Beethoven’s 9th Symphony has been a great joy lately

Portrait of Ludwig von Beethoven by Joseph Karl Steiler, 1820
Since the day after Jesse died I have been finding great comfort in “Ode to Joy.” I have in fact become sort of obsessed with the whole Beethoven’s 9th symphony, especially that fourth movement. I have no idea why but I find a strange comfort in the music. My only theory is that it lifts my soul a little nearer to where Jesse is. It is so profoundly touching and sad that Beethoven wrote beautiful masterpiece without being able to hear it.

I have watched to several documentaries on the ninth symphony and keep listening to different concerts on YouTube including a wonderful flash mob performance that happened in Spain. Also I found a really good PBS video, part documentary, part concert on Amazon Video called (surprise surprise) Ode to Joy: Beethoven’s Symphany No. 9.

My obsession with the 9th is expanding to other classical music. In the past I always enjoyed classical music in a lackadaisical kind of way. I haven’t really studied it. Jesse’s death seems to have sparked a new fascination with it, causing me to really listen to a symphony as if I were listening to a story, hanging on every word. Tom and I recently discovered the TV series Mozart in the Jungle which piques my interest even more. It’s a dramedy about the New York Symphony with both quirky characters and great music – a dream of a series. Sometimes you just need a temporary distraction from the grinding pain of loss. I can’t watch anything ugly or violent. This series is not all sweetness but it is humane and the music is good.

The Ode to Joy has a chorale part that is generally sung in German. The PBS video included a translation of the words and I was stunned by their beauty. Here is the English translation:

O friends, no more of these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
More songs full of joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Within thy sanctuary.
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers,
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join our song of praise;
But those who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.
All creatures drink of joy
At natures breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift;
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can feel contentment,
And the cherub stands before God!
Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He sent on their courses
Through the splendor of the firmament;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
Like a hero going to victory!
You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving father.
