Reconstruction of unfinished Beethoven song ‘Heidenröslein’
Based on sketches by Ludwig van Beethoven Unv 23 Hess 150
Heidenröslein (“Rose on the Heath” or “Little Rose of the Field”) is one of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s most famous poems. It was published in 1789 . Around 1770 Goethe stayed in Strasbourg for his studies. During this period he had a romantic relationship with Friederike Brion, a daughter of Johann Jakob Brion, the pastor of Sessenheim.
The relationship with Brion did not last very long: Goethe already paid her a farewell visit on 7 August 1771. However, Brion believed they were in a couple, or perhaps even engaged (the exact details are unclear; Goethe’s letters to Brion were burned by Brion’s sister after her death). She thought his departure would be only temporary. It was not until Goethe was in Frankfurt that he sent her a letter explaining the definitive nature of his departure. Brion replied with a heartbreaking letter.
In mid-September 1779, Goethe paid another visit to Sessenheim, where he said (in a letter to his good friend, Charlotte von Stein) he was received better than he had expected. He and Brion brought back memories of their time together.
It is uncertain when the poem was written exactly. There is no evidence for a commonly mentioned date, 1771. The origin of this date lies in the meaning of the poem: it concerns mutual wounds, pain, self-destruction. Since this is a good description of the relationship between Goethe and Brion, it is often assumed that the poem was written during that period. To Goethe, the pain he had inflicted on Brion only became apparent with her reply to his farewell letter in 1772. So it is possible that he wrote the poem afterwards.
A reconstruction has been made before, in 1898 by Henry Holden Huss, but that job is not very well done. A number of clear directions and notes from Beethoven have been ignored, including Huss completely ignoring the piano part which is added as “ritornello. Cees has used it as a basis for the accompaniment to the vocal line.
So, after ‘‘Erlkönigꞌ (WoO 131) and ‘Rastlose liebe’ (Unv 22/ Hess 149), this is the third Beethoven/Goethe reconstruction. Again, let’s hope it will prove a welcome addition in the song literature of Beethovenꞌs songs.
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The sheetmusic can be ordered here
Title: ‘Heidenröslein’ for voice and Pianoforte
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Reconstruction: Cees Nieuwenhuizen
Instrumentation: Voice and piano
Publication number: UM000098
Product format: Score