I'm wondering whether or not the Hans von Bulow edition is scholarly and accurate or not.I'm aware that Liszt favored it as his students recollect that he only used that edition when teaching the sonatas and obviously an urtext is probably the closest thing to the composers original intent. In spite of these observations, could the von Bulow edition be viewed as acceptable and accurate?

If not please provide one or two examples in which the edition is not accurate.

As always, thanks!

2 Answers 2


In my opinion Hans von Bülow's edition is still extremely valuable for the numerous comments he offers on interpretation below the music. This was a very influential edition. However, the text is unreliable.

Evidence of unreliability can be found almost immediately if you try. For example, compare the first page of Opus 101 in von Bülow's edition, available on IMSLP, and in a modern edition. For the latter I'll substitute the old but 'clean' Breitkopf und Härtel edition, because this is also available on IMSLP:

von Bülow:

enter image description here

Breitkopf und Härtel:

enter image description here

and the manuscript:

enter image description here

von Bülow's suggestions are not sufficiently distinguished from what was originally present: a large number of extra hairpins, e.g. in measures 3-4, echoing 1-2; in 9-10 in the upper parts, and so on.

There is some hint of the practice of printing suggestions smaller than original markings, but it is too difficult to tell, too often.

Note that both editions amend a tempo present in the autograph to Tempo I. The Arrau edition published by Peters corrects this, and I assume other more modern editions do too. This is very insignificant.

It's also worth noting that these editions typically have an introduction where the editors explain their practice, including how to differentiate any additions from the original. This could be present in von Bülow's edition, and may account for things like pedal markings. However, it can't account for the hairpins.

Here is an especially bad mistake in the Appassionata that occurs in several other editions too:

von Bülow:

enter image description here

But look at the manuscript:

enter image description here


enter image description here

The right hand chord is secco. This is a completely different effect.

Another famous mistake, this time from the first movement of the Waldstein:

von Bülow:

enter image description here

That should be F flat:

enter image description here

A catalogue of von Bülow's inaccuracies would be quite a booklet, but again I believe the edition is valuable despite these flaws.


I agree with the above answer 100%. I'm currently working on the last three sonatas and using both the Von Bülow and the downloaded free score. I prefer not to have Von Bülow's suggested dynamics and peddling because it's difficult to distinguish with what are Beethoven's actual markings.

I frankly wonder if anyone has understood especially the last five sonatas as well as Von Bülow. For instance, he writes at the beginning of Sonata 32 "This last pianoforte sonata of the Master is held by some, and not without reason, to be the most perfect among those of the "third". . . . Herr von Lentz. . . aptly summarizes his characterization of the two movements in the headings "Resistance/Resignation," or, still better, "Samsara — Nirvana." This is the utter, absolute, eternal truth – all of Beethoven's last works have given the most profound direction to my life.

Von Bülow would often play the last three or five Beethoven sonatas in a concert. He was also known for his double performances of Beethoven's ninth. On one occasion when only a single rendition was planned and the audience was insufficiently appreciative, he immediately repeated the entire 75 minute work. A reviewer at the time noted: "he baptizes the infidels with a fire hose." I read his entire biography not long ago. One quip: "the well tempered Clavier is the Old Testament. The Beethoven sonatas are the New Testament. We must believe in both."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.