A Beethoven World Premiere: Sunday 8 September 2013

The International Beethoven Project presented the world premiere of the song “Liebe” or “Ich wiege dich in meinem Arm” (Hess 137) at the Chicago Beethoven Festival on Sunday, September 8, 2013. Lost since 1822, and known only by a scrawling of its first line in a price list sent by Beethoven to publisher C.F. Peters, the poem that it was based upon has been located by Unheard Beethoven Project Director Mark S Zimmer, and the musical sketches by Beethoven were found by our Musical Director, Willem Holsbergen, who has completed a realization of the sketch materials. Originally written by Beethoven in about 1797, this work has eluded music scholars for nearly two centuries until its rediscovery this summer.

The premiere on September 8 was performed by Dominic Armstrong, tenor, and George Lepauw, piano, at the Merit School of Music. Appropriately enough, the theme of this year’s festival was Love, the title of the poem by F.W.A. Schmidt that Beethoven set to music.
by Ferdinand Schimon

The full press release can be seen at this link.

UPDATE: The premiere was a huge success. We hope to make the song available in the near future. Here’s what Chicago critic Lawrence Johnson had to say at Chicago Classical Review:

Earlier, the festival offered a singular event with what was billed as a Beethoven world premiere.

The Wisconsin-based Beethoven scholar Mark Zimmer unearthed a version of Liebe, a Beethoven song that is in the Hess catalogue but was viewed with suspicion. An alternative score, uncovered by Zimmer, was subsequently authenticated.

The song title fits the festival theme—“We commissioned it,” Lepauw joked—-and certainly sounds like genuine Beethoven. (Whether the puritanical Beethoven would have set music to a text with ribald banana references is open to question.) Still, if no masterpiece, it’s an attractive work, and received an ardent performance by Armstrong and Lepauw.

We can assure Mr. Johnson that Beethoven did indeed set this music to a text with ribald banana references; in fact, he sets the word for ‘banana’ at least three different times in his draft. Plainly the composer found it amusing in a mildly off-color way. He was human (and a young man of only 26), after all.