Listening to Beethoven #8 – An einen Säugling


A Peanuts strip drawn by Charles M. Schulz (c)PNTS

An einen Säugling WoO 108 (“Noch weisst du nicht, wes Kind du bist”) for voice and piano (1783, Beethoven aged 12)

Dedication not known
Text Johann von Dohring
Duration 3’20”

Listen

Background and Critical Reception

There are very few words written on Beethoven’s second song, a duet for two upper range female voices. It comprises four verses by Johann von Doring, with a piano introduction and postlude.

For Lewis Lockwood, the three-minute song ‘shows a slight touch of originality in its brief major-minor mixture, but reflects the pretty, homely sentimentality of the contemporary German ‘lied’ (song).’

Thoughts

An airy piano introduction leads to some rather beautiful harmonies in this song. Both singers are close together in pitch, occasionally uniting in unison but rarely further than a third apart.

The harmonic language is very straightforward – this is a song ‘to an infant’ so that is not a surprise! – but the elaboration of the piano part in between verses is attractive.

Recordings used

There are only two versions immediately available on Spotify. The Heinrich Schütz Kreis, Berlin deliver a chaste reading of the song with pianist Leonard Hokanson, but get to the right level of innocence with pure harmonies.

That said, the version on the DG complete edition, from single voices Karen Wierzba and Natalie Pérez, is really nicely done. The pair have more vibrato, but their unison and harmony singing is ideal, the roomy recording works nicely and pianist Jean-Pierre Armengaud adds some sensitive touches.

Spotify links

Heinrich Schütz Kreis & Leonard Hokanson:

Karen Wierzba, Natalie Pérez and Jean-Pierre Armengaud:

Also written in 1783 Dittersdorf Six Symphonies after Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Next up Rondo in C major

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