8 песен, Opus 52

  • №1. Urians Reise um die Welt (текст: Matthias Claudius, до 1790? г.)
  • №2. Feuerfarb (текст: Sophie Mereau, 1794)
  • №3. Das Liedchen von der Ruhe (текст: Hermann Wilhelm Franz Ueltzen, 1793)
  • №4. Maigesang (Майская песня, (текст И. В. Гёте, до 1796 г.)
  • №5. Mollys Abschied (Прощание Молли, текст Г. А. Бюргера)
  • №6. Die Liebe (Любовь, текст Г. Э. Лессинга, около 1790 г.)
  • №7. Marmotte (Сурок, текст И. В. Гёте, около 1790? г.)
  • №8. Das Blümchen Wunderhold (Чудоцвет, текст Г. А. Бюргера)

№№ 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8:
Дитрих Фишер-Дискау, баритон
Jörg Demus, фортепиано

Peter Schreier, тенор
Walter Olbertz, фортепиано

Adele Stolte, сопрано
Walter Olbertz, фортепиано

The Eight Songs, Op. 52, are best thought of as an "anthology" of early works. Although published on 16 June 1805 in Vienna by Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir, the songs were all written at least a decade earlier; most while Beethoven lived in Bonn. The probable dates of composition are as follows: "Urians Reise um die Welt" (before 1790?), "Feuerfarb'" (1792, rev. 1793-94), "Das Liedchen von der Ruhe" (1793), "Maigesang" before 1796), "Mollys Abschied" (before 1793), "Die Liebe" (before 1793), "Marmotte" (1790), and "Das Blümchen Wunderhold" (?). Beethoven may have assembled the old compositions because he had published fewer pieces than usual during the preceding year. Work on Fidelio and a protracted relationship with Josephine von Brunsvik had contributed to a drop in Beethoven's production of new works.

Originally, the set published as op. 52 contained nine songs, one of which was a setting of Schiller's "Ode to Joy" dating from Beethoven's youth in Bonn. The composer withdrew the Schiller setting before publication, and no manuscript exists.

A contemporary review of the op. 52 songs in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung describes the set as "commonplace, poor, weak, in part ridiculous stuff." This is certainly the reaction of a critic who was familiar with the post-1800 works of Beethoven. None of the songs of op. 52 is especially innovative or aesthetically challenging; rather, the set provides good examples of Beethoven's early mastery of late-eighteenth-century German song composition. All eight of the op. 52 songs are strophic-each verse, or strophe, is set to the same music-except "Maigesang," which departs from the pattern in the last strophe. Each strophe, and thus each song, closes with the piano alone, with the exception of the twelve-measure "Urians Reise," a Gesellschaftslied ("community song"), in which a chorus, or the audience, joins in at the end of each of the song's fourteen verses. The diminutive "Marmotte" is only twenty measures long, and the piano part's octave leaps in the last few measures illustrate the hopping about of a marmot.

(John Palmer)

On 13 September 1803 Ferdinand Ries wrote on Beethoven's behalf to the Bonn publisher Nikolaus Simrock concerning music to be printed. On this occasion he also offered Simrock the eight songs op. 52: "You may now purchase 8 songs by Beethoven and a prelude, which he gave to his youngest brother for favours bestowed. (...) He did them 4 years ago." The subject of this favour is not known - it probably refers to a loan. Ries' statement as such is confirmed by the copy shown here. Beethoven noted on the title page, "I declare these 8 songs and the prelude in F minor to be the property of my brother Johann Beethowen [sic]. Ludwig van Beethoven Vienna, 7 October 1803". The copy has only survived as a fragment, the leaf is the only one remaining from the previously complete manuscript.


2. Feuerfarb

Feuerfarb is a setting of a poem by the Romantic writer Sophie Friederike Mereau (1770-1806), a gifted woman who died in childbirth three years after her stormy marriage to the great Romantic poet Clemens Brentano. (He was half-brother to Franz Brentano, the husband of Antonie Brentano, née von Birkenstock) Sophie Mereau’s unconventionality is on display in this song, in which she extols the fiery hue of truth. Not for her the usual feminine tint of rose petals symbolic of love that fades or the white of innocence, soon besmirched by envy and defamation: she, and Beethoven, preferred truth.

3. Das Liedchen von der Ruhe

Another strophic setting that perfectly conveys the longing for inner calm and peace that the poet imagines finding in the arms of his beloved. The song has an undemanding and uncomplicated fluency, free of all rhythmic/phrasal angularities, harmonic surprises or self-concious point-making.

4. Maigesang

«Майская песня», соч. 52 №4 на слова Иоганна Вольфганга фон Гете – любимого поэта Бетховена, к творчеству которого он обращался наиболее часто. Опус 52, впервые изданный в 1805 году, включает восемь песен на тексты разных поэтов, созданных, вероятно, до 1793 года – еще в Бонне. В 1796 году Бетховен переработал «Майскую песню» для голоса с оркестром в качестве <a href="/node/806">вставной арии для зингшпиля Игнаца Имлауфа «Прекрасная башмачница», WoO 91 № 1</a>. Написанная в простой куплетной форме с кодой, «Майская песня» проникнута безоблачным и радостным мироощущением.

