Discovery of a Beethoven Song Lost Since 1822: Mark S. Zimmer

Mark S. Zimmer, who serves as the Project Director of The Unheard Beethoven website, has announced the discovery of a song by Ludwig van Beethoven that has long been known only from a reference to it in a price list sent by the composer to a prospective publisher in 1822. That publisher turned it and numerous other Beethoven compositions down. While most of the others were later published by others, the song “Ich wiege dich in meinem Arm” (“I cradle you in my arms”), catalogued as Hess 137, subsequently otherwise vanished without a trace.

Through some detective work, Zimmer and his Dutch associate, A. Willem Holsbergen, were able to identify conclusively the poem that was the basis of Beethoven’s song: “Liebe” by Friedrich Wilhelm August Schmidt, first published in 1790. Based on their familiarity with Beethoven’s sketches, they were also able from various clues contained in the poem to identify his continuity draft of the song and thereby to create a performing edition of this long-lost lied. The song was premiered at the Chicago Beethoven Festival by Dominic Armstrong, tenor, and George Lepauw, piano.

The story of how the poem and the music were identified and reunited at long last has been published in the Winter 2016 issue of the Musical Times, a British musicological journal published since 1844.

The Unheard Beethoven is a nonprofit organization that is devoted to making available on the Internet free downloads of synthesized versions of unrecorded and unpublished Beethoven compositions. Approximately sixteen hours of Beethoven’s music, including Armstrong and Lepauw’s premiere performance of the song “Liebe,” is available on that site and nowhere else.

Zimmer also is an attorney for the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.