Interrupt Your Day – Lighten Up

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Sometimes we need to take ourselves out of the world and transcend to a mental place that provides perspective — and perhaps a little joy — to our lives.  Today, the above video did just that . . . and suddenly, out of nowhere, my day got a little better.

Shot at Plaça de Sant Roc in Sabadell, Spain, a little north of Barcelona, the performance was orchestrated by the financially-challenged Spanish bank, Banco Sabadell.  The bank brought together 100 musicians and singers from the Orchestra Simfonica del Valles, Amics de l’Opera de Sabadell, Coral Belles Arts, and Cor Lieder Camera to perform.

The music, of course, is Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from his Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (sometimes known simply as “the Choral”).  Among critics, it is almost universally considered to be among Beethoven’s greatest works, and perhaps to be the greatest piece of music ever written.

Beethoven finished the symphony when he was nearly deaf.

The Ninth Symphony premiered on May 7, 1824 in Vienna’s Theater am Kärntnertor.  This was the composer’s first on-stage appearance in 12 years; the hall was packed.

Although the performance was officially directed by Michael Umlauf, the theatre’s Kapellmeister, Beethoven shared the stage with him.  Two years earlier, Umlauf had witnessed the composer’s attempt to conduct a dress rehearsal of his opera Fidelio, which ended in disaster.  So this time, he instructed the singers and musicians to ignore the almost totally deaf Beethoven.  At the beginning of every part, Beethoven, who sat by the stage, gave the tempos.  He was turning the pages of his score and beating time for an orchestra he could not hear.

BeethovenWhen the audience applauded, Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting.  Because of that, the contralto Caroline Unger walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience’s cheers and applause.  According to one witness, “the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them.”  The audience acclaimed him through standing ovations five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven — who could not hear the applause — could at least see the ovation gestures.

Hearing nothing, but seeing the tumultuous applause of the audience, Beethoven wept.

The words are sung during the final movement by four vocal soloists and a chorus.  They were taken from the “Ode to Joy”, a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with additions made by Beethoven.

Those words written specifically by Beethoven (rather than Schiller) are shown in italics.

 

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen,
und freudenvollere.
Freude! (men’s chorus: Freude! )
Freude! (chorus again: Freude! )
Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather, let us raise our voices in more pleasing
And more joyful sounds!
Joy! (Joy!)
Joy! (Joy!)
Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!
Deine Zauber binden wieder
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly one, your sanctuary!
Your magic reunites
What custom strictly divided.
All men become brothers,
Where your gentle wing rests.
Wem der große Wurf gelungen,
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein;
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,
Mische seinen Jubel ein!
Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Und wer’s nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!
Whoever has had the great fortune
To be a friend’s friend,
Whoever has won a devoted wife,
Join in our jubilation!
Indeed, whoever can call even one soul
His own on this earth!
And whoever was never able to, must creep
Tearfully away from this band!
Freude trinken alle Wesen
An den Brüsten der Natur;
Alle Guten, alle Bösen
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Küße gab sie uns und Reben,
Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.
Vor Gott!
Joy all creatures drink
At the breasts of nature;
All good, all bad
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us, and vines,
A friend, proved to the end;
Pleasure was given to the worm,
And the cherub stands before God.
Before God!
Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt’gen Plan,
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.
Glad, as His suns fly
Through the Heaven’s glorious design,
Run, brothers, your path,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.
Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, über’m Sternenzelt
Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such’ ihn über’m Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muss er wohnen.
Be embraced, millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the starry canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.
Finale repeats the words:
Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, über’m Sternenzelt
Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Seid umschlungen,
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Götterfunken!
Finale repeats the words:
Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Be embraced,
This kiss for the whole world!
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods
Spark of the gods!

 

 

Beethoven composed the world’s most famous symphony, which he could not hear.  What personal limitations could you overcome to achieve greatness?

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