Jena Symphony

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The so-called "Jena Symphony" is a symphony that was at one time attributed to Ludwig van Beethoven. The symphony was discovered by Fritz Stein in 1909 in the archives of a concert society in Jena, from which it derived its name. Stein believed it to be the work of Beethoven and it was so published by Breitkopf und Härtel in 1911. It is now known that the piece was the work of Friedrich Witt (born the same year as Beethoven).


Stein thought it was quite likely an early work by Beethoven and pointed out some stylistic similarities in the preface to the score. From each of the four movements he singled out a few passages he considered especially Beethoven-like. Stein's belief in Beethoven's authorship was strengthened by the fact that Beethoven's letters show that prior to writing his own Symphony No. 1 he tried to write a C major symphony with Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 97 as a model,[1] and it is easy to find parallels between the Jena Symphony and Haydn's No. 97.

When H. C. Robbins Landon found another copy of the work at the archives of Göttweig Abbey with Witt's name on it, he convinced most other scholars that the work was in fact by Witt. Ralph Leavis, for example, condemned the work as "a piece of plagiarism, put together almost with scissors and paste from reminiscences of Haydn."[2]


In four movements, the symphony is scored for flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in C, 2 trumpets in C, timpani and strings.

The first movement begins with an Adagio introduction of 20 measures. A sonata form movement follows with a mostly triadic first subject group


and a more dance-like second subject group.


The exposition has a repeat (not always followed in performance). The development of just 30 measures ends with a crescendo leading directly to the recapitulation.

The second movement in F major has a central section in F minor.


The timpano in C is used in this movement (the timpani were set to C and G for the first movement and are not changed in the course of work).

The third movement is a Minuet with Trio.


The fourth movement begins piano.


The handling of the winds in this movement led some scholars to believe (before Robbins Landon's discovery) that perhaps this movement was in fact written by Beethoven while the rest was written by an unknown composer.


The Jena Symphony has been recorded on:


  1. ^ N. Marston, "Symphonies" in The Beethoven Compendium, ed. Barry Cooper. Ann Arbor: Borders Group (1995): 214
  2. ^ Leavis, Ralph. "Witt, Friedrich" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Stanley Sadie, ed. Volume 20. London: Macmillan Publishers Limited (1980)


  • David Ewen, Encyclopedia of Concert Music. New York; Hill and Wang, 1959.
  • Stephen C. Fischer, "The affair of the "Jena" symphony (Them. Index 14)" (New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1983) xvi
  • H.C. Robbins Landon, "The 'Jena' Symphony". Music Review, 1957; reprinted in Essays on the Viennese Classical Style. New York: Macmillan, 1970.
  • Charles O'Connell, The Victor Book of Symphonies. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1948, p. 83-86.
  • Ralph Leavis, "Die 'Beethovenianismen' der Jenaer Symphonie," Die Musikforschung XXIII (1970) 297-302.
  • Robert Simpson, "Observations on the 'Jena' symphony," The music survey II (1949/1950) 155-60.
  • Fritz Stein, preface to 1911 printing of Jena Symphony. Berlin: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1911.
  • Fritz Stein, "Zum Problem der 'Jenaer Symphonie,' " Bericht über den siebenten internationalen musikwissenschaftlichen Kongress Köln 1958 (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1959) 279-81.

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