Musing on the Ocean: Folksong arrangements

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Berlin
WORKS: Musing on the Ocean: Folksong arrangements
PERFORMER: Lynne Dawson (soprano), Alida Schat (violin), Jaap ter Linden (cello), Bart von Oort (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: Berlin 1639


It was a nice little earner for Beethoven, writing instrumental accompaniments for British and Irish folksongs for an Edinburgh publisher during the Napoleonic credit crunch. Lynne Dawson, fresh of voice and bright of eye, sings 22 of Beethoven’s 43 Scottish, Irish and Welsh folksong reinventions, tangily accompanied by violin and fortepiano. Despite Dawson’s eager advocacy, you can tell when Beethoven was more, and less, inspired.

He was generally not sent the words of the songs, and so, not surprisingly, he often responds most imaginatively to the melodic inflection, and particularly to the roll and the rise of Welsh minor-key ditties, as in Dawson’s eloquently sung ‘The Parting Kiss’ and ‘The Vale of Clwyd’. The title-song, Robert Burns’s ‘Musing on the roaring ocean’, unexpectedly turns verbal melancholy to spirited dance. And Dawson sometimes delightfully takes a cue from the piano’s part for florid vocal embellishment of her own.


This is repertoire which, in its unvaried emotional register and often over-gentrified folksiness, tends to respond best to a mixed-voice recital. But Dawson’s fans will be delighted by this fresh, unselfconscious and seductive recital. Hilary Finch