Ludwig van Beethoven

An die ferne Geliebte, song cycle for voice & piano, Op. 98

    Description by Robert Cummings

    An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved) is an important song cycle, not just for its musical value, but because it stands as a significant turning point in Beethoven's style and career. It is a work which carved out a new path in many respects for the composer: the heroism and splendor of the past are missing here; the extroverted persona becomes muted, giving way to a more ponderous, inward expressiveness; and, on a personal level, the music symbolized Beethoven's realization that he would likely never marry, and that his youth, with all its bitter disappointments, had passed. Yet, the music, while reflecting the composer's pain, never suggests any self-pity; in fact, the mood remains rather sober, even bright in mood at times, and always accepting of fate. "Yearning," rather than "suffering," would actually be a better word to associate with these six songs, composed to texts by Alois Jeitteles, then a medical student, who seems to have written the words especially for these settings. This song cycle is also important because it was the first major effort written in a through-composed style, eventually exerting a great influence on the lieder of Schumann and many later composers. The individual songs share some thematic relationships and are linked via the piano accompaniment, which delivers a sort of connecting interlude between songs. Beethoven thus excludes the option of performing just one song or a selection from the entire work. The first song, "Auf dem Hügel sitz ich spähend" (On the hill sit I, peering), features subdued music that is rather bright, considering the longing and yearning for the "beloved" mentioned in the text. Clearly, this is music expressing the composer's acceptance of sorrow and loss. The next song, "Wo die Berge so blau" (Where the mountains so blue), is a bit darker and more somber in mood, but the yearning remains. "Leichte Segler in den Höhen" (Light veils in the heights) is quite playful at the outset, departing from the more melancholy atmosphere of the previous songs. The ensuing item, "Diese Wolken in den Höhen" (These clouds in the heights) is also somewhat cheerful, but, like the last song, seems essentially dominated by a mood of longing. In fact, while these middle songs seem brighter, their apparent lightness brings the underlying sense of loss into sharper focus. The penultimate song, "Es kehret der Maien, es blühet die Au" (May returns, the meadow blooms), maintains an animated mood. The touching "Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder" (Take, then, these songs), which powerfully closes the cycle, includes a nostalgic reiteration of the first song's melody.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Auf dem Hügel sitz ich spähend
    2. Wo die Berge so blau
    3. Leichte Segler in den Höhen
    4. Diese Wolken in den Höhen
    5. Es kehret der Maien, es blühet die Au
    6. Nimm sie hin denn diese Lieder

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Analekta AN 29522
    2018 Hänssler Classic HC 18025
    2017 CAvi-music AVI 8553377
    2017 Opus Arte OACD 9036D
    2017 Hänssler Classic HC 16080
    2016 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290855859
    2016 MSR Classics MS 1590
    2015 Harmonia Mundi HMU 907611
    2015 Capriccio Records C 7202
    2015 Harmonia Mundi HMC 902217
    2014 Myrios Classics MYR 012
    2014 Music & Arts MACD 1279
    2014 Capriccio Records C 5194
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 002894791780
    2013 Orchid Classics ORC 100034
    2012 Capriccio Records C 5140
    2012 Sony Classical 88691935432
    2012 Capriccio Records C 5148
    2012 BR Klassik 900307
    2012 Decca
    2011 Berlin Classics 0300204BC
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Haenssler CD94214
    2011 Wigmore Hall Live WHLIVE 0048
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099945609
    2010 Orchid Classics 100013
    2009 Arte Verum 6
    2009 MSR Classics 1194
    2009 Sony Classical Essential Classics 7526582
    2007 Cascade Records 2200
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93525
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93200
    2007 EMI Classics 87739
    2007 Doremi Records 71151
    2007 Doremi Records DDR71130
    2006 Amon Ra 15
    2006 Hyperion CDJ33051/3
    2005 Orfeo D'Or 339050
    2005 Hyperion 44201
    2005 EMI Classics 68509
    2005 Decca 475 6011DH
    2005 Pearl GEM0227
    2004 Haenssler 94506
    2004 Dutton Laboratories 9732
    2003 Harmonia Mundi 901801
    2003 Hyperion 21055
    2002 Berlin Classics 0017442
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 575187
    2001 CBC Records PSCD2024
    2001 Gebhardt 31
    2000 Polygram 454475
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 463 507-2GFD
    2000 BBC Music 104
    1999 Vocal Archives 1146
    1999 Hyperion 67055
    1998 BMG 63104
    1998 Preiser Records 93256
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453 804-2GCB6
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453 782-2GCB3
    1997 Pearl 9258
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453700
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 447 921-2GBM
    1996 Angel Records / EMI Classics 65685
    1995 Capriccio Records 10910
    1995 Intersound 830851
    1995 Preiser Records 89202
    1995 Mono Music 89216
    1994 EMI Music Distribution 55147
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 54879
    1993 Berlin Classics 0020822
    1993 Orfeo 140501
    1990 Meridian Records DUOCD89010
    1988 Philips 420852
    1980 Tahra 201/2
    Capriccio Records 10915
    Minerva Records 69
    Deutsche Grammophon 415189
    Cascade Records 2266
    Amerimusic 1201
    Discover 920276
    Duo Records (Meridian) 89010
    Brilliant 93525/75
    Waterside 103
    Preiser Records 89519
    Hamburger Archiv 10169
    Eklipse 47
    Documents 223080-303