Der Kinderreigen (1872) by Hans Thoma
7 Ländler WoO 11 (1799) for piano (1799, Beethoven aged 28)
written by Ben Hogwood
Background and Critical Reception
As part of his composing role in Vienna Beethoven did on occasion write dance music for the ball. We have already encountered sets of Minuets, written for the annual Redoutensaal balls, a discipline the composer seemed to warm to. This set of Ländler (a folk dance in 3/4 time) is thought to originate for 1798, and, writes Keith Anderson in booklet notes for Naxos, was presumably scored for two violins and bass.
That version is missing, but a piano version was published in Vienna the year after. All seven dances are in the same key, with a short coda added on the end.
The dances are charming and simple in their construction. Beethoven warms to the form with easy, hummable melodies and basic accompaniments often resembling drones. Harmonies are safe, and the rhythms have a nice lilt – ideal for moving easily around a crowded dancefloor. The seventh dance goes slightly offbeat, putting the emphasis on the second rather than the first beat in the bar, before a coda reinforces the drone and ends the dance with a trill.
Recordings used and Spotify links
Olli Mustonen (piano) (Decca)
Jenő Jandó (piano) (Naxos)
Olli Mustonen gives ideal account of these short, winsome pieces – and Jandó, a little faster, is enjoyable too.
Also written in 1799 Benjamin Carr Dead March and Monody
Next up tbc