Robert Burns Gets the Highbrow Treatment

Auld+Lang+SyneIn 1803 George Thompson contacted Ludwig Van Beethoven; commissioning him to set a series (or many series) of folk songs for piano, violin, cello and one or more voices. The goal was to make a new sort of popular music by bringing the music of the Volk to the drawing room. It was a failure. Only one collection of songs was deemed worthy of an opus number, 108, and they’ve all fallen into obscurity. Even an auction of a manuscript in Beethoven’s hand with a text by Robert Burns failed to sell at auction in 2005. Even though these lieder have not proven to be terribly popular there are a few recordings of them. Richard Dyer Bennett recorded at least two albums of Beethoven’s settings of folk songs accompanied by the piano, but missing the violin and cello. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau & Michael Raucheisen made a recording of some of the folk songs from Beethoven’s Opus 108 in German.

Here are a few of the Beethoven settings of Robert Burns for you to enjoy with your highbrow Burns Supper as today is the natal day of the Scottish poet.

Not only were songs by Robert Burns set by Beethoven but texts by other poets from all over Brittan and Ireland. Strangely some of the texts by Burns found their way into groups of songs from Ireland, and Wales. I guess they’re all Galic.

You can read more about the history of these songs here.

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