Chr.Schubart's Kaplied, Hess 63 (mp3)

Chr.Schubart's Kaplied, Hess 63 (mp3)
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Chr.Schubart's Kaplied, Hess 63
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Chr. F.D. Schubart's "Kaplied", Hess 63 (1790-92) This short song arrangement of "Kaplied" was written out by Beethoven for Franz Gerhard Wegeler, one of his oldest friends. It is unusual in that it was one of the few instances of Beethoven writing down his own fingering. Considering the utter simplicity of the tune, one can have little doubt about Wegeler's limitations as a pianist if the fingerings were necessary for him.

The original autograph leaf can be seen at the digital archives of the Beethovenhaus in Bonn. The page is catalogued as Sammlung Wegeler 1, and Hess' transcription is found at Hess Supp. vol. IX, p. 11. Wegeler wrote upon the leaf, "Für mich Von Beethoven geschrieben und bezeichnet. Wglr" ("Written and with fingerings for me by Beethoven. Wglr"). Also contained upon this leaf, and crammed into the empty space, is the Sonatina WoO 50 in F. Because of the way the Sonatina is shoehorned into the page, clearly the Kaplied was written on it first, though as the Beethovenhaus observes, Beethoven first started to write the Kaplied on the other side, then flipped the paper over for reasons unknown.

This worn and stained piece of paper offers several important sources for speculation as well as an interesting point of history. Let us begin with the original author of the Kaplied, Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart (1730-1791).

Portrait of Schubart

Schubart was a multitalented individual, and something of a firebrand and rebel, which most likely appealed to the young Beethoven. Schubart was a poet, musician, organist, composer, writer, publisher, journalist, critic, teacher, preacher, mysticist and theoretical aesthetician, among other occupations. He frequently got in trouble with the church, getting himself exiled for blasphemy at least once, and was driven out of Augsburg for his attacks on the Jesuits. He was arrested for his freethinking assaults on the church and political rabblerousing in 1777 and held in confinement for ten years, without charges or trial. According to Thomas Carlyle, General Ried, the Austrian Agent at Ulm, collaborated in arranging Schubart's arrest, apparently because he was furious at the musician's refusal to play a harpsichord that was out of order. While in prison, Schubart kept busy writing. During that time, he wrote "Ideen zu einer Aesthetick der Tonkunst" which the Historical Dictionary describes as "one of the most brilliant discussions of 18th-century music." Friedrich Schiller's The Robber was based in part on Schubart's fate as a political prisoner. Schubart was eventually freed in 1787 by Frederick the Great, to whom Schubart dedicated a fawning piece.

Possibly as a gambit to obtain his release, Schubart composed two patriotic poems, both of which went under the name "Kaplied" ("Song of the Cape"). The Cape in question was the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. The background of these poems is an interesting one, as detailed by Anna Bender-Brink in "Christian Schubart and the Cape," reprinted in The World of South African Music: A Reader, Christine Lucia, ed. at p. 122ff, from which much of the following material is derived.

The Dutch East India Company had signed a contract with Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg in Stuttgart on 10 October 1786. Under this agreement, two thousand German mercenary soldiers were to be sent to Cape Town to help put down any political unrest or agitation against the Company (recall that this was just after the American Revoluation and just shortly before the French Revolution, and unrest was definitely in the air). Since unemployment amongst young men was high then as now, this was an arrangement quite popular on many fronts. The royalty got money, the Dutch got protection, the young men found employment, and perhaps they could even send money home to help support their families.

Interestingly, Schubart himself had opposed the practice of German princes hiring out mercenaries before his imprisonment. In particular, he had loudly complained about the sale of mercenaries from Hesse and Württemberg (by none other than the very same Duke Karl Eugen) to serve the British, since Schubart was a sympathizer with the American colonists. Now doing a complete 180, he writes two poems, "Zwey Kaplieder," that are at least on their face meant to encourage young German men to go to South Africa and serve in exactly that capacity. An eyebrow raises.

