Montgomery Philharmonic 2014 - 2015 Concert Season – SINGULARITY
Ludwig van Beethoven – He Changed the World – November, 23 2014
In the early 1800’s, Beethoven began to write symphonies, chamber music, and piano sonatas, and he also accepted piano students. The first signs of tinnitus began to appear at this time, and by 1811 he was having great difficulty playing his own work, the Emperor Concerto; by 1814 he was completely deaf. Beethoven’s deafness has been attributed to lead poisoning. He kept his wine in a ceramic container that had a lead-based glaze, and a recent analysis of a few strands of his hair found that it had abnormally high levels of lead. Beethoven’s last period of composition began in 1815. At this point, he became an innovator in various forms of composition and his music had a striking intellectual depth and intensity of expression.
- Born: December 16, 1770, in Bonn, Germany
- Died: March 26, 1827,in Vienna, Austria
- Full Name: Ludwig van Beethoven
- Compositions: 9 symphonies, 7 concerti, 1 opera, 1 ballet, numerous works for piano including 32
- piano sonatas, 16 string quartets, and dozens of other chamber music works
- Parents: Maria Magdalena Keverich, Johann van Beethoven
- Siblings: Kaspar Anton Karl van Beethoven, Nikolaus Johann van Beethoven, Ludwig Maria van Beethoven
Overture, The Creatures of Prometheus, opus 43
Overture, The Creatures of Prometheus, opus 43 (1801)
The first concert of our 2014‒15 season begins with works by Ludwig van Beethoven, all of which were written during the same 15-year period of time. This was the most prolific period for Beethoven and marks what is generally known as the beginning of the second creative period during Beethoven’s life—his heroic period.
Beethoven wrote one full-length ballet during his lifetime—The Creatures of Prometheus. The work was written with Salvatore Vigano, the famous dancer/choreographer, in mind because Vigano had spoken with Emperor Francis during the second of his two residencies in Vienna in 1799. The Emperor had just learned that Beethoven had dedicated the score of his Septet, Opus 20, to his wife, Maria Theresa, so the composer was on the Emperor’s mind. Beethoven was approached and Vigano’s plan for the ballet was explained, so Beethoven agreed to take on the composition. The legend of Prometheus was popular during the early 19th century and Beethoven was especially interested in the fact that Prometheus helped humans understand the arts, so everyone involved with the ballet had high hopes. Although Emperor Francis did not like the ballet, it was very popular in Vienna because both Vigano and Beethoven were held in such high regard.
Prometheus gives the listener a peek at what was yet to come in Beethoven’s future compositions. The overture starts ominously with large chords that were discordant and very sudden for that time. After the slow introduction, the strings begin the allegro section with soft scale passages leading to a bold allegro section pulsed by the brass and woodwinds. The second section of the allegro begins with soft woodwinds, followed by the strings imitating them; it ends with loud and soft sections using both the winds and strings. Transitional material by the woodwinds follows. The final section begins as the opening allegro with the strings and continues as a repeat of the first and second sections of the allegro. The overture finishes with a bold coda that utilizes all of the forces of the orchestra in scale passages and large tutti chords.
Mass in C major, Opus 86 (1807)
Mass in C major, Opus 86 (1807)
Beethoven’s Mass in C Major is a traditional mass using the six traditional parts of the mass—Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. Beethoven composed the work in 1807 and it was first performed at the castle of Eisenstadt, in Austria, on September 13, 1807. He was commissioned to write the mass by Prince Nicholas Esterhazy in honor of his wife’s name day. Celebrating a name day is a European and Latin American tradition in which a person’s name is celebrated on the day of the year where his or her given name is associated with a saint on the Christian calendar of saints.
Prince Esterhazy was not pleased with Beethoven’s work. In fact he called it “unbearably ridiculous and detestable.” It is important to note that, up to this point, Prince Esterhazy had employed Franz Joseph Haydn to serve as court composer, so now, because Haydn was quite old, Beethoven was given this task. Esterhazy was used to Haydn’s predictable forms, harmony, and melodies. Beethoven furnished none of these and really sent the Prince into a rage. This was Beethoven’s first mass and he was hesitant to write the piece. Esterhazy felt that the work was too humble and much more spiritual than the masses that Haydn had written. Although Beethoven followed what Haydn had traditionally laid out for a mass, Beethoven chose to make his interpretation very personal, with contrasting colors, textures, dynamics, glorious outbursts of singing, key changes, and unusual harmonies; no solo aria was used. This was revolutionary at the time, yet we, whose ears are used to hearing much more, find the work to have beautiful orchestration, loveliness, and depth that is stunning, as well as color and texture that are compelling.
