Duet, 'Nur hurtig fort, nur frisch gegraben,' early version, Hess 111 (mp3)

Duet, 'Nur hurtig fort, nur frisch gegraben,' early version, Hess 111 (mp3)
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Performer: Mark S. Zimmer
Length: 3:57
Duet, 'Nur hurtig fort, nur frisch gegraben,' early version, Hess 111
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Author: Willem
Length: 3:51
Original version of the A-minor Duet from Leonore, Hess 111 (1805?).

The original version of this duet, in which Rocco and Leonore are digging the grave for the prisoner, who is about to be murdered, was deciphered and published only in 1966 by Willy Hess. Since this version apparently exists only in Beethoven's own handwriting, and not in that of one of the copyists, we can assume that Beethoven made the changes to this duet even before it was copied out, that's to say, before the rehearsals of the opera started in October 1805. The Hess 111-version was therefore most likely never performed during Beethoven's life-time, nor, as far we know, since its publication in 1966.

The main difference with the 1805-version is that in the present version the instrumental introduction is some 17 bars longer. The reason why Beethoven later cut these measures gives some insight into his musical priorities. As such, there is nothing wrong with this section (bar 7 to bar 23). It even contains original ideas, namely the clash of the Neapolitan harmony with the tonic in bar 15, and the use of a 7-chord on IV in bar 18 (the same chord in bar 22, however, is a II(7) in C). Most other composers would have left this section untouched. So why did Beethoven cut it?

Probably because it is harmonically circular: it both starts and ends at the same point, namely C(I), the parallel major. Reaching C(I) is an important point of the introduction, because it turns the following, syncopated, dominant chord of A minor into a very expressive entry for the singing voices. But reaching C(I) twice, as is now the case, slows down the action. Clearly Beethoven thought that moving the drama forward was more important than an extensive description of the general mood, and the darkness of the scene.

While in later years other cuts were made in other numbers in order to shorten the opera, this one was made for artistic reasons.

Of the many other, smaller, differences between Hess 111 and the later versions, we would like to point out the upward rising triplets in the violas at Leonores words "Ich will, du Armer, dich befrein" ("I will set you, poor man, free"), at the 2 min 41 marking of the midi. It's a pity that Beethoven removed them, since they work wonderfully well.

*********************************************************
Rocco:
Nur hurtig fort, nur frisch gegraben,
es waehrt nicht lang, er kommt herein.
		Come, get to work and dig;
		It won't be long before he's here.

Leonore:
Ihr sollt ja nicht zu klagen haben,
ihr sollt gewiss zufrieden sein.
		You'll have no cause to complain,
		I'll content you, never fear.

Rocco:
Nur hurtig fort, nur frisch gegraben,
es waehrt nicht lang, er kommt herein.

Leonore:
Ihr sollt ja nicht zu klagen haben,
ihr sollt gewiss zufrieden sein.

Rocco:
Komm, hilf, komm, hilf doch diesen Stein mir heben!
Hab' Acht, hab' Acht, er hat Gewicht!
		Come, help me lift this stone -
		Take care! Take care! it's heavy!

Leonore:
Ich helfe schon, sorgt euch nicht!
Ich will mir alle Muehe geben.
		I've got it, don't worry;
		I'll do my best to move it.

Rocco:
Ein wenig noch!
		A little more!

Leonore:
Geduld!
		A moment!

Rocco:
Er weicht!
		It's moving.

Leonore:
Nur etwas noch!
		A little further!

Rocco, Leonore together:
Es ist nicht leicht / Nur etwas noch!
		This is hard work!

Rocco:
Nur hurtig fort, nur frisch gegraben,
es waehrt nicht lang, er kommt herein.
		Come, we must hurry with this grave;
		It won't be long before he's here.

Leonore:
Lasst mich nur wieder Kraefte haben,
wir werden bald zu Enden sein.
		Just let me get my breath back,
		We'll soon have finished here.

Rocco, Leonore together:
Nur hurtig fort, nur frisch gegraben,
es waehrt nicht lang, er kommt herein /
Wer du auch sei'st, ich will dich retten,
		Whoever you are, I swear to Heaven


Leonore:
bei Gott, bei Gott, du sollst kein Opfer sein,
gewiss, gewiss, ich loese deine Ketten,
ich will, du Armer, dich befrein.
		I'll save you! You shall not be his prey!
		I will loose your chains, poor man,
		And set you free.

Rocco:
Was er da mit sich selber spricht!
		What are you talking to yourself!

Leonore:
Mein Vater, nein, ich rede nicht!
		Father, no, I'm not talking to myself!

Rocco:
Was er da mit sich selber spricht!

Leonore:
Mein Vater, nein, ich rede nicht!

Rocco:
Nur hurtig fort, nur frisch gegraben,

Leonore:
Lasst mich nur wieder Kraefte haben,

Rocco:
es waehrt nicht lang, er kommt herein,

Leonore:
Lasst mich nur wieder Kraefte haben,

Rocco, Leonore together:
ja, es waehrt nicht lang, er kommt herein,/
Lasst mich nur wieder Kraefte haben,
wir werden bald zu Ende sein,
Ihr sollt ja nicht zu klagen haben,
ihr sollt gewiss zufrieden sein,

Rocco, Leonore in unison:
Nur hurtig fort, nur frisch gegraben,
es waehrt nicht lang, er kommt herein./
Lasst mich nur wieder Kraefte haben,
wir werden bald zu Ende sein.

			Translation: Lionel Salter


Hess: 111


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