Introduction to Act II [of Leonore], WoO 2b [formerly thought to be for Tarpeja]

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Ludwig van Beethoven

Triumphal March
WoO 2a

Incidental Music for Christoph Kuffner’s tragedy Tarpeja
Introduction to Act II [of Leonore], WoO 2b [formerly thought to be for Tarpeja]

(b. Bonn, Electorate of Cologne ,17 December 1770 – d. Vienna ,26 March 1827)

February-March 1813, during the composition of the choral work Meerstille und Glückliche Fahrt (op. 112),
thirty-one folksong settings for the Scottish publisher George Thompson, and the revision of his Violin Sonata

26 March 1813 at Vienna’s Hofburgtheater
Early editions
Full score of WoO 2a published by Bey Kaulfuss and Krammer (Vienna, 1825)
with early four-hand piano and piano versions published by Haslinger

Piano reductions
WoO 2a, published by the Hoftheater-Musik-Verlag (Vienna, 1813), by Lischke (Berlin, 1817),
and Haslinger (Vienna, 1833)

WoO 2b was offered by the composer to Schlesinger (Berlin, 31 May 1826),
and the autograph manuscript contains no references to the play Tarpeja or to the opera Leonore

Two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in C, two bassoons, two horns in C, 2 trumpets in C,
timpani (F, C, A), and strings.

The idea of a “Viennese public” was a partial result of the volunteer drives of the 1790s-1810s, especially after the introduction of the Landwehr military conscription system (1808). As with the volunteer battalions of 1797, marches and songs were commissioned to supplement the new ceremonial practices (public blessings and formal farewell ceremonies)of the Landwehr.

Beethoven wrote more than a dozen marches, including one for Fidelio, the “Turkish” episode for men’s voices in the final movement of his Symphony No. 9, and the popular march from The Ruins of Athens. These scorings range from every size of orchestra and wind ensemble to musical clock. Beethoven often framed his public concerts with marches, showing his knowledge of contemporary military music.

Johann Maelzel’s (1772-1836) widely publicized mechanical instruments performed mainly military marches. Beethoven composed Wellington’s Victory for Maelzel’s panharmonicon in order to follow the Allegretto from Haydn’s ‘Military’ Symphony. Maelzel’s mechanical trumpeter, which was showcased in the University Hall between the premieres of Symphony No. 7 and Wellington’s Victory (8 December 1813), played marches by Adalbert Gyrowetz (1763-1850).

The Setting
The Tarpeian Rock is a 25-meter cliff of the southern summit of the Capitoline Hill, overlooking the Roman Forum. It was used as an execution site and is associated with the Vestal Virgin Tarpeja, daughter of the guardian of the pass, Spurio Tarpeo. In Book 1 of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, Tarpeja opened the gates of Rome to Titus Tatius, King of the Sabines, enabling him to conquer the pass above Rome after the Rape of the Sabines (750 BC). As punishment, Tarpeja was crushed by heavy shields and buried near the rock that now bears her name (Saxum Tarpeum, or Rock of Tarpeja). The Sabine shrines at the top of the rock were replaced (500BC) by the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, placed between the two summits of the hill.

The Playwright
As a young man, Christoph Kuffner (1780-1846) was a prolific writer with a strong interest in Latin antiquity. He was well known in the early nineteenth century for his adaptations of the works of the Roman comic poet Plautus and had studied music with Anton Wranitzky (1761-1819), the director of Prince Lobkowitz’s orchestra. Kuffner became one of the first editors of the influential Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur und Mode [Viennese Journal for Art, Literature and Fashion], and was a published author and librettist.

Kuffner may have written the text for Beethoven’s 1808 Choral Fantasy (according to Beethoven’s pupil Carl Czerny), and his tragic play Tarpeja premiered in Vienna on 26 March 1813; it received only two performances and disappeared from the repertory, but Beethoven’s incidental music made a notable contribution. By the 1820s, Kuffner worked in the Finance Ministry and the War Council as a Konzipist (someone with an academic education working toward a tenured civil service post). Kuffner dissuaded Beethoven from working on Der Sieg des Kreuzes for the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in 1825, but wrote a synopsis for an unfinished project called “The Four Elements” and a full libretto that Beethoven never set called Sauls Tod or Saul und David (this text survived as a part of Beethoven’s Estate).

Beethoven’s Music for Kuffner’s Play
Kuffner’s Tarpeja is set in the antique Roman at the time of the Sabines, and opens with Tarpeja revealing a secret passageway to Rome to her lover Tazio, the Sabine king. Beethoven wrote (now missing) introductory music to Act II, in which Tarpeja’s father Spurio Tarpeo, chief of the Capitoline garrison, promises Tarpeja’s hand in marriage to an Etruscan general (at the sound of the first part of Beethoven’s Triumphal March being played offstage). Scholars such as Clemens Brenneis have demonstrated through paper watermarks that the “introductory” music (WoO 2b) is much older than this play, and originally was composed to precede Pizarro’s first aria at the beginning of Act II of the 1805 premiere of Sonnleithner’s version of Beethoven’s opera Leonore/Fidelio.

The magnificent triumphal march in C major is framed by a fanfare-like tune featuring the dotted rhythms characteristic of Imperial Austrian military marches. Quietly introduced by the brass, the fanfare theme is harmonized by pizzicato strings, expanding into a majestic statement for full orchestra. A middle section in the dominant key of G employs a light triplet string figure against a background of repeated triplet chords in the winds. In a typically Beethovenian touch, a single unexpected note (G-sharp) rises to the surface, lending a piquant twist to the ceremonial flourishes. The bright, high-stepping conclusion conveys the excitement of a popular celebration.

Act III and IV of the play develops the potential love triangle and depicts the imprisonment of the Sabines. The play calls for “the sound of musical instruments,” (perhaps some lost music by Beethoven) to herald the return of Spurio Tarpeo, who duels with Tazio. As Roman soldiers arrive and began to battle the Sabines, the chorus of Roman women intervene by placing themselves and their children in between the two forces in order to prevent a massacre. Beethoven’s full Triumphal March, WoO 2a heralds the peace between the two nations. Ignaz Schuppanzigh (1776-1830) also conducted this March on a concert at the Augarten on a successful concert including Beethoven’s Symphony No 5 (1 May 1813).

Willy Hess’ long article on Tarpeja, published in Bonn’s Beethoven-Jahrbuch (1961-1964, pp. 92-147) discusses the structure of Kuffner’s play and Beethoven’s literary relationship with its author. Luigi dalla Croce’s 2008 book, Ludwig van Beethoven – Le nove sinfonie e le altre opere per orchestra (564 pp.) contains a well-documented section on Beethoven’s music for the stage.

Breitkopf und Härtel’s Collected Works of Beethoven (published 1862-65), included his March in Series II, Number 14 with introductory material and editorial notes. The March is also published in Henle’s current Beethoven Werke series (IX/7, with critical report).

©2016 Laura Stanfield Prichard
Boston Baroque & San Francisco Symphony
For performance material please contact Breitkopf und Härtel,Wiesbaden.

Score Data

Score No.



Repertoire Explorer




210 x 297 mm





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