Sunday, April 11, 2021
By far the majority of Beethoven’s 179 folk song compositions were settings of Irish tunes. The Edinburgh-based publisher George Thomson worked with many famous poets and composers to rescue and immortalize folk culture, but his work with Robert Burns to upgrade the texts of Irish ditties was cut short by Burns’ untimely death in 1796, and the great Irish poet Thomas Moore elected to work independently of Thomson. As a result, Beethoven received only tunes but no texts from Thomson, and song texts, many by less well-known poets, were attached to the finished settings upon publication.
Saturday, April 10, 2021
George Thomson was the Edinburgh publisher who commissioned Beethoven and other composers for settings of folk songs from the British Isles. In his preface to “Select Collection of Welsh Airs” he describes how he collected them: he read diaries and descriptions of travels, asked harpists from Wales to provide unpublished tunes, and traveled to Wales himself to conduct research. He also recruited both Robert Burns and Walter Scott to write new texts for some of the songs. “Songs from Wales”, published in 1817, included the 26 arrangements by Beethoven and four by Haydn.
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Few songs have been set to music more often and by more different composers than Lied der Mignon, “Mignon’s Song” from Goethe’s novel, “Wilhelm Meisters Lehrejahre” (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship). Beethoven published four settings, Schubert six, and settings by Schumann, Hugo Wolf, and Tschaikowsky are also frequently performed.
Easter, April 4, 2021
Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II, the long-time patron of Franz Josef Haydn, commissioned a new mass setting each year for his wife’s name-day. In 1807, the commission fell to Beethoven, who, in his own words, “treated the text in a manner in which it has rarely been treated”.
Friday, April 2, 2021
The Opus 133 "Große Fuge" (Great Fugue) is the summit of Beethoven’s string quartets. With a duration of about sixteen minutes, it’s easily the longest fugue ever written for string quartet, although the finale of the Opus 106 Hammerklavier piano sonata has the same length and formal structure.