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Beethoven Choral Fantasia Vocal Score

BeethovenThe Fantasia op. 80 (or “Choral Fantasy”) was first performed at the Akademie (benefit concert) of 22 December 1808, which also saw the premières of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies as well as a performance of portion of the C major Mass. To conclude this memorable concert program, Beethoven wanted a “brilliant Finale” that would unite in a single piece the different musical elements highlighted in the concert night: piano solo, chorus and orchestra. The Fantasia op. 80, written shortly prior, was thus written expressly to fulfill this role. If you wish to buy Beethoven's Choral Fantasia, please click Vocal Scores and then FILTER BY COMPOSER, or see below for more.

Beethoven himself played the piano part and the opening solo offers an example of his improvisational style (at the première he did, in fact, improvise this section). The piece, however, is best known for an early version of that simplice theme that Beethoven would later use as the melodic line for the Ode to Joy theme in the Ninth Symphony. The text was provided by the poet Christoph Kuffner with Beethoven's input. The theme – universal fraternity with the meetings of arts – also foreshadows Schiller's "Ode to Joy". This, along with the strong musical similarities, means there is an obvious connection between the Fantasia op. 80 with the finale of the 9th Symphony.

Within an original scheme of key-relationships, the variations are both simple and subtle. (This part of the work is also linked with two pieces for solo piano, the Variations in op.34, and the Fantasia op.77.) The entry of the chorus, intoning a poem in praise of song, is actually a very lengthy coda to the variations. The formal freedom of the Fantasia genre allowed Beethoven to unify in a short length piece the intimate aspect of piano and chamber music, and the grandiose aspect of symphonic music with choral.

The Fantasia, dedicated to King Maximilien 1st Joseph of Bavaria, was Beethoven's penultimate work with solo piano and orchestra. A few months later, he composed the 5th Concerto, where he maintained an opening cadenza in an improvisational style.

The Choral Fantasy, which in most performances lasts about twenty minutes, or just under, is in two parts:

  • Adagio – a 26 bars lengthy piano solo composed after the concert. At the premiere, this was probably improvised by Beethoven at the piano,
  • a lengthy Finale of nearly 600 bars which is divided into several sections of different tempi,
  • Allegro (Instrumental Variations),
  • Allegro molto with a concertante piano part,
  • Adagio ma non troppo, a long dreamlike melody reminiscent of the slow movements of some of the Piano Sonatas,
  • Assai vivace with martial rhythms recalling the Turkish March of the 9th Symphony,
  • finally, Allegretto, ma non troppo and a
  • Presto where the chorus enters.

The Fantasy opens with a slow but virtuosic 26-bar piano introduction, modulating from C minor to C major and back again. The main part of the piece, marked "Finale", begins with an Allegro theme played by the cellos and basses. Next, the solo piano introduces the choral theme in an ornamented version. Variations on the theme are then played by the flutes, oboes, clarinets, and string soloists, respectively. A full orchestral version of the theme, played at a forte dynamic leads into a more lyrical piano line.

The orchestra accompanies an eighth-note heavy piano part as the piece modulates from C minor to C major. A calm, flowing A-major section, ending with a call-and-response section between double reeds, horn, and piano, leads into the Marcia, an F-major variation on the main theme in march style. A reprise of the instrumental theme from the first Allegro transitions into the choral entrance.

The chorus enters with the sopranos and altos singing the main theme, harmonized in triads. The tenors and basses then sing the theme, after which the entire chorus is joined by the orchestra in a tutti rendition, restating the major theme with each time a faster pace. A presto coda with orchestra, chorus, and piano brings the piece to a triumphant close, ending with a flourish of high C Major arpeggios on the piano.

The work's text is as follows:

German text English translation
Schmeichelnd hold und lieblich klingen Delightfully graceful and sweet is the sound
unseres Lebens Harmonien, of the harmonies in our life,
und dem Schönheitssinn entschwingen and from a sense of beauty arise
Blumen sich, die ewig blühn. flowers in eternal bloom.
Fried und Freude gleiten freundlich Peace and joy together glide,
wie der Wellen Wechselspiel. like the changing play of the waves.
Was sich drängte rauh und feindlich, All that was harsh and hostile,
ordnet sich zu Hochgefühl. turns to exalted feeling.
Wenn der Töne Zauber walten When music's enchantment reigns,
und des Wortes Weihe spricht, speaking of the sacred word,
muss sich Herrliches gestalten, greatness must take form,
Nacht und Stürme werden Licht. night and storms turn into light.
Äuss're Ruhe, inn're Wonne Outward calm, inner bliss
herrschen für den Glücklichen. take reign in those that are fortunate.
Doch der Künste Frühlingssonne But the spring's sun of art
lässt aus beiden Licht entstehn. lets light flow from both.
Großes, das ins Herz gedrungen, Greatness, once it has pierced the heart,
blüht dann neu und schön empor. then blossoms anew and beautiful.
Hat ein Geist sich aufgeschwungen, Once the soul has taken flight,
hallt ihm stets ein Geisterchor. it is echoed by a choir of spirits.
Nehmt denn hin, ihr schönen Seelen, Accept then, you beautiful souls,
froh die Gaben schöner Kunst the gifts of the high arts.
Wenn sich Lieb und Kraft vermählen, When love and power are united,
lohnt den Menschen Göttergunst. God’s grace is bestowed upon Man.

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