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Beethoven: Sparks of Joy – No. 16

Beethoven: Sparks of Joy – No. 16

Beethoven’s humor—“The Test of Kisses”
Notes by Fred Haight

This song, “Prüfung des Küssens, WoO 89” (The Test of Kissing), was composed between 1790–1791, for Bonn’s Electoral singer, Joseph Lux. It is for a bass and orchestra. The author of the text is unknown, but this song, in the Italian opera buffa style, is skillfully orchestrated and full of humor.

The text tells of a “wise” mother who instructs her son that to kiss is a sin. The boy does not agree because he gets them free from Doris, and things seem to be fine. They may, however, lead to other woes.

The orchestration is through-composed. There is a surprising amount of variety in the work, including three tempo changes and a shift from 4/4 to 2/2 meter. The orchestra stands independent of the vocal area and doubling the singer only at particular moments such as cadences.

TEXT:
Meine weise Mutter spricht
Meine weise Mutter spricht:
Küssen, Küssen, Kind! ist Sünde!
Und ich armer Sünder finde,
Doch das Ding so böse nicht.

Mord und Diebstahl, weiß ich wohl,
Ist ein schreckliches Vergehen
Aber, trotz, den will ich sehen,
Der mich das beweisen soll.

Meine Küsse stehl’ ich nicht:
Doris gibt von freien Stücken,
Und ich seh’s an ihren Blicken,
Daß ihr wenig Leid geschicht.

Oft begiebt es sich, daß wir
Uns, vor Lust, die Lippen beißen:
Aber soll das Morden heißen?
Gott bewahre mich dafür!

Mutter! Mutter! Schmäherei!
Sünd’ ist Küssen? Ist es eine;
Nun, ich armer Sünder meine,
Daß sie nicht zu lassen se

TRANSLATION:
My wise mother speaks
My wise mother says:
Kissing, kissing, child, is a sin!
Though I do not find the poor sinner
As bad as the thing itself
Murder and theft, I know
Are terrible offenses
But in spite of that I want to see
It proven it to me.

I do not steal my kisses:
Doris gives of her own free will,
And I see it in her looks
That she has little suffering.

It often happens that we
Bite our lips with lust:
But should that be called murder?
God keep me from that!

Mother! Mother! Abuse!
Sin is kissing? They are one;
I mean, this poor sinner of mine,
Should she even be allowed!

“Prüfung des Küssens” (“Examen de los besos”), aria para bajo y orquesta, WoO 89. L. van Beethoven

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