Beethoven’s Eyeglass. Photo (c) Beethoven-Haus, Bonn
Im Arm der Liebe ruht sich’s wohl WoO 159, canon for three voices (1795, Beethoven aged 24)
Dedication not known
Text Hermann Wilhelm Franz Ueltzen
Background and Critical Reception
First, a reminder that a canon is a melody assigned to more than one part / singer – and the melody of that part / singer follows the original at a set distance. Beethoven used the technique for a number of short pieces, both for instruments and for voices, honing his craft from his early twenties in Vienna.
This example for three voices, setting a text by Hermann Wilhelm Franz Ueltzen, is only just over a minute but works several repetitions of what proves to be a catchy melody. The text, interpreted by the Unheard Beethoven website, translates as the following:
In the arm of love one rests well,
In the bowels of the earth one rests well,
Wherever it may be, for the tired it is all the same
These short pieces are fascinating when set against Beethoven’s longer works. They feel like small building blocks of a much bigger construction, illustrating the composer’s ability to quickly establish a tune and even its development in the shortest space of time. As a result even a piece this short is not entirely throwaway, and is quite profound.
Recordings used and Spotify links
Kammerchor der Berliner Singakademie / Dietrich Knothe (Brilliant)
Ensemble Tamanial (Naxos)
Ensemble Tamanial state the whole theme first, then proceed with Beethoven’s working into a canon. Meanwhile the Kammerchor der Berliner Singakademie under Dietrich Knothe add a generous helping of vibrato.
Also written in 1795 Haydn 150 Scottish Songs, Hob.XXXIa:1–150
Next up 6 Minuets WoO9