Gesang der Mönche, WoO 104 (Ludwig van Beethoven)
- Editor: Jon Arnold (submitted 2012-04-03). Score information: A4, 1 page, 63 kB Copyright: CPDL
- Edition notes: Transcribed from tenor C clefs to modern tenor (treble_8) clefs.
First published: 1839
2nd published: 1869 in Sammlung von Volksgesängen für Knaben, Mädchen und Frauen, no. 56, p. 113
3rd published: 1889 in Deutscher Liederschatz, no. 121
Description: This a cappella song is short and calls for the same vocal combination of two tenors and a bass as the composer's humorous Abschiedsgesang, WoO. 102, from 1814. The earlier effort was written on the departure of a friend from Vienna, and this song was inspired by the departure of a friend, as well. But any further similarity ends here: this "Song of the Monks," from Schiller's William Tell, is a serious composition written in memory of Beethoven's friend, Wenzel Krumpholz (b. 1750), a violinist who died suddenly on May 3, 1817.
Not surprisingly, the mood of this song is solemn and funereal. After each line is sung there is a brief pause, which contributes effectively to the somber atmosphere. The Schiller text comes from the end of Act IV, when the villainous Gessler is dying from an arrow wound with the knowledge that his slayer, Tell, has gotten away. Monks approach the dying Gessler, singing their morbid song. Beethoven converts this death scene most touchingly into a funeral song for his friend. The last line is powerful and musically compelling, "Before his judge he must learn his lot," words that seem more appropriate for the singing monks standing over the malevolent Gessler, than for Beethoven's farewell to his friend. Yet, they perhaps divulge much about the composer's apparently fatalistic view of death and afterlife. At the time he wrote this song (Spring 1817), Beethoven was suffering from a lingering illness, first contracted in October, 1816. Thus, his muse may have fixed temporarily on the more morbid aspects of life.
The song is only twelve measures in length but musically quite satisfying. It was first published in 1839, twelve years after Beethoven's death.
~ Robert Cummings, Rovi
- Gesang der Mönche on IMSLP
- AllMusic Guide to Classical Music entry via Answers.com
- Article on Gesang der Mönche from the Schiller Institute (PDF direct link)
Original text and translations
Gesang der Mönche