Listening to Beethoven #176 – Man strebt, die Flamme zu verhehlen, WoO 120


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

Man strebt, die Flamme zu verhehlen WoO 120 for voice and piano (1802, Beethoven aged 30)

Dedication Johanna von Weissenthurn
Text Johanna von Weissenthurn
Duration 2′


Background and Critical Reception

Beethoven dedicated his song Man Strebt, die Flamme zu Verhehlen (One strives to conceal the flame) to Johanna Franul von Weissenthurn, an actress, poet, and playwright active in Vienna beginning in 1789.

Charles Petzold, in his Beethoven 250 series, sets the song in a good deal of context here, revealing a little more about the elusive Frau Weissenthurn in the process.


Given that this song only lasts just over two minutes, it has an unusually elaborate introduction from the piano – maybe part of Beethoven’s portrait-setting?

When the voice enters it sounds preoccupied, and the piano responds again. Translated, the text talks of how ‘a glance says more than a thousand words…a glance will often unbolt the door of passion long concealed. The voice seems to be portraying the glance, the piano more intent on opening the door with its florid right hand.

Recordings used

Natalie Pérez, Jean-Pierre Armengaud (Warner Classics)

Hermann Prey (baritone), Leonard Hokanson (piano) (Capriccio)

Both versions convey the preoccupied feel of this text.

Also written in 1802 Zeller Sammlung kleiner Balladen und Lieder Z123

Next up Sonata for piano and violin no.6 in A major Op.30/1

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