"My Country 'Tis Of Thee"—according to BEETHOVEN!!

July 04, 2007 22:29

Delightfully enough, Beethoven wrote a Theme & Variations on "My Country 'Tis of Thee". (Aka "God Save the King/Queen). The MP3 can be found here: My Country 'Tis of Thee played by yours truly (8:44).

During his lifetime (1770–1826) Beethoven's music was more popular in England than anywhere else in Europe besides his native Germany. So in 1803 (Ludwig now 33 years old) his 'manager-wannabe' Mäezel proposed a concert tour of England. Consequently, Beethoven wrote a set of piano variations on "God Save The King" (Woo 78) and "Rule Britannia" (WoO 79), as well as the orchestral piece "Wellington's Victory".1 Alas, the trip never came to pass, and Beethoven's variations were never published in his lifetime.

"God Save The King" is of course the same tune as "My Country 'Tis of Thee", and I think that Beethoven would have renamed these variations himself if the opportunity had presented itself to perform in America. Beethoven had embraced the ideals of the Enlightenment—"the ideals of fraternity, freedom of thought, social justice, and moral improvement"—“principals on which America was founded.2 And Americans were aware of his music: the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston asked him for an oratorio.3

Alas, the autograph has been lost.4 For those of you who are pianistically inclined, I'm using the Breitkopf & Härtel edition (1862).5


1Marek, G. Beethoven: Biography of a Genius (1969) Funk & Wagnalls; NY; p. 457

2 Solomon, M. Beethoven (1998) Schirmer Books; N.Y. p.52

3Marek, p.540

4Kinsky, G & Halm, H., Das Werk Beethovens (1955) Henle; Mächen-Duisburg; p.531

5Reprinted in Ludwig van Beethoven: Complete Variations for Piano (1986) Dover; Mineola; N.Y.; p.153ff.


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