Ludwig van Beethoven's solo songs have suffered from perpetual neglect, ever since they were composed. In fact, there is little indication that performers took interest in them at all during the composer's lifetime, and since then they have been overshadowed by Beethoven's monumental instrumental works—not to mention Schubert's later, larger, and more famous song collection. Maigesang, one of Beethoven's early efforts in the solo vocal genre, demonstrates at once the composer's admitted struggle with writing a clear melody unburdened by architectonics, as well as the kind of poignant expression that can arise from this struggle.

Maigesang is the fourth of eight songs on texts by various poets, published in 1805 as Beethoven's Op. 52. All the songs are thought to have been composed during the previous decade, however, and in fact the initial conception of the song under consideration here can be dated with some accuracy to around 1795. It was at that time that Beethoven had provided music for Michael Umlauff's Die schöne Schusterin, a singspiel premiered in 1796. An aria from that production, O welch ein Leben (published after the composer's death as half of the Arias (2), WoO 91), featured a theme that was later used in Maigesang.

Beethoven takes his text for this song (known in settings by other composers as "Mailied") from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's "Wie herrlich leuchtet mir die Natur" (How brightly Nature gleams for me). The singsong shapes of Goethe's rhymed couplets are set to straightforward melodic contours that rise and fall predictably and cadence in concert with the words, reflecting the carefree, lovestruck tone of the poem's idyllic scene. What stands out is not so much any special dramatic flair or pictorial flourish, but rather the mixture of serenity and amorous anticipation lent to the vocal line by the piano's subtle undercurrent. The linkage of nature's springtime beauty and romantic bliss is a familiar trope, of course, but Beethoven uncovers something poignant in the simplicity of Goethe's text and conveys it largely through the piano's effervescent texture. This is especially apparent in the interludes between the song's three verses, where a sprightly falling third figure in the treble of the piano sends ripples across the transparent musical surface. When the two themes of the poem—nature and love—come together in the third verse, the figure briefly reappears to underscore the singer's bucolic final words.

5. Mollys Abschied

The “Molly” of Mollys Abschied was Bürger’s sister-in-law Auguste Leonhart; he married her in 1785, but she died in childbirth a year later. (Bürger led a life as stormy as some of his immense, extended ballads.) At the end of each strophic expression of longing and loss in her voice, we hear a melisma expressive of desire in the postlude.

6. Die Liebe

Present-day listeners come to Die Liebe, with its sweet plea for a wife and domesticity penned by the great Enlightenment philosopher and writer Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) in pained awareness of Beethoven’s frustrated longing for those same joys; this song was, of course, composed long before the composer’s “marriage project” came to an end.

7. Marmotte

Marmotte is the seventh of the eight songs in Beethoven's Op. 52, a collection published in the summer of 1805. The songs in the collection, however, are thought to have been composed sometime before, likely in the mid-1790s while the composer was still in Bonn, and revised or edited shortly before their publication about a decade later. The Op. 52 collection features songs on texts by various authors and treating various subjects. Marmotte is one of two songs in the collection based on texts by the preeminent German romantic poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (the other being the sunny ode to nature and love, Maigesang, Op. 52/4). A consideration of Beethoven's setting of Marmotte reveals certain nuances of text setting and expression that are easy to overlook in a composer much less known for his intimate song stylings than his monumentally architectonic instrumental works.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Marmotte is its extreme brevity. In this regard, Beethoven seems to be attempting to beat the poet at his own game, for the poignancy in Goethe's poem (known also by its incipit, "Ich komme schon") derives largely from what it omits. It is cast in the voice of a wandering entertainer, perhaps a hurdy-gurdy player, who travels with a marmot as a companion and sidekick. As the phrase "with the marmot" is repeated in the refrain and throughout the text, the implication is clear that this means "and with no one else"—the speaker, projecting that particular pathos of the heartbroken and world-weary clown, is utterly alone. Beethoven conveys this by whittling down Goethe's three verses to one, compressing the song's loneliness into a lone strophe and refrain: "Through many a land have I passed/with the marmot/Always finding something to eat/with the marmot/Here with the marmot, there with the marmot/Everywhere, with the marmot."

This mood is emphasized by the overcast A minor key, as well as the slow inertia of the left hand's arpeggiated accompaniment. The vocal line moves almost exclusively in stepwise fashion, along simple rising and falling melodic contours, leaving little ringing in listeners' ears in terms of melody, but rather leaving them with a particular hue of expressive color. The piano's subtle elaboration of the melody in the short epilogue, with faint echoes at the octave, reinforces the mood of the speaker's long and lonely journey with the marmot.

(Jeremy Grimshaw)

8. Das Blumchen Wunderhold

The Little Flower Wondrous Fair is the epitome of the folk-like Lied (Lied im Volkston), its musical modesty appropriate for Bürger’s allegory of the wondrously fair flower “Bescheidenheit”, or Modesty (only verses 1, 2, 3, and 10 appear in the song); note the unison of voice and piano for the initial phrase establishing the fairy-story atmosphere of it all.