Listening to Beethoven #48 – Que le temps me dure (2nd version)


Beethoven stamp, issued by Guernsey Post – part of a series of four
Design: The Potting Shed

Que le temps me dure WoO116b for voice and piano (1793, Beethoven aged 22)

Dedication not known
Text Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Duration 3′

Listen

Background and Critical Reception

Beethoven’s second setting of this text is for soprano and piano, as though setting the same thoughts of loss from a woman’s point of view as opposed to the man in his first account.

Interestingly the key is different this time around, the composer opting for E flat major – closely related to the C minor of the first setting. A lot of Beethoven’s musical thinking around this time was in E flat, with the Piano Trio no.1 and Octet sharing this key.

Thoughts

This second setting is more expansive in style than the first, Beethoven giving the soprano a melody of long notes and phrases. The steady piano part means the song stays in what feels like a static form of contemplation, reminiscent of Gounod‘s elaboration on J.S. Bach‘s Ave Maria.

Recordings used

Ulrike Helzel (soprano), Hans Hilsdorf (piano) (Deutsche Grammophon)

Ulrike Helzel has a full and quite luxurious tone for this song, with a nicely shaped accompaniment from Hans Hilsdorf. She also has a fulsome vibrato to her sound.

Spotify links

Ulrike Helzel, Hans Hilsdorf

Also written in 1793 Kozeluch 3 Piano Sonatas, Op.38

Next up Rondo for piano and orchestra in B flat major WoO 6

Listening to Beethoven #46 – Que le temps me dure (1st version)


Beethoven stamp, issued by Guernsey Post – part of a series of four
Design: The Potting Shed

Que le temps me dure WoO116a for voice and piano (1793, Beethoven aged 22)

Dedication not known
Text Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Duration 3’30”

Listen

Background and Critical Reception

“How slowly time passes, when I spend it far from you!”

So runs the English translation of the first line of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s short poem, which Beethoven appears to have set soon after arrival in Vienna. An interesting choice of words, which might suggest a concentrated bout of homesickness. Unfortunately nothing could be found in writing about this setting, which suggests it was kept hidden and maybe only performed in private.

The text evidently meant something to Beethoven, for he made two settings. The first of these, for high voice and piano, is in the key of C minor – a key in which he was spending a good deal of time, with the third piano trio of his forthcoming Op.1 sharing this ‘home’.

Thoughts

This setting is a short one, but it is quite poignant. A sombre if elegant introduction from the piano brings in the singer, with a simple and largely stepwise melody (one note per syllable). There are two verses which are more or less identical, before the music moves into the major key (in Hermann Prey’s version but not Peter Schreier’s).

Schreier’s finishes with a piano postlude that keeps the downcast mood of the song.

Recordings used

Peter Schreier (tenor), Walter Olbertz (piano) (Brilliant Classics)
Hermann Prey (baritone), Leonard Hokanson (piano) (Capriccio)

Hermann Prey’s version is almost twice as long as Peter Schreier – and rather more sorrowful, given its much slower pace. This offers greater meaning when the music moves into the major key. By comparison the tenor Schreier feels more matter of fact in his reflections, especially without the coda that Prey uses.

Spotify links

Peter Schreier (tenor), Walter Olbertz (piano)

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

Also written in 1793 Beauvarlet-Charpentier Variations on La Marseillaise

Next up Ein Selbstgespräch WoO114