Listening to Beethoven #110 – 6 German Dances for violin and piano WoO 42

La Trénis, Contredanse by PIerre La Mésangère, British Museum

6 German Dances WoO42 for piano and violin (1796, Beethoven aged 25)

Dedication The ‘Countesses Thun’
Duration 5′

Listen

Background and Critical Reception

William Drabkin, writing in the booklet notes for the Complete Beethoven on DG, confirms the background behind these six short dances for violin and piano.

Beethoven describes them as ‘German dances, to which the two Countesses Thun and other people might dance on their heads and thereby think of their Ludwig Van Beethoven who honours them’. Drabkin confirms Beethoven sent the completed work to Vienna while he was on his concert tour of Berlin and Prague during 1795-96. He writes that ‘One of the two unnamed countesses Beethoven is likely to have intended in the dedication is Christiane, wife of his foremost patron during his first years in Vienna, Prince Karl Lichnowsky.’

The dances could be performed by piano alone, but the violin grows into its role as co-melodist as the dances progress.

Thoughts

Beethoven uses ‘safe’ homes for each of these short dances, all in a major key: F – D – F – A – D – G. They are all perky numbers that prove to be good fun, lightening the mood as they would doubtless have done of an evening.

Piano and violin share the load, the violin often using double stopping as in the drone of the rustic second dance or the attractive no.5. The fourth dance has a nice lilt to it, while no.6, the most substantial, finishes on a high.

Recordings used

David Garrett (violin), Bruno Canino (piano) (Deutsche Grammophon)
James Ehnes (violin), Andrew Armstrong (piano) (Signum Classics)

Both performances are thoroughly enjoyable. Ehnes and Armstrong have their collective foot on the accelerator that bit more, dancing with quick feet!

Spotify links

David Garrett, Bruno Canino

James Ehnes, Andrew Armstrong

Also written in 1796 Kreutzer Études ou caprices

Next up 12 German Dances WoO 13