Listening to Beethoven #99 – Opferlied Hess 145

Friedrich von Matthison – portrait by Ferdinand Hartmann

Opferlied Hess 145 for voice and piano (1796, Beethoven aged 25)

Dedication not known
Text Friedrich von Matthisson
Duration 3′


Background and Critical Reception

This is our second encounter with a text Beethoven was to set four, maybe even five times in the course of his life – and it is his second setting in a year, following the version tagged as WoO 121. The poet Friedrich von Matthisson has also featured previously in his output – through the cornerstone song Adelaide – but now the Opferlied (‘Song of Sacrifice’) appears in a setting for lower voice and piano. As the Unheard Beethoven site points out, it would be finally completed to the composer’s satisfaction when properly published as Op.121b in 1824.

The text stayed with him from now until the end of his life – and again we refer to Unheard Beethoven for noting that it runs hand-in-hand with Ode an die Freude, the Ode to Joy, as a text the composer was mildly obsessed with.


This setting of the Opferlied pairs singer and pianist closely – the right hand of the keyboard shadowing the melody almost throughout. The tempo is slow but the song seems to end a bit too soon, perhaps reflecting its unpublished status.

As with the first version there are strong hymn-like moments in Beethoven’s writing, the singer transported by his text.

Recordings used

Paul Armin Edelmann (baritone), Bernadette Bartos (piano) (Naxos)

Seemingly the only available recording of this version of Opferlied, the performance has a nice poise in the hands of Paul Armin Edelmann and Bernadette Bartos.

Spotify link

You can chart the Arcana Beethoven playlist as it grows, with one recommended version of each piece we listen to. Catch up here!

Also written in 1796 Boieldieu –  Duet no.2 in B flat major for harp and piano

Next up Sonata for piano and cello in F major Op.5/1

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