Thursday, December 30, 2010

12/30 "Beethoven, why are your Folk Songs so Difficult?"

(Roxburghe Collection)
One interesting side-job that Beethoven took was writing arrangements of "folk tunes" for the English market.  George Thomson contacted Beethoven about putting some melodies to small chamber arrangements and surprisingly, B. agreed.  In fact he churned out over 170 of them.  They paid well, and he had a ready audience to receive them into their parlor concerts (I imagine).  When first hearing about these arrangements I was curious as to how much B. put into these things.  Well, in general when he received a melody line (usually without lyrics), he proceeded to add an introduction and a coda, and then expand the melody into a harmonic setting for voice, piano and a string instruments (cello and/or violin).  He took it very seriously.  On at least one occasion Mr Thompson complained that the music was too hard for non-professionals to play.  B. replied that he rarely made changes to his works once he sent them out, but he did do new, simpler arrangements of about 10.
"Behold my Love how green the groves" Pg. 1
"Behold my Love how green the groves" Pg 2
Scottish Folksongs.  3 Songs from Op. 108
-1. Behold my love, how green the groves
-2. Oh, had my fate been join'd with thine
-3. Come fill, fill my good fellow
(Catrin Wyn-Davies, Janice Watson, sopranos/Timothy Robinson, tenor/Thomas Allen, baritone)

Have a sing along...?

"Wife, Children and Friends" (from Irish songs, WoO 152)

"Come fill, fill, my good fellow!" (from 25 Scottish Songs Op.108 (1818))

"They bid me slight my Dermot dear" (Irish Songs WoO 152 - No. 18)

Thanks to the Digital Archive at the Beethoven-haus Bonn you can peruse this autograph manuscript:
43 popular song arrangements for voice, violin, cello and piano, from WoO 152 to WoO 155 Corrected copy.

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