Portrait of Italian poet Pietro Metastasio (1698-1782) Image used courtesy of Wikipedia
La partenza WoO 124 for voice and piano (1795, Beethoven aged 24)
Dedication not known
Text Pietro Metastasio
Background and Critical Reception
Beethoven joined a prestigious list of composers in setting Pietro Metastasio’s canzonetta from 1749. Paisiello and Mozart had already taken the text as inspiration, but now Beethoven – setting Italian again – took the plunge. This would appear to be a result of his continuing training with Salieri, who was encouraging the setting of songs in his native language.
Beethoven shifts from the G major of previous song Zärtliche Liebe to A flat major, a tonal centre that would inspire some of his best and most contemplative music over the years. It is a shift in mood, too – the previous song a declaration of love, this one (translating as The Departure) sat in the cloud of departure and loss.
It is a relatively simple setting, and a short one too at just over a minute. A flowing piano is the bedrock for a smooth, mid-range melody, but the overriding mood is sombre and relatively downcast.
Recordings used and Spotify links
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hartmut Höll (Warner Classics)
Hermann Prey, Leonard Hokanson (Capriccio)
Cecilia Bartoli, Andras Schiff (Decca)
Both Fischer-Dieskau and Prey give this song a good deal of gravitas, their pianists providing solid support. However the bright tones of Cecilia Bartoli and the light-fingered accompaniment of András Schiff give the song a new lease of life.
Also written in 1795 Salieri “Armonia per un tempio della notte” in E flat major for 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons and 2 horns
Next up 12 German Dances WoO8 (piano version)