About a month before the first troops were to depart in February 1787, Schubart published these two Kaplieder with musical settings, apparently of his own composition. These poems immediately became hugely popular, and as Bender-Brink notes, "they prepared the soldiers emotionally and geographically for their adventures." The Kaplied transcribed here by Beethoven was the first of the two, the "Abscheidslied" or "Farewell Song." In a letter, Schubart described the picture thusly: "The departure of the Württemberg Regiment will resemble an immense cortège because parents, wives, lovers, sisters and friends will be losing their sons, husbands, sweethearts, brothers --- perhaps forever."

Reading between the lines of the poem and this letter, one must have grave doubts whether Schubart was sincere about the surface sentiments expressed in the poem, since he emphasizes the loss and sadness amidst the patriotic fervor, and demands the striking up of the march to inspire the men to move forward into the unknown, while privately comparing the situation to a funeral procession. The second Kaplied, "Für den Trupp" (For the Troops), inspired the soldiers to think of the Cape's wines and women, which reads as another fairly cynical jab at the mercenary industry under the surface. Bender-Brink notes that the Abscheidslied was nevertheless adopted by the Württemberg regiment as its anthem, and it continued to resonate in South African culture for many years thereafter.

The trepidations expressed by Schubart were not baseless. Out of the two thousand soldiers, 143 died at sea en route to Africa. Although the soldiers were initially welcomed by the people of Cape Town, their pay proved to be an immense disappointment; they not only could not send any money home but they were not able to save any money. When their uniforms and boots deteriorated in the African climate, replacements took six months to arrive, and then were so expensive that the men could not afford to buy them. The soldiers' main duties were to protect the Cape from an attack by the English, which did not come. The soldiers ended up extremely bored, engaging in smoking, drinking and card playing above all.

What Hess failed to observe was that this is not really an arrangement of the first Kaplied by Beethoven: it is a copy of Schubart's setting, as published in 1787, with a very few inconsequential variations in harmony. While both settings are in the same key, Schubart writes the right hand part in the soprano clef, which Beethoven transposes into the treble clef for Wegeler. If Wegeler was as elementary a pianist as the fingerings suggest, he no doubt would have struggled with playing in the soprano clef if he could have done it at all. Schubart includes slurs in six places that Beethoven omits. In the quarter note at the end of the 3rd bar, Beethoven adds the third to the chord, and omits the mordent on Schubart's original. In the next to last measure, first note, Beethoven adds some harmonies to the right hand not present in Schubart, and he drops Schubart's grace note. Likewise, he makes a chord of the final note in the right hand whereas Schubart has a single note. In the left hand, 2nd bar last note and 3rd bar first note, Beethoven also adds some harmonies to the left hand. Are these few changes sufficient to make this an "arrangement" or does it remain merely a sloppy copy with fingerings and a half dozen added notes? And since this was such a popular piece, it is not entirely out of the question that what Beethoven had before him was not Schubart's original but a poor second or third generation copy.

But the really serious question that is posed by this leaf is the significance behind the fact that Hess 63 is for the most part just a copy of Schubart. The poet, you will recall, was also a composer who wrote at least four sonatinas for piano. Is it possible that the Sonatina WoO 50 that Beethoven writes on this same page for Wegeler is actually a copy (or another very modest arrangement) of a Schubart work (or a sonatina by another unidentified person) and not Beethoven's composition at all? Is Beethoven just copying both of these pieces out and merely writing in fingerings for his friend Wegeler? Observe that in his note, Wegeler uses the word, "geschrieben," which can mean composed, but can also mean copied. Note also that Beethoven's writing here is just as neat and tidy as for the Kaplied; he is not composing as he writes--there are no changes or blots or corrections--but he is clearly writing down a previously completed composition. We have thus far not been able to locate copies of Schubart's piano works, but this question is a matter that demands further investigation. If nothing else, it places the authorship of the Sonatina WoO 50 into serious question, entirely apart from the musical issues with Beethoven's purported authorship.

So much can be learned from one scrap of paper!

Kaplied: 1. Abscheidslied

Auf, auf! ihr Brüder und seid stark, 
  Der Abschiedstag ist da!
Schwer liegt er auf der Seele, schwer!
Wir sollen über Land und Meer
  Ins heiße Afrika.

