Top Five Beethoven Arrangements of Non-German Songs

Beethoven Meets Berlitz

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beara Peninsula, Cork, Ireland (Tourism Ireland / Flickr)
 Before Beethoven, composers mostly earned a living providing music for churches or aristocratic households. Beethoven had no use for that. As he famously wrote, "There are and will be thousands of princes; there is only one Beethoven."

The one and only Beethoven broke free of the model of composer as servant; in addition to accepting commissions from wealthy patrons, he made a living by performing and publishing his music. So when a Scottish publisher approached him about creating some genteel arrangements of folk songs -- mostly from the British Isles, but also from elsewhere in Europe -- he accepted. No matter that Beethoven didn't speak the languages he was dealing with. He was Beethoven, and his settings are utterly charming.

1. Scottish: Auld Lang Syne

2. Irish: The Heart of an Irishman

3. Welsh: The Vale of Clwyd

4. Italian: La Gondoletta 

5. Polish: Poszla baba po popiól

Below: Sir Thomas Allen, Dame Felicity Lott and John Mark Ainsley sing Beethoven's arrangement of 'Auld Lang Syne' from 12 Scottish Songs:


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