John Taylor Ward, bass-baritone
Scott Lykins, piano
Part of the Lakes Area Music Festival
During the period he created Adelaide, Beethoven was in his mid twenties; he had come to Vienna in 1792 to pursue a career and was in the early stages of making a name for himself as pianist and composer. He had only recently completed his studies with Joseph Haydn. A. Peter Brown suggests that in writing Adelaide, Beethoven was strongly influenced by Haydn’s song O Tuneful Voice (Hob. XXVIa:42, c. 1795), written by the elder composer shortly before. Like “Adelaide”, “O Tuneful Voice” sets a love poem, is in moderate tempo with a steady triplet accompaniment, and wanders from key to key in its middle section.
In composing Adelaide Beethoven made many sketches. Barry Cooper assigns the work of composition to “an unusually long time during 1794, 1795, and perhaps 1796.” The song was published by Artaria in Vienna; the first edition bears no date, but an advertisement for it appeared 8 February 1797 in the Wiener Zeitung.
Beethoven dedicated the work to Matthisson. The German-language title page may be translated:
ADELAIDE by MATTHISSON. A cantata for voice with keyboard accompaniment. Set to music, and dedicated to the author, by LUDVIG van BEETHOVEN. Artaria and Co., Vienna.
Einsam wandelt dein Freund im Frühlingsgarten,
Mild vom lieblichen Zauberlicht umflossen,
Das durch wankende Blüthenzweige zittert,
In der spiegelnden Flut, im Schnee der Alpen,
In des sinkenden Tages Goldgewölke,
In Gefilde der Sterne strahlt dein Bildnis,
Abendlüftchen im zarten Laube flüstern,
Silberglöckchen des Mais im Grase säuseln,
Wellen rauschen und Nachtigallen flöten,
Einst, o Wunder! entblüht auf meinem Grabe,
Eine Blume der Asche meines Herzens.
Deutlich schimmert auf jedem Purpurblättchen:
Your friend wanders alone in the garden of spring,
Gently bathed in lovely magical light,
Which shimmers through the swaying branches of flowers:
In the reflection of the river, in the snows of the Alps,
In the golden clouds of sinking day,
In the fields of stars thy face beams forth,
Evening breezes whisper through the tender leaves
The silver bells at Maytime rustle in the grass,
Waves roar and nightingales sing,
Some day, o miracle! a flower will blossom,
Upon my grave from the ashes of my heart;
And clearly on every violet petal will shine: