Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ludwig van Beethoven – Lieder verschiedener Völker

   Strong position of artistic song in romantic culture, its complex relations with folklore sometimes obscures predominant role of the folk song in classical period. In instrumental music of this period folk tunes were the main source of melodic invention, covering dance and cantilena formations. This was intellectual effect of Enlightenment turn to laic, secular traditions and pre-romantic judgment on value of folk culture. This presumption was strengthened in late classicism, and one of apostles of merging folk traditions with artistic music was Ludwig van Beethoven. The great composer was known for his symphonic pieces and sonatas, while dozens of his songs remain unpublished. This is why so many of Beethoven’s pieces are signed by WoO – (Werke ohne Opuszahl – Works without opus number).
   Many cycles of Beethoven’s unedited songs in different catalogues or even various editions of the catalogues have different numbers. That is why there’s no such cycle as 27 Lieder verschiedener Völker (Songs Of Various Nationalities) WoO 158/1, although Eterna edition show such number for the cycle and even catalogue number. Under this number in Hans Halm and Georg Kinsky catalogue we can find only 23 Lieder verschiedener Völker WoO 158a (23 Songs Of Various Nationalities) and indeed first 23 songs from the record are the set of the cycle. After comparison of first 23, we should ask where the other four songs are. And this question is not quite easy to answer. Of course we can find the songs in catalogue of Beethoven’s compositions.

Ludvig van Beethoven – 27 Lieder verschiedener Völker (1973)

   Number 24 is Non, non, Colette with information it’s Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Air of Colin from Le Devin du Village. Full title of this song is Non, non, Colette n’est point trompeuse and it can be find in Halm and Kinsky catalogue as 2nd song in the cycle 6 Songs Of Various Nationalities WoO 158c. Numbers 25 and 26 are two songs from Austria written in March 1820. They are present in catalogue by Willy Hess under Nr 133: Das liebe Kätzchen and Nr 134: Der Knabe auf dem Berge. Last song is present in Halm and Kinsky catalogue Air Français WoO 158d. These four songs are supplement to the cycle of 23 Lieder verschiedener Völker WoO 158a. In catalogue by Halm and Kinsky there are much more arrangements of folk songs from various European cultures. Why in complete edition of Beethoven’s works these four were connected to the cycle of 23 remains unknown, but one can guess it is justified by the origin – the first part of WoO 158 is collection of continental folk songs, just like the four added songs. The last song Air Français is just the melody, text is unknown, so it is played by oboe.
   Most widely represented is Tirol with 5 songs, then go Russian and Spanish culture with 3 songs each, later Polish and Portugal with 2 songs. Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine are presented with one only song. Different voices are Renate Krahmer (soprano), Ingeborg Springer (mezzo-soprano), Eberhard Büchner (tenor) and Günther Leib (baritone). There are voices of members of Radio Choir from Leipzig under direction of Horst Neumann and accompanying instrumentalists Kurt Mahn (oboe), Werner Pauli (guitar), Eva Ander (piano), Reinhard Ulbricht (violin) and Joachim Bischof (cello). Recorded in May and July of 1972 album is rare document of old, traditional style of song performing art. Interesting for its idea and for history of composer who was more European than most Europeans can understand, it deserves two and a half star for its uniqueness.

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