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I'm working on Beethoven Sonata No. 1 and have noticed these diagonal dashes in the left hand in movement 2 (see bar 3).

Beethoven Op. 2, No. 1, Adagio, mm. 1–4, Schnabel edition

I assume these are editorial markings as I am seeing them in other sonatas in the Schnabel edition but not in, e.g., the Goldenweiser edition of the same sonata (see below).

Beethoven Op. 2, No. 1, Adagio, mm. 1–3, Goldenweiser edition

Does anyone know what these diagonal dashes mean? There is no explanation of these markings in the editorial notes, nor have I ever seen these anywhere else (that I can remember), and Google has turned out decidedly unhelpful.

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    The notation looks rather like a scoop (as per this question) — but of course that doesn't translate well to the piano…
    – gidds
    Jun 23 at 18:59

1 Answer 1

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Schnabel is indicating that the bass voice here should be given more prominence than "just accompaniment"; rather, it should be played with the quality of a counter melody. He makes a point of marking all four notes that he deems of "melodic" importance.

Goldenweiser indicates a similar interpretation, but does so by means of a single, longer diagonal, which is a typical notation for "the melody moves from one voice (or staff) to another". (See also: Piano Sheet Music Symbols of Long Diagonal Lines

Goldenweiser makes explicit that the C-B-Bb in the treble staff is a musical gesture continuing in the bass staff, but he doesn't indicate how long that gesture continues. Schnabel takes the gestural transition from treble to bass staves for granted, but explicitly marks the notes comprising the gesture.

Barry Cooper, in his ABRSM edition, offers a third notation for the same ideas, using a bracket to suggest that the lower notes in the treble staff (the B and Bb) be played with the left hand to facilitate the line's continuation into the bass staff. (Regarding the bracket, see What does the L-shaped symbol attached to C5 and G4 on the top staff mean?

Beethoven Op. 2, No. 1, Mvmt 2, mm. 2-3, Cooper edition

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  • In short, it shows the voice leading. Jun 24 at 5:19
  • @aparente001 Yes, with the addition that Schnabel also suggests that the bass voice, specifically, should receive extra prominence.
    – Aaron
    Jun 24 at 5:51
  • Oh, right, I remember from my son's piano lessons that that is apparently called "voicing." Not the same as voice leading! Thanks. Jun 24 at 19:37
  • Ah, this makes perfect sense. Thanks a ton @aaron!
    – KevinWei
    Jun 24 at 20:58

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