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Volume 12 • Number 2

Fall 2005

 

 

Multiple Voices and Metrical Dramas in Beethoven's Goethe-Songs, Op. 83

 

by Frank Samarotto

Beethoven's connection to Goethe is intertwined with a third person, Bettina Brentano von Arnim, whose own account places her near the genesis of some of Beethoven's songs on texts by Goethe:

One day in May [of 1810], Beethoven, sitting at the pianoforte with a song just composed before him, was surprised by a pair of hands being placed upon his shoulders. He looked up "gloomily," but his face brightened as he saw a beautiful young woman who, putting her mouth to his ear said: "My name is Brentano." She needed no further introduction. He smiled, gave her his hand without rising and said: "I have just made a beautiful song for you; do you want to hear it?" Thereupon he sang . . . "Kennst du das Land?" He asked: "Well, how do you like it?" She nodded. "It is beautiful, isn't it?" he said enthusiastically, "marvellously beautiful; I'll sing it again." He sang it again, looked at her with a triumphant expression, and seeing her cheeks and eyes glow, rejoiced over her happy approval. "Aha!" said he, "most people are touched by a good thing; but they are not artist-natures [Künstlernaturen]. Artists are fiery; they do not weep [Künstler sind feurig, die weinen nicht]." He then sang another song of Goethe's, "Trocknet nicht Thränen der ewigen Liebe."

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