Listening to Beethoven #47 – Ein Selbstgespräch


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

Ein Selbstgespräch WoO 114 for voice and piano (1793, Beethoven aged 22)

Dedication not known
Text Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim
Duration 3’45”

Listen

Background and Critical Reception

Writing in the booklet notes to a fine disc of Beethoven Lieder issued by Signum Classics, Susan Youens documents how the composer revisited some of his early songs in 1822 with a view to finally getting them published. One of them was Ein Selbstgespräch (A Soliloquy), his only setting of the poetry of Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim.

The song was not published before his death, but Youens refers to it as ‘an idyll in the groves of Eros, its Anacreontic persona someone who formerly scorned love – but now, to his great surprise, finds himself in love with Doris. In fact, he is so stunned by this novel experience that he repeats his musical bemusement over and over again to deliciously comic effect.’

Thoughts

This is a restless song, thanks to the ever-moving piano part that moves around like a quickstep on high heels, portraying the ‘wayward mind’ of the singer. It seems intent on moving the text on to the next word as soon as possible, creating a good deal of nervous energy as it does so.

The singer’s mind and senses race, but ultimately he is happy – and the comic pause before he declares, ‘Ich glaubte gar, daß ich sie liebe’ (‘I do believe I love her’) offers a knowing look to the audience.

Recordings used

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), Hartmut Höll (piano) (Warner Classics)
John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Iain Burnside (piano) (Signum Classics)
Peter Schreier (tenor), Walter Obertz (piano) (Brilliant Classics)

Fischer-Dieskau is once again larger than life in this song, but John Mark Ainsley and Iain Burnside are superb, Ainsley’s tenor range better-suited to the character. Theirs is a partnership of equals, with Burnside leaning tastefully on the leading notes in the piano part to stress where the ever-changing harmony is going.

Spotify links

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hartmut Höll

John Mark Ainsley, Iain Burnside

Peter Schreier, Walter Obertz

Also written in 1793 Wranitzky Flute Concerto in D major Op.24

Next up Que le temps me dure (2nd version)

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