Ludwig van Beethoven Composer
Der Wachtelschlag, WoO129Performances: 6
Musicology:Dedicated to Count Johann Georg von Browne-Camus (1767-1827), Beethoven's setting of "Der Wachtelschlag" (The Song of the Quail) was first published in Vienna by Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir in 1804. Count Browne-Camus was one of the most influential of Beethoven's early patrons and received the dedications of opp. 9, 22, 48 and WoO 46. Described by his tutor as "one of the strangest of men," Browne-Camus squandered much of his wealth and had a nervous breakdown, after which he spent several months of 1805 in a mental institution. Samuel Friedrich Sauter's text is essentially a sermon. The narrator hears the song of the quail, which urges him to "fear," "love," "praise," "thank," "pray to" and "trust in" God. It is possible that Beethoven's turn to religious texts at this time, as evinced in Christus am Ölberg, op. 85, of 1803 and the six Gellert Lieder, op. 48, of the previous year, may have been related to the personal crisis that led to his writing of the so-called Heiligenstadt Testament, in which the composer attempts to admit to humanity that he is losing his hearing. "Der Wachtelschlag" is through-composed, with a great degree of independence between the voice and piano parts. The piano introduction features a repeated-note motive that anticipates the setting of "Fürchte Gott!" ("Fear God!") and "Liebe Gott!" ("Love God") of the first verse. After the end of the first verse, the same motive, again in the piano, initiates a modulation to the second verse, which is set to a more vigorous accompaniment. Most interesting is the third, and finale, verse, which is set off from the first two by few beats of silence. An aggressive piano passage introduces the recitative-like voice part, exclaiming, "Schreckt dich im Wetter der Herr der Natur?" ("Does the Lord of Nature frighten you in the storm?"). It is at this dramatic moment that the listener is exhorted to "Bitte Gott!" ("Pray to God"), set to a falling, sighing motive, not the repeated note used at the equivalent point in the first two verses. The third verse is repeated with varied music, and a coda consisting of repetitions of "Bitte," "Traue" and the final line closes the song, leaving the last word to the piano.
Der Wachtelschlag, WoO129Year: 1803
Genre: Solo Song / Lied / Chanson
Pr. Instrument: Voice
© John Palmer, All Music Guide