“OB EIN GOTT SEI?”: FIRST EDITION OF BEETHOVEN’S AN DIE HOFFNUNG, WRITTEN FOR COUNTESS JOSEPHINE VON BRUNSVIK, THE OBJECT OF HIS UNREQUITED LOVE
BEETHOVEN, Ludwig van. An die Hoffnung aus Tiedge's Urania… 94tes Werk. Wien: S. A. Steiner, . Oblong folio, disbound; pp. 10, (2). $4700.
First edition of Beethoven’s second setting of this poem by Tiedge, written as gift for Countess Josephine von Brunsvik who would later rebuff his advances, fully engraved.
"The genesis of An die Hoffnung, Op 32, is bound up with Beethoven’s frustrated love in 1804-1805 for Countess Josephine von Brunsvik; Josephine wrote her mother on 24 March of that year to say, 'The good Beethoven has composed a lovely song for me on a text from Urania ‘An die Hoffnung’ as a gift for me'… By the summer of 1805, however, Josephine had rebuffed Beethoven as a suitor and the composer removed her name from the dedication, but the song he wrote for her is indeed lovely. The reverential melody of this strophic song is constantly on the move, appropriate for Hope as a force of forward propulsion in human lives; its major mode optimism is rendered profound by darker touches of minor. The singer’s eloquent leap upward and the quiet blaze of a new (major) key for the acclamation to Hope—'O Hoffnung'—are unforgettable" (Susan Youens).
Beethoven twice set Tiege's "An die Hoffnung" to music-once in 1805 (op. 32) in a much shorter version without the opening strophes, and again in 1813-14. "Obtaining the right rhythm for the words was always a matter of major concern for him; his preliminary sketches for songs often show him experimenting with many different rhythms for the first phase, while his latest alterations to the final version sometimes include minor improvements to the rhythm of the voice part. His concern for verbal accentuation sometimes led to unusual results, a remarkable example being the beginning of his second setting of An die Hoffnung (op. 94), where the music borders on declamatory recitative as well as being very chromatic and forward-looking harmonically" (Cooper, 263). "At certain periods of his life, Beethoven's religious impulses were rather in the background, and there is more than a hint of agnosticism in his 1813-14 setting of An die Hoffnung (op. 94), which begins 'Ob ein Gott sei?' ('Is there a God?')—a passage omitted in his 1805 setting of the song" (Cooper, Beethoven Companion, 147). With integral blank at end. Kinsky-Hahn, 265-66.
Faint foxing to title, text exceptionally clean. A wonderful copy.