Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Beethoven's Last Two Folksong Settings and Their Origins: Austrian Folksongs with Their Melodies (1819)

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Beethoven's Last Two Folksong Settings and Their Origins: Austrian Folksongs with Their Melodies (1819)

Article excerpt

The Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies has recently acquired a volume of Austrian folksongs published in 1819. Its connection with Beethoven is that this publication provided the source for two of his folksong settings - "Der Knabe auf dem Berge" ("The Boy on the Mountain") and "Das liebe Kätzchen" ("The Dear Kitten") ; but it is an important collection in its own right too, and a useful acquisition that will benefit anyone wanting to know more about Beethoven's musical environment. Entitled Oesterreichische Volkslieder mit ihren Singeweisen [Austrian Folksongs with Their Melodies], it was edited by Franz Ziska and Julius Max Schottky and published in Pesdi (Budapest) in 1819 by Hardeben's Veriag. An enlarged edition appeared in 1844, issued by the same publisher and edited just by Ziska, though by this time he was using the German spelling of his name, Tschischka (twice as many letters!). The original 1819 edition was reissued in facsimile in 1969-70 with an introductory note by Leopold Schmidt,1 which gives some indication of its importance, but this facsimile edition has been acquired by only a few libraries in the United States or Britain. The original 1819 edition can be found in even fewer - only about a dozen American ones, according to the online union catalogue Woridcat,2 with the nearest copy to the Beethoven Center in San José being one in Los Angeles. In the United Kingdom only four copies could be traced through the online catalogue Copac,3 which covers major British academic libraries (including the British Library) and is roughly the British equivalent ofWoridcat. Further copies must exist in Austria and other countries, but even so, the Beethoven Center copy must be described as a rarity.

As Ziska and Schottky explain in the original edition in an extended preface dated May 1818, they had initially collected the songs in a search and investigation lasting some eighteen months. During that time they scoured the area within a semicircular range of hills around Vienna in villages such as Brühl, Breitenfurt, and Kaltenleitgeben (now Kaltenleutgeben), transcribing both words and music. This practice of travelling around collecting folksongs from the local peasants and villagers is more often associated today with later figures such as Bartok and Kodály in Hungary and Cecil Sharp and Vaughan Williams in England, but its origins go back to eighteenthcentury Britain - especially Scodand. In these early collections, often just the words were transcribed, but sometimes the tunes were included as well, usually with some simple keyboard accompaniment. The efforts of British collectors such as Thomas Percy (Reliques of Ancient English Poetry) and Allan Ramsay (The Tea-Table Miscellany) gradually infiltrated Germany, where Johann Gottfried Herder responded enthusiastically with his own collection of Volkslieder in 1778-79 ; indeed it was Herder who actually coined the term Volkslied 'or folksong. Thus the collection by Ziska and Schottky formed a natural continuation of this type of work, and it is particularly important for being apparently the earliest printed collection of Austrian folksongs to include the melodies.

The editors do not indicate their individual contributions, but both seem to have been very active in travelling around collecting the songs. Schottky probably did most of the text editing and linguistic commentary, since he was evidently an expert in this field, describing himself as a member of the Beriiner Gesellschaft für Deutsche Sprache (Berlin Society for the German Language), and writing some concluding remarks dated March 26, 1819 (pp. 282-84) that attempt to position the volume among contributions to the history of the German language.4 Schottky also indicates here that plans were in place for a second volume, which would cover a wider region and give more details such as the precise location where each song was discovered.

Altogether 196 songs, with sixty-eight melodies (not sixty-seven as printed on the front cover), are included in the collection. …

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