In questa tomba oscura is an art song by Ludwig van Beethoven. Published in 1807, it was Beethoven’s submission in a composition challenge issued that year to set this poem by Guiseppe Carpani. Although sixty-three settings were composed, only Beethoven’s remained memorable. Because he only wrote a handful of vocal works, I was excited for the opportunity to tackle the music of this seminal composer.
The heart-wrenching lyrics exemplify not only the Romantic-era penchant towards tragedy and melodrama, but also the period’s characteristic fascination with death and the supernatural. The song tells a story from the perspective of the deceased, who feels taken for granted and forgotten by her surviving lover. As for me, I channeled the spite and ire of a dead Italian grandmother forgotten by her adult children, and that’s how I sang it! The excruciatingly slow tempo allows for the anger and sadness to be deep-dug and drawn out, while the middle section builds to an outburst that totally drains this transmuted, wailing ghost. This was definitely one of my favourite pieces of the recital.