Listening to Beethoven #205 – Das Glück der Freundschaft (Vita felice) Op.88


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

Das Glück der Freundschaft Op.88 (Vita felice) for voice and piano (1803, Beethoven aged 32)

Dedication not known
Text Anon / Christian Tiedge
Duration 2’30”


Background and Critical Reception

Slightly confusingly, this song has a title in German but the words are in Italian. This is because the original text from which the words are taken is the anonymous Vita felice – which were then seemingly adapted by Christian Tiedge.

The date of composition, and the language, suggest this song to be a product of Beethoven’s studies with Salieri in Vienna, which were just coming to an end.


A flourish from the piano begins this ode to the joy of friendship, ‘offering its hand in these hard times’. The vocal line has a largely stepwise movement, closely shadowed by the piano – but Beethoven does take the opportunity with the key of E major to use some more exotic harmonies.

The profile of the song is quite expansive. Its flowing nature and characterisation are close to Schubert in style, suggesting an influence on the latter composer’s Lieder that is not considered very often.

Recordings used

Pamela Coburn (soprano), Leonard Hokanson (piano) (Capriccio)
René Jacobs (countertenor), Jos Van Immerseel (fortepiano) (Accent)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), Jörg Demus (piano) (Deutsche Grammophon)

Pamela Coburn has a bright sound in her version, which is transposed up from E major. René Jacobs, full of tone, sings at ‘period’ pitch with Jos van Immerseel giving flowing support on the fortepiano, Perhaps inevitably the version to treasure is from Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, commanding but elegant and with fulsome support from Jörg Demus.

Also written in 1803 Salieri Gesù al limbo

Next up 3 Marches for piano four hands, Op.45