In questa tomba oscura – When Beethoven’s ghost guilt-trips you from a dark tomb

Watch me sing Beethoven’s In questa tomba oscura as part of my graduating classical recital.

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. 

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