Beethoven: Folk Song Arrangements
Although Beethoven ranks as one of the most celebrated Western classical composers of all time, some of his works remain surprisingly obscure. His folksong arrangements certainly garner less attention than his original songs, but there are nonetheless several gems among the collections. The settings are in a fascinating position of straddling two very different traditions: as folk songs, the emphasis is on the melody, as they were traditionally sung unaccompanied. Beethoven, however, transposed them into the Classical tradition, carefully rescoring them with standard Western classical harmony and thereby making them accessible to new European audiences. They were designed to be easy enough for amateurs to perform, but while they are indeed less complex than Beethoven's original songs, they are no less mundane; Beethoven's publisher George Thomson actually complained that Beethoven's bold and daring settings, with their extended introductions and at times unusual harmonies, were too difficult for his market. Beethoven's English was non-existent, and he communicated with Thomson in French. However, when setting the folk songs he was adamant that Thomson explain the meaning behind the texts, refusing to compose without understanding the context. He also referred to the folk songs as 'compositions' rather than 'settings', showing how seriously he took his task. This dedication shines through in the music: Beethoven takes inspiration from the rustic melodies and simple words to conceive works that are certainly worthy of the concert hall. The recordings here have been made over the course of several years, and feature such renowned singers as Dorothee Wohlgemuth, Antonia Bourvé, Georg Poplutz and Eberhard Büchner, accompanied by the Berliner Solistenchor, Brahms Trio and members of the Radio Chorus Leipzig, with experienced conductor Horst Neumann at the helm. Now available as a 6 CD set, the Folksong Arrangements by Beethoven. Beethoven wrote these arrangements of Scottish, Irish, Welsh and various folk songs, commissioned by his publisher, as a means to earn money. However, as was often the case with him, he took the commission very serious and instead of merely adding simple accompaniments to the songs, he created little works of art, adding introductions, original harmonies and intricate accompaniments, worthy of the concert hall. One may find many a hidden treasure among these attractive, sentimental, comical or rustic songs! Performed by a variety of artists and choirs.