Riddle canon, 'Ich kuesse Sie', WoO 169, Hess 250 (mp3)

Riddle canon, 'Ich kuesse Sie', WoO 169, Hess 250 (mp3)
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Performer: Mark S. Zimmer
Length: 1:07
Riddle canon, 'Ich kuesse Sie', Hess 250
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Author: Willem
Length: 1:04
Hess 250 -- Ich kuesse Sie, druecke Sie an mein Herz!

Occurs in the PS of a letter, dated January 6th, 1816, to the opera singer Anna Milder-Hauptmann, who had just married. The text reads: "Ich kuesse Sie, druecke Sie an mein Herz! Ich der Hauptmann, der Hauptmann!" ["I kiss you, and close you in my heart! I'm the captain, the captain!"]. Beethoven adds: "Fort mit allen uebrigen faelschen Hauptmaennern" ["Down with all the other false captains"].

The first riddle about this riddle canon is whether it is a canon or not. The notes are in two seperate chunks (1.Ich kuesse Sie and 2.Ich der Hauptmann!) and it is not clear whether they belong together. Ludwig Misch ("Beethoven Studies", p.256/8) discusses the apparent impossibility to solve this canon. Perhaps that's why this canon was recorded only as a single line in DG's 1997 Complete Edition.

However, Hess (Hess Supp.V, Revisionsbericht) indicates two solutions: 1) entry of the second voice after one bar a fourth higher, and 2) entry of the second after one bar as mirror image in the prime. The second chunk ("Ich der Hauptmann") can in both solutions be inserted as free counterpoint starting in the second bar.

Willem noticed that, in both cases, this second chunk can also be inserted starting in the first bar, a fourth lower, thus turning both solutions into true four part double canons.

Also noteworthy is the way Beethoven treats the word "Hauptmann": he slices it in two, with a marked rest between "Haupt" and "mann", comparable to the way he treats "Amen" in the Credo of the Missa Solemnis. It is as if he decapitates his rival musically.

The midi first gives the notes written by Beethoven as single line, followed by the world premieres of the two double canons.


The complete letter Beethoven wrote to Anna Milder-Hauptmann reads as follows:

Vienna, January 6th, 1816
My most esteemed, unique Milder, my dear friend,

This letter to you has been long delayed. How gladly I would contribute in person to the enthusiasm of the Berlin public evoked by your performance in 'Fidelio'. A thousand thanks on my part for your fidelity to my 'Fidelio'!

If you would ask Baron de la Motte-Fouqué on my behalf to devise a great subject for an opera, and one which, at the same time, would be suitable for you, you would be rendering a great service to me and to the German stage. Also, I should wish to write such an opera exclusively for the Berlin theatre, as I shall never succeed in putting on a new opera here, because of the stingy management. Reply to me soon, with all speed, as soon as possible, with all possible speed, as speedily as possible, whether this is practicable. The conductor Weber has praised you to the skies, and he is right. Happy is the man whose lot it is to profit by your Muse, your genius, your splendid qualities and distinctions ! Not excluding myself ! Be that as it may, all those who surround you may call themselves only next men; I alone have the right to bear the venerable name of head man (1), and only quite silently at that.

Your true friend and admirer

(My poor unhappy brother has died - that is the reason for my long failure to write.) As soon as you have replied to me, I shall also write to Baron de la Motte-Fouqué. I am sure that your influence in Berlin will easily make it possible for me to write a whole opera for the Berlin theatre, with special attention to your part and acceptable terms. Only, reply soon, so that I can fit this in with my other writings.

(Follows music to the words:

I kiss and hug, press you close to my heart ! I the head man, the head man)

(Away with all the other usurping head men!)

[Michael Hamburger, Beethoven Letters, Journals and Conversations, p.140]

WoO: 169
Hess: 250

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