6 песен, Opus 75

Время создания: Im Laufe des Jahres 1809, Nr. 1, 5 und 6 als Neukompositionen, Nr. 2, 3 und 4 als Überarbeitungen älterer Vertonungen
Посвящено: Maria Charlotte (Caroline) Fürstin Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau, geb. Gräfin von Kerpen

Текст: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Gerhard Anton von Halem, Christian Ludwig Reissig

Not all of the six songs op. 75 published by publishing house Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig in October 1810 were new. Number 4 "Gretels Warnung" (Gretel's warning) from 1795, based on a text by Gerhard Anton von Halem (1752-1819), was only revised and completed by Beethoven in 1809. First drafts for Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's (1749-1832) "Flea Song" from "Faust" (No. 3) date back to 1790 and 1792. For number 2, "Neue Liebe, neues Leben" (New love, new life"), also based on a Goethe text, Beethoven reverted to ten year old material which he revised in 1809. Only number 1 "Kennst du das Land" (Do you know the country) from Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister" - as a new piece listed on top - and the last two numbers "An den fernen Geliebten" (To the far away lover) and "Der Zufriedene" (The content/satisfied), both based on texts by Christian Ludwig Reissig (1783-?), were entirely new compositions.

Beethoven first offered the six songs op. 75 to the publishing house on February 4th, 1810. He aimed at selling the compositions at the same time in Germany and England, a suggestion he mentioned in his letter to the publishers (indeed he had actually found a publisher in London, Muzio Clementi). Publishing the songs in England would not have any negative influence on the publication in Germany as the parties just had to agree on the same date for publication to avoid advantages for either one of them. As a date, Beehoven suggested September 1st, 1810. His own advantage was clear: In times of a poorly developed copyright protection and without profit sharing, an author had to sell a piece as often as possible.
Breitkopf & Härtel published the songs but remained mistrustful of the English publication. When Beethoven sent the manuscripts to Leipzig on July 2nd, 1810, he once more emphasised that this first part, comprising six ariettas, should be published until September 1st, 1810, and that it would certainly be best to choose that date for business reasons. Breitkopf & Härtel did not trust Beethoven's note and had a befriended salesman inquire about Clementi's publishing activity. And indeed, Clementi published songs number 1 to 5 in August 1810 whereas the German original publication was procrastinated until the end of October 1810.

There was no need for Breitkopf & Härtel to worry about a lack of demand. In July 1827, the fourth edition with new lithographs was published. Other publishing houses also printed the songs, thereby furthering the distribution of the works. (beethoven-haus-bonn.de)

Like the Eight Songs of Opus 52, those of Opus 75 were neither composed at the same time nor intended to form a set. Unlike the earlier publication, however, the songs of Opus 75 are clearly the work of the mature Beethoven. Dedicated to Princess Caroline Kinsky, the six songs were published simultaneously in Leipzig and London in October 1810 by Breitkopf und Härtel.

Beethoven once told Bettina Brentano, "Goethe's poems have great power over me, I am turned up and stimulated to composition by his language...." Not surprisingly, the most intriguing songs of op. 75 are settings of texts by Goethe. "Mignon" ("Kennst du das Land?") is from Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre of 1795. Beethoven's music parallels Goethe's description of Mignon's performance. At the fourth line of each strophe, where Goethe indicates that Mignon sings in a "more somber" manner, Beethoven moves to a minor harmony. Also, Beethoven changes tempo and meter when Mignon cries, "Dahin, dahin!" ("Over there, over there!"), expressing greater urgency.

The second song of the set, Goethe's "Neue Liebe, Neues Leben," had been sketched in 1792, completed in 1799, and printed by Simrock in 1808 as WoO 127. Beethoven revised it for publication as part of op. 75, and in so doing created one of his most advanced through-composed art songs. After the second strophe, a linking passage leads to a return of both text and music of the first two strophes, but this time with a different modulation. Another link introduces the third strophe, with new text and music.

Also a revision of an earlier setting, "Aus Goethe's Faust" (Mephisto's Flea-song) is a Gesellschaftslied ("community song"), with a chorus entering at the close, singing "Wir knicken und ersticken / Doch gleich wenn einer sticht." (We snap it and smother it / As soon as one bites.) The chorus melody appears three times earlier in the solo part, at the close of every other strophe, thus acting as a refrain, but with changing text. The piano introduction conjures an image of hopping fleas, while the relatively low register of the voice part (written for tenor) alludes to the diabolical nature of the narrator. Rapidly repeated piano chords during the chorus's final word resemble laughter, as do the ensuing slurred notes. Furthermore, Beethoven marked that the slurred notes in the right hand are to be played with the thumb only, the resultant sliding motion evoking the image of someone squashing a flea.

Composed in 1795, "Gretels Warning," with text by Gerhard Anton von Halem, is the oldest of the set. "An den fernen Geliebten" and "Der Zufriedene" (nos. 5 and 6) are among Beethoven's briefest songs-ten and fifteen measures long, respectively-and were composed in 1809. The poems are by Viennese poet Christian Ludwig Reissig, a personal acquaintance of Beethoven.

(John Palmer, Rovi)

Mignon

Bettina Brentano, a friend of both Beethoven and Goethe, informed Goethe that at her very first meeting with Beethoven in 1810 he performed for her two newly composed songs, "Mignon," (op. 75, No. 1) and "Wonne der Wehmuth," (op. 83, No. 1), both to poems by Goethe. In a letter to the poet dated 28 May 1810, but possibly written in July, Brentano quotes Beethoven: "Goethe's poems have great power over me, I am turned up and stimulated to composition by his language...." Brentano later sent Goethe copies, in Beethoven's hand, of "Kennst du das Land" and "Trocknet nicht." Why the three settings of Goethe poems in Op. 75 were not published with the three songs of Op. 83, also to texts by Goethe and composed around the same time, has not been explained.

Despite the fact that Bettina Brentano's letters contain flights of fancy and are chronologically challenged, her assessment of Beethoven's admiration of Goethe is accurate: Beethoven revered the poet. It is not surprising, then, that the most intriguing songs of Op. 75 are settings of texts by Goethe; "Mignon" ("Kennst du das Land?") is from Wilhelm Meister of 1795.

Beethoven's music parallels Goethe's description of Mignon's performance. At the fourth line of each strophe, where Goethe indicates that Mignon sings in a "more somber" manner, Beethoven moves to a minor harmony. Also, Beethoven changes tempo and meter when Mignon cries, "Dahin, dahin!" ("Over there, over there!"), expressing greater urgency. Most ingenious, however, is the appearance in the piano of the melody setting "Kennst du es wohl?" ("Do you really know it?") before the text is actually sung. In effect, Mignon asks the question twice, increasing its gravity.

(John Palmer, Rovi)

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