For those who enjoy speculating about autobiographical influences in Beethoven's music, "An die Hoffnung" (To Hope, Op.94) makes an interesting study. He had set the same text ten years earlier (Op.32, while perhaps pursuing the affections of the Countess Josephine Deym-Brunsvik), choosing to emphasize its optimistic qualities. However, this second setting was composed during the grave illness of his brother Carl, when Beethoven himself was called upon to assume financial responsibility for both Carl and his wife. Perhaps not coincidentally, this second setting is more somber and dramatic than the first, and includes portions of the text which were omitted from the first, calling into question the nature of God.
The work begins with a lengthy piano prelude, and the first verse proceeds very much like a recitative (Beethoven was revising Fidelio during this period, and the similarities between this opening and that to Florestan's prison aria are quite striking.) As the song continues to the first verse that Beethoven had set earlier, it becomes considerably more lyrical, but returns to a deeply tragic, more declamatory tone in the verse referring to death. The last verse starts over raging piano chords, with frequent dramatic leaps downward in pitch, but then the song repeats the second verse in a lyrical theme, and ends on an almost wistful, "O Hoffnung." This is one of Beethoven's most dramatic compositions, as well as a challenging one for performers.
© Anne Feeney, All Music Guide
Дитрих Фишер-Дискау (баритон)