A Celebration of Life – On Beethoven’s Birthday
Oh friends, no more of these sad tones!
Let us rather raise our voices together
In more pleasant and joyful tones.
Joy, thou shining spark of God,
Daughter of Elysium,
With fiery rapture, goddess,
We approach thy shrine.
Your magic reunites
That which stern custom has parted;
All humans will become brothers
Under your protective wing.
Let the man who has had the fortune
To be a helper to his friend,
And the man who has won a noble woman,
Join in our chorus of jubilation!
Yes, even if he holds but one soul
As his own in all the world!
But let the man who knows nothing of this
Steal away alone and in sorrow.
All the world’s creatures drink
From the breasts of nature;
Both the good and the evil
Follow her trail of roses.
She gave us kisses and wine
And a friend loyal unto death;
She gave the joy of life to the lowliest,
And to the angels who dwell with God.
Joyous, as his suns speed
Through the glorious order of Heaven,
Hasten, brothers, on your way,
Joyful as a hero to victory.
Be embraced, all ye millions!
With a kiss for all the world!
Brothers, beyond the stars
Surely dwells a loving Father.
Do you kneel before him, oh millions?
Do you sense the Creator’s presence?
Seek him beyond the stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.
~ Friedrich Schiller – Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven shook the world with his thunderous Third and Fifth symphonies. He also showed us his supreme passion towards the nature in his Sixth, the Pastorale in F major. But it is his D monor Choral, the Ninth and the final, symphony that disseminates the compassion of this great man for the entire mankind. Beethoven, the lone soldier fighting relentlessly for broader freedom, through his final symphonic speech, transcends once again universal longing – this ultimate symphony is an enlightenment testament.
It is worth noting that in the premier of the symphony on May 7, 1824 in Vienna, Beethoven received five ovations at the conclusion, and left the concert deeply moved.
In his thirty some years of splendid manifestation, Beethoven enchanted the world like nature did. We walk in the landscape of Beethoven that filled with melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic beauty, we instantly dismiss any personal anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. Our aspiration becomes so enriched as if we are venturing in a deep woodland, an echoing valley, a rocky mountain, or a roaring ocean. From one place to another, it is often surprising and breathtaking, but always enchanting and inspiring.
We should be thankful!
Thankful that when we passing by a park, a restaurant, a museum, that unmistakeable Beethovenian flows into our hearts through our ears, whether it’s an overture, a concerto, a sonata, or a symphony, we can whisper to each other: did you hear that? Beethoven!
Thankful that with the epoch Beethoven created, many great masters freely acknowledged his sovereignty and willingly followed his inspiration, with their own personal endurance and creativity, greatly enriched our music life, in the names of Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, Brahms, Mahler, Richard Strauss, who extended the Austrian – German heritage, and Berlioz, Chopin, Liszt, Smetana, Grieg, the Russian Five, who infused music with their distinguished cultures, and Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Sibelius, who blended the two schools, and Verdi, Puccini, who brought opera to such popularity.
Thankful that when times arrive that demand the heavenly outcry for the ultimate joy, love, and hope, we have the Choral symphony to speak for us.
Thankful that Beethoven had created this manifesto for us that one day when we celebrate the universal brotherhood we have the finest form already prepared.
Ode to Joy!
My favorite recordings
Symphony no 1 in C major, Op. 21
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 36
Roger Norrington – London Classical Players
Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 “Eroica”
Symphony no 4 in B flat major, Op. 60
Herbert von Karajan – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67
Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92
Fritz Reiner – Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Symphony no 8 in F major, Op. 93
Leonard Bernstein – Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Symphony No.9 in D Minor, Op.125 “Choral”
ODE TO FREEDOM
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61
Perlman, Giulini, Philharmonia
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, op. 15
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, op. 58
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 “Emperor”, Op. 73
Bernard Haitink, Murray Perahia & Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Triple Concerto in C Major, Op. 56
Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, op. 80
Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma
Berliner Philharmoniker, Chor der Deutschen Staatsoper