This Prelude and Fugue in C were created during the period of study with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, who lived from February 3, 1736 to March 7, 1809.
The manuscript of the work is to be found in Vienna, and did not appear in print until 1967 for the first time. The present version sticks closely to Beethoven’s, but has been provided with a contrabass part so as to adapt the work for being performed with a larger strength than for which it was originally written.
Albrechtsberger was a highly praised pedagogue; Beethoven, too, was among his pupils. It was this composer that studied with Albrechtsberger from January 1794 to March/May 1795.1 Together with Beethoven, Albrechtsberger researched all forms of the counterpoint, which is most manifest in the large number of exercises passed down; over 300 studies, fugues etc. have been preserved with corrections and alterations by Albrechtsberger. During this period of study, greater works were also composed, such as the Dona Nobis Pacem (Hess A57), the Prelude and Fugue in e (Hess 29), the Prelude and Fugue in F (Hess 30), and the present one in C (Hess 31). The piece was probably composed in 1794-95; this opus also shows numerous improvements and alterations by his master, although some alterations are by Beethoven himself.
The strength originally intended by Beethoven was two violins, a viola and a cello, so as a string quartet. With the supplementary contrabass part, the piece can also be played by a string orchestra, which will no doubt promote its dissemination and familiarity. In a sense, the work is already a preliminary study for the string quartets Opus 18 produced later.