Schroder and Snoopy, drawn by Charles M. Schulz (c)PNTS
Elegie auf den Tod eines Pudels WoO 110 (Elegy on the death of a poodle) for voice and piano (1790, Beethoven aged 19)
Dedication not known
Text unknown author
Background and Critical Reception
While flexing his compositional muscles with ever more ambitious pieces such as the Cantatas for Emperor Joseph II and Leopold II, Beethoven was continuing to get to grips with the German Lied. This latest example was certainly his darkest effort to date, described by Lewis Lockwood as ‘marginally more ambitious’ than his first attempts at writing Lied.
The dead poodle in question is not known – and nor is the author of the text – but in the little that is written about this song there is general agreement that it is one of Beethoven’s most original early works. By coincidence it appears around the same time that Mozart wrote a lament for his dead starling.
It is not thought Beethoven ever owned a dog…but this tribute to the passing of a poodle suggests he would know of the sadness the death of a pet can bring! It is set in F minor, which was to become a significant key for the composer later in life.
There are clouds for the first few verses but then the mood picks up unexpectedly and a ray of light shifts the music into F major.
Hermann Prey & Leonard Hokanson (Capriccio)
Peter Schreier & Walter Obertz (Brilliant Classics)
Schreier’s account does not use any repeats so is half the length of the version from Hermann Prey and Leonard Hokanson. Prey’s bass, an octave lower than Schreier’s tenor, gives the song a more sorrowful air, as does his use of a slower tempo. Schreier and Obertz speed up considerably for the final stanza.
Hermann Prey & Leonard Hokanson:
Vincent Lièvre-Picard and Jean-Pierre Armengaud:
Peter Schreier & Walter Obertz
Also written in 1790 Kozeluch Clarinet Concerto no.1 in E flat major
Next up Cantata on the Accession of Emperor Leopold II