Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Life Let Us Cherish

Published in Philadelphia - early 1800s
Our first tune in Book IV is Life Let Us Cherish, a favorite fiddle tune/song/quadrille dance of Pa Ingalls as noted by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her Little House on the Prairie books. Even though the tune was hugely popular with American musicians, the origins of the music remain mysterious. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756- 1791) was credited as the composer in the earliest publications in Philadelphia and New York dating from1796 and repeated as such well into the 1800s. It is also common knowledge, however, that Swiss composer Hans Georg Nägeli (1773-1836) composed a song titled Freut Euch des Lebens which was later translated to Life Let Us Cherish in England. The early published manuscripts crediting Nägeli as the composer state that the “variations” were composed by Mozart.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

It is interesting to note that Nägeli was principally a publisher, printing first editions of famous European composers’ sheet music including those of Bach and Beethoven. In one particular first edition of a Beethoven sonata, Nägeli committed an “error of judgment of adding four bars to the first movement” in his publication, an error for which Beethoven eventually forgave him. Since it was possible for Nägeli to add four measures of music to a Beethoven composition, it is certainly likely that he could have found some incidental music composed by Mozart for a dance or comic opera and affixed his name to it. The style and beauty of the melody of Life Let Us Cherish is certainly reminiscent of Mozart. 

Charles "Pa" Ingalls
Lyrics associated with the tune - not by Nägeli but a “Mr. Derrick” - are printed in the The British Minstrel in Glasgow, The New-England Pocket Songster as well as The American Minstrel.  

"When clouds obscure the atmosphere, And forked lightnings rend the air, The sun resumes his silver crest, And smiles adown the west. Life let us cherish."

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