Ein dichter Kreis von Lieben steht,
  Ihr Brüder, um uns her:
Uns knüpft so manches teure Band
An unser deutsches Vaterland,
  Drum fällt der Abschied schwer.

Dem bieten graue Eltern noch
  Zum letzten Mal die Hand;
Den kosen Bruder, Schwester, Freund;
Und alles schweigt, und alles weint,
  Todblaß von uns gewandt.

Und wie ein Geist schlingt um den Hals
  Das Liebchen sich herum:
Willst mich verlassen, liebes Herz,
Auf ewig? Und der bittre Schmerz
  Macht's arme Liebchen stumm.

Ist hart! drum wirble du, Tambour,
  Den Generalmarsch drein.
Der Abschied macht uns sonst zu weich,
Wir weinen kleinen Kindern gleich;
  Es muß geschieden sein.

Lebt wohl, ihr Freunde! Sehn wir uns
  Vielleicht zum letzten Mal,
So denkt, nicht für die kurze Zeit,
Freundschaft ist für die Ewigkeit,
  Und Gott ist überall.

An Deutschlands Grenze füllen wir
  Mit Erde unsre Hand
Und küssen sie, das sei der Dank
Für deine Pflege, Speis und Trank,
  Du liebes Vaterland!

Wenn dann die Meereswoge sich
  An unsern Schiffen bricht,
So segeln wir gelassen fort;
Denn Gott ist hier, und Gott ist dort,
  Und der verläßt uns nicht!

Und ha, wenn sich der Tafelberg [1]
  Aus blauen Düften hebt,
So strecken wir empor die Hand
Und jauchzen: Land! ihr Brüder, Land!
  Daß unser Schiff erbebt.

Und wenn Soldat und Offizier
  Gesund ans Ufer springt,
Dann jubeln wir, ihr Brüder, ha!
Nun sind wir ja in Afrika.
  Und alles dankt und singt

Wir leben drauf in fernem Land
  Als Deutsche brav und gut,
Und sagen soll man weit und breit,
Die Deutschen sind doch brave Leut,
  Sie haben Geist und Mut.

Und trinken auf dem Hoffnungskap
  Wir seinen Götterwein,
So denken wir, von Sehnsucht weich,
Ihr fernen Freunde, dann an euch;
  Und Tränen fließen drein.

--Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart

The blue of Table Mountain, overlooking Cape Town

English translation by Mark S. Zimmer:

On, on!  Brethren, be strong,
The departure day is here!
Difficult it weighs on your mind, hard!
We will travel on land and sea
to be in hot Africa.

A ring of love, my brothers,
Is all around us;
It ties us so dearly 
To our German fatherland
That it is hard to say goodbye.

The grey-haired parents
Still hold the hand for the last time;
Caress the brother, sister, friend;
And everything is quiet, and everyone is crying.
We turned deathly pale.

And, like a ghost, wraps the sweetheart
Around the neck:
Leaving me, dear heart, 
Forever?  And the bitter pain
Makes me mute, poor darling.

So hard! Roll the tambour,
Sound the general march.
The departure otherwise will make us too soft,
For we weep like young children;
We must part.

Farewell, my friends!  We see each other
Maybe for the last time.
At least I think not for a short time.
But friendship is forever,
And God is everywhere.

On Germany's border we fill
Our hand with the earth
And kiss it and give thanks
For your care, food and drink,
You dear homeland!

Then, as the waves of the sea
Break themselves upon our ships,
So we sail forth;
For God is here and God is there,
And will not abandon us!

And, ha, when we sight the blue 
Of the Table Mountain [1]
We straighten out our hands
And shout, "Land! Brothers, land!"
So that our ship shudders.

And when a soldier and officer
Jumps safely ashore
Then we cheer, ha! Brothers!
Now we are in Africa
And all give thanks and sing.

We live now in a distant land,
As Germans brave and good,
And you should say far and wide,
The Germans are honest folk,
Who have courage and spirit.

And as we drink to this Cape of Hope
With our wine of the gods,
So we think of soft yearning,
Of distant friends left behind,
And tears are flowing in the bargain.

[1] A flat-topped mountain overlooking Cape Town in South Africa.  It appears on the flag of Cape Town.

Hess: 63

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