Monday, September 24, 2012

Edwin Crossley-Mercer sings Beethoven Rarities on French TV

Edwin Crossley-Mercer

It's no secret that two of our favorite young lieder singers are Henk Neven and Edwin Crossley-Mercer, both of whom have also impressed critics and audiences. We were thrilled to be informed that Crossley-Mercer recently appeared on a French television show called "Beethov' on the Rocks." He sang three songs that are rarely heard in a Beethoven recital and once again he was magical.

The first piece he sings is "Elegie auf den Tod eines Pudels" (Elegy on the Death of a Poodle), for voice & piano, WoO 110. Scholars believe that the song was composed sometime before 1793. The song was not published until the 1860s, as part of the complete edition of Beethoven's works printed in Leipzig. boasts some of the most advanced formal characteristics of any of Beethoven's Bonn-era songs. The first two strophes are through-composed, which in itself is unusual because most of Beethoven's songs before 1800 were strophic. As the narrator reflects on the death of his pet, and on death's destruction of all earthly pleasures, the tempo remains slow, the piano accompaniment is pensive, and the atmosphere is tainted with minor harmonies. An abrupt change in mood after the second strophe divides the song into two sections, the second of which is organized in a unique manner.

Edwin Crossley-Mercer begins singing around the 59:11 minute mark:

In late 1809, Beethoven began composing folk song arrangements for the Scottish publisher George Thomson, located in Edinburgh. Thomson first sent Beethoven a group of forty-three melodies, without texts, which the composer began to set in November. By July, 1810, Beethoven was able to send these settings, plus ten more to Thomson. Nine more songs followed in 1812. From this point on it seems that Beethoven asked Thomson to send the texts along with the melodies, a request that was not always fulfilled. Their professional relationship continued through 1820. Although Beethoven composed nearly 180 folk song settings for Thomson, the Scottish publisher printed only 125. The rest were published after Beethoven's death, some not seeing the light of day until the twentieth century.

Among them were Crossley-Mercer's next two selections, "Since greybeards inform us that youth will decay," WoO. 153 (20 Irish Songs for voice, piano, violin and cello, no. 4, G. 224 no. 4, published 1814/6 and "The pulse of an Irishman", WoO. 154 (12 Irish Songs for voice, piano, violin and cello) no. 4, G. 225 no. 4, published 1814/6.

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