Beethoven was so affected by the negative comments by Prince Esterhazy and the public that he did not write another mass for 15 years. He shifted his focus to symphonies and chamber music and this became the most prolific period of time during his life.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis. Laudamus te. Benedicimus te. Adoramus te. Glorificamus te. Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam. Domine Deus, Rex coelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens. Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe. Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram. Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.
Glory to God in the highest.
And on earth peace to people of good will. We praise You. We bless You. We worship You. We glorify You. Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father almighty. Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son. Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.
You who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. You who take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. You who sit at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
Quoniam tu solus Sanctus. Tu solus Dominus. Tu solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe. Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.
For You alone are holy. You alone are Lord. You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the Glory of the Father. Amen.
Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem coeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium. Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum. Et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula. Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero. Genitum, not factum, consubstantialem Patri: per quem omnia facta sunt. Qui propter nos homines, et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis.
Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine: et homo factus est. Crucifixus etiam pro nobis; sub Pontio Pilato passus, et sepultus est.
Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas. Et ascendit in coelum: sedet ad dexteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est cum gloria judicare vivos et mortuos. cujus regni non erit finis. Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem. Qui cum Patre, et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur: qui locutus est per Prophetas. Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam. Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. Et exspecto resurectionem mortuorum. Et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen.
I believe in one God, The Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God. Born of the Father before all ages. God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God. Begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.
And became incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary: and was made man. He was also crucified for us, suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was buried.
And on the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, and who spoke through the prophets. And one holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua. Hosanna in excelsis!
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are filled with your glory. Hosanna in the highest!
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Osanna in excelsis.
Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
Dona nobis pacem!
Lamb of God, Who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, Who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.
Grant us peace!
First edition of the full score
6. Mass in C
Choral Fantasy in C minor, Opus 80 (1808)
Beethoven needed a piece to tie together the Akademie in 1808, so he wrote the Choral Fantasia starting in mid-December 1808 and finishing the work just hours before the concert. He brought the orchestral parts and choral score to the rehearsal still wet and put together a hurried rehearsal.
The text was written by either the Viennese writer Christoph Kuffner, who fit the text after the music was already composed, or by Georg Friedrich Nottebohm, the writer of the final text of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. In any case, the text was written according to the directions of the composer. The semantic scope is especially focused on the post-revolutionary concepts extolling liberty, equality, and brotherhood among mankind—concepts tinged with the mysticism notably conveyed by the Free Masons. It is interesting that this piece pre-dates the 9th Symphony of Beethoven by 19 years, yet, the same concepts in the text are evident and seeds of melodic and harmonic content are planted.
When the piece was actually performed for the first time, Beethoven had forgotten some of the last-minute instructions that he had given in his hurried, last-minute rehearsal, so it was a near disaster and Beethoven had to stop and call out to the musicians. Confused in the moment, one of the violinists asked about the repeats that Beethoven had fixed in the rehearsal and Beethoven replied, “Yes!” and they started again and played through the piece a second time without stopping.
What made this work even more unique was simply the instrumentation that Beethoven chose – solo piano, orchestra, and chorus. Audiences had never heard this combination before and at first they didn’t know quite what to make of it.
unsres Lebens Harmonien,
und dem Schönheitssinn entschwingen
Blumen sich, die ewig blühn.
Fried und Freude gleiten freundlich
wie der Wellen Wechselspiel.
Was sich drängte rauh und feindlich,
ordnet sich zu Hochgefühl.
Wenn der Töne Zauber walten
und des Wortes Weihe spricht,
muss sich Herrliches gestalten,
Nacht und Stürme werden Licht.
Äuss're Ruhe, inn're Wonne
herrschen für den Glücklichen.
Doch der Künste Frühlingssonne
lässt aus beiden Licht entstehn.
Großes, das ins Herz gedrungen,
blüht dann neu und schön empor.
Hat ein Geist sich aufgeschwungen,
hallt ihm stets ein Geisterchor.
Nehmt denn hin, ihr schönen Seelen,
froh die Gaben schöner Kunst:
Wenn sich Lieb und Kraft vermählen,
lohnt den Menschen Göttergunst.
The harmonies of our life,
And the sense of beauty engenders
The flowers which eternally bloom.
Peace and joy advancing in perfect accord,
Like the alternating play of the waves;
All harsh and hostile elements
Render to a sublime sentiment.
When the magic sounds reign
And the sacred word is spoken,
That strongly engender the wonderful,
The night and the tempest divert light,
Calm without, profound joy within,
Awaiting the great hour.
Meanwhile, the spring sun and art
Bathe in the light.
Something great, into the heart
Blooms anew when in all its beauty,
Which spirit taken flight,
And all a choir of spirits resounds in response.
Accept then, oh you beautiful spirits
Joyously of the gifts of art.
When love and strength are united,
The favour of God rewards Man.
First edition title page