Beethoven’s Irish Songs Revisited

Edited By : Margaret O’Sullivan Farrell

Texts Chosen By Tomás Ó Súilleabháin

Beethoven’s folksong settings constitute his most numerous output in any one category, and, of those, the seventy-two settings of Irish airs form the majority. The arrangements were commissioned in the early nineteenth century by the Scottish editor and publisher, George Thomson.

Beethoven received the airs to arrange, but no texts were attached. Poetry, mostly by less well-known poets, was attached to the finished settings before publication by Thomson, and perhaps therein lies the reason why the songs never achieved the popularity which they deserve: many of the texts have been judged to be of inferior quality.

In this edition, the first in which all Beethoven’s Irish folksong settings are published together, the late baritone, broadcaster and musicologist, Tomás Ó Súilleabháin, selected texts, mostly by Robert Burns and Thomas Moore, which he felt were more appropriate to the airs and to Beethoven’s settings.

“This annotated edition of Beethoven’s Irish Folksong arrangements, with texts chosen by the legendary musician, Tomás Ó Súilleabháin, and an illuminating commentary, will be warmly welcomed by performers, teachers and audiences as an invaluable new source of vocal music.”

Dr Ita Beausang, musicologist, author, lecturer emeritus DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. Research interests include contextual studies of music in Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries. Advisory Editor for The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland (UCD Press, 2013)

“Beethoven’s Irish songs have long held a fascination for me and others interested in performing and studying the music of Ireland. The legacy which Tomás Ó Súilleabháin has created by his artistic and sympathetic realignment of the settings now brings Beethoven’s work to the fore, confirming for it a unique and enduring position within the Irish song repertoire.”

Dr Una Hunt, pianist, broadcaster, Irish music historian and author of Sources and Style in Moore’s Irish Melodies (Routledge, 2017)