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‘An die ferne Geliebte’, song cycle after Alois Jeitteles for voice and piano op. 98

Listening samples
1. Auf dem Hügel sitz' ich, spähend (365 kB)
2. Wo die Berge so blau (365 kB)
3. Leichte Segler in den Höhen (365 kB)
4. Diese Wolken in den Höhen (298 kB)
5. Es kehret der Maien, es blühet die Au (365 kB)
6. Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder (365 kB)

beginning of 1816 to April of same year
dedicated to Franz Joseph Maximilian Fürst Lobkowitz

Text poet: Alois Jeitteles

Beethoven finished the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved) in April 1816. A hard year lay behind him. Around 1814-15 he was at the peak of his public success, celebrated by the leaders of the European courts during the Congress of Vienna. 1815, however, turned into a bad year. Beethoven fell into a deep crisis, both mental and artistic. His health was poor and his hearing deteriorated. On 25 January 1815 he played the piano in concert for the last time. His deafness made any further performances impossible, whether with other musicians or solo. His awareness of his exclusion from public life threw him into a depression which he expressed in a letter to his friend Brauchle in September 1815: ‘Annoyed and more sensitive than all others and burdened with my bad hearing, I find human contact very painful’ (quoted from the complete correspondence, 835). Furthermore, and despite his success, Beethoven's financial situation worsened due to worries about his dying brother, whose family he had long supported ever since his brother had become unemployed. Nor was he satisfied with his artistic accomplishments. Beethoven had firm ideas about purity in art and very precise standards of quality.

In spite of his success at the Congress of Vienna, the works for which he was chiefly celebrated – Wellington's Victory and The Glorious Moment – were political Gebrauchsmusik rather than artistic masterpieces. He was surely aware of the distance that separated these concessions to contemporary taste from his own high standards and his great works of the first decade of the century: symphonies, sonatas, string quartets and concertos.

Around 1815-16 Beethoven managed to overcome his creative and mental crisis and his will to live returned. As if seeking recovery in more subdued forms after the raucous orchestral works of the Congress, he composed his Cello Sonatas op. 102, the Piano Sonata op 101 and An die ferne Geliebte op. 98. A new era of his life and work had began. ‘To the distant beloved’ – the title on the autograph score – was long thought to express the state of mind of a composer who had, in his heart, accepted the impossibility of requited love. Recent research by Birgit Lodes suggests, however, that the cycle, rather than illustrating Beethoven’s own relations, is a memorial to the wife of Prince Lobkowitz, a well-known singer in Vienna. She died in January 1816.(J.R.)

Music manuscripts
Autograph, op. 98, BH 69

First editions
Originalausgabe, op. 98, Steiner, 2610, HCB C Md 64
Originalausgabe, op. 98, Steiner, 2610; Teilscan, C 252 / 105,4
Originalausgabe, op. 98, Steiner, 2610; Teilscan, Geyr 35 a
Titelauflage, op. 98, Haslinger, 2610; Teilscan, C 98 / 2
Titelauflage, op. 98, Steiner, 2610; Teilscan, C 98 / 10
Titelauflage, op. 98, Steiner, 2610, C 98 / 1

Bibliographic data in library catalogue

Written documents
Billet an Sigmund Anton Steiner, Wien, nach dem 4. Mai 1816, HCB BBr 120
Brief an Tobias Haslinger, Wien, 29. Dezember 1816, HCB BBr 20
Brief an Karl Peters, Wien, 8. Januar 1817, HCB Br 182
Brief an Sigmund Anton Steiner, Wien, nach dem 9. Januar 1817, HCB BBr 55

Franz Joseph Maximilian Fürst von Lobkowitz ( 1772-1816) - Fotografie eines wohl von Friedrich Oelenhainz stammenden Ölgemäldes, um 1935?, NE 81, Band I, Nr. 173

Bibliographic data in library catalogue

Manuscript sources in other libraries
Großbritannien, London: The British Library
USA, Princeton (N. J.): William H. Scheide private collection, in: Princeton University Library

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E-Mail: bibliothek@beethoven-haus-bonn.de