Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Affective Organization in Beethoven's Gellert Lieder, Opus 48

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Affective Organization in Beethoven's Gellert Lieder, Opus 48

Article excerpt

Affirming Joanna Cobb Biermann's Theory on Beethoven's Intended Order of the Songs

I. Introduction

The tonal organization of Beethoven's Geliert Lieder has long been a source of discussion and concern.1 Why would Beethoven juxtapose the distant keys of E Major and ?-flat Major for the first two songs? Not only that, but do it so abruptly, placing a forte root position E-flar. major chord after -¿.pianissimo root position chord of E major? Was there some deep-seated reason for this placemen: or were they juxtaposed randomly? Surely not, for he always gave careful consideración to such matters. And why would the fourth and fifth songs share both tonality (C Major) and time signature (2/2)? Was there clear intent for this succession on his part? After all, diese songs were published together with his approval in a collection as Opus 48, and each sets a text by Geliert, clear indications of his intcnrionahty with regard to their nexus. Or is this collection merely a series of songs that share an author, composer, and opus number whose ordering has litele significance, and not intended for performance together?

A crucial part of the answer to these questions cm be found in a recent article by (oanna Cobb Biermann in Beethoven Forum,- In it she argues persuasively tor a revised ordering of Beethoven's Gellen Lieder different from the one with which most people are familiar. Challenging die status quo with regard to die ordering of mese songs with a thorough examination of the source materials, she reveals that the plan adopted by the editor of the new critical complete edition, Helga Lühning,3 is far from sacrosanct.

While a complete rehashing of her arguments would be beyond the scope of this article, it is useful to have some idea of her thesis. Biermann mentions that the tonal organization of these songs was something that had concerned Beethoven since the}' were first published together. He actually experimented with several different orderings before deciding on the plan supported by Biermann. From her examination of all the extant sources, she settles on tour possible orderings, three of which are significant tonally and are detailed here.4

Example 1 shows the orderings of songs/keys in die various sources.

Example 1

(i) Tonal plan in the earliest sources

E-Eb- f#- C- a/A- C

(ii) Tonal plan in Neue Gesamtausgabe

E- Eb- f#- C- C- a/A

(iii) Tonal plan in Hoffmeister 0£ Kühnel edition

E- C- Eb- f#- C- a/A

The first ordering combines the three earliest sources (see Ex. 1 -i), including a newly-discovered source, the Mollo corrected copy, originally intended to be the first edition of die cycle, with which she opens her discussion, and a source not available to Helga Lühning when she made her critical edition in 1 990. While mis new source, purchased by the Beethoven- Haus in 1 993, does noe match the ordering Biermann eventually setdes on, it does illustrate how Beethoven agonized over the sequence of these songs, and that the plan seen in this source is but one possible solution. Biermann makes the important point here that the pairing of "Vom Tode" ("On Death") and "Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur" ("The Glory of God in Nature"} is always preserved. In die plan seen in the Molto first edition and the Artaria edition (Rx. 1 -ii), songs five and six from the first ordering have been swapped, leaving "Büßlied" ("Song of Penance"), the most extensive song in the collection, as a fitting ending. The third ordering seen in the late 1 803 edition by Hoffmeister & Kühnel (Ex. 1-iii) removes both rhe tonal clash between E Major and ?-flat Major in the first two songs and also the repetition of key and time signature tor songs four and five. Bierrnann points out that while there is a lack oí "incontrovertible; evidence" for this ordering, "the result of the reordering of the songs , . . is still very persuasive."1 It is the intention of my article to further reinforce her thesis through the exammatio n of the use of tonal affect to support this ordering of the songs. …

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