2019 marked the 200th anniversary of a moment in which Ludwig van Beethoven left his personal mark on Ljubljana. In his reply to the Ljubljana Philharmonic Society following his election as an honorary member, he promised to send the Society, as a token of his appreciation, “one of my as yet unpublished compositions.” The search for this mysterious work has for years caused considerable excitement and scholarly debate. The archives of the Philharmonic Society contained an authorised copy of Beethoven’s original autograph score of the Sixth Symphony (known as the Pastoral) with the composer’s own handwritten annotations. This copy is today among the treasures of the National and University Library in Ljubljana. To mark the bicentenary, a scholarly and critical edition of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony has been jointly published by the Ljubljana Academy of Music, the University of Primorska Press and the National and University Library.
The speakers at the presentation of this important edition will be the Dean of the Academy of Music, Marko Vatovec, representing the promoter of the project; the editor-in-chief of the University of Primorska Press, Jonatan Vinkler, Viljem Leban, director of National and University Library and the authors of the essays contained in the edition: Jernej Weiss and Uroš Lajovic.
Ivan Florjanc’s foreword to the edition offers the following considerations: “In his letter of 4 May 1819, Ludwig van Beethoven entered into personal contact with Ljubljana and its rich musical life, with an ancient tradition dating far back into the Middle Ages. He gave warm thanks for the diploma attesting his election as an honorary member of the Ljubljana Philharmonic Society, which had been presented to him in Vienna on 15 March of that year, in recognition of his position as the most famous living composer of the age. Even before then, his works had been performed in Ljubljana with an enthusiasm that almost matched their reception in his adopted home city Vienna. Behind the decision, then, was no mere flattery of an eminent composer whose name the people of Ljubljana wished to add as a trophy among the other lofty names already inscribed on the Philharmonic Society’s roll of honour. Rather, the Society wished to seal, in a personal manner, a more solid link with the composer and, above all, his stylistic direction in music, whose way forward was at that time being indicated by Beethoven himself. It was into this context that Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, ‘Pastoral’ inserted itself in Ljubljana.”
The letter attracted little attention for almost half a century, until it was noticed by the Ljubljana physician Friedrich Keesbacher, the chronicler of the Philharmonic Society. It then spent some years in a place of honour in the Society’s archives, before being sold after the war along with other treasures and sent to Switzerland, from where it eventually found its way to the Beethoven Archive in Bonn. Together with the copy of the score of the Sixth Symphony with the composer’s handwritten annotations, it constitutes a unique proof of the transnational character of European culture and Ljubljana’s position on the musical map of Europe.
The scholarly and critical edition of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony has come about in the same spirit of connection and the exchange of knowledge and ideas that led to the conferral of honorary membership of the Ljubljana Philharmonic Society on the great composer, and to the entire episode that followed. It is the fruit of joint research and organisational cooperation by three different but complementary institutions – the Ljubljana Academy of Music, the University of Primorska Press and the National and University Library – born out of a desire to ensure that the treasures from which musical culture in Slovenia has drawn its musical identity can continue to perform this role in the future.