Listening to Beethoven #102 – Abschiedsgesang an Wiens Bürger WoO 121


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

Abschiedsgesang an Wiens Bürger for voice and piano (1794-6, Beethoven aged 25)

Dedication not known
Text Josef Friedelberg

Duration 2’45”

Listen

Background and Critical Reception

It is interesting and slightly curious that Beethoven should set Josef Friedelberg’s poem Abschiedsgesang an Wiens Bürger (Song of Farewell to the Citizens of Vienna on the Departure of the Flag Division of the Viennese Voluntary Corps) while seemingly away from the city himself. The date of composition is given as November 1796, just as he was on the point of returning from Berlin and the successful premiere of his two Sonatas for cello and piano.

The uncredited booklet for Capriccio’s complete edition of the Beethoven songs puts its composition in context. ‘The Beethoven of the songs for voice and piano is thus less concerned with establishing his own artistic autonomy than with serving music lovers with compositions in accordance with their expectations and possibilities. This explains why he kept the technical requirements for playing the piano movement to a low to moderate standard, and also the fact that he set texts to music as a favour to people, or when commissioned to do so, which explains the choice of many of the poems’.

Thoughts

This song for lower voices and piano is a red-blooded offering, with a fulsome vocal from the male soloist as the piano sets the march tempo. Then there is a brisk intervention from the male chorus as a refrain. The song feels nationalistic, especially with the choir, and is designed as a basic but bracing ensemble piece.

Recording used and Spotify link

Hermann Prey (baritone), Leonard Hokanson (piano), Berlin Heinrich Schütz Choir / Wolfgang Matkowitz

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 Cramer Piano Concerto no.2 in D minor Op.16

Next up Ah! Perfido Op.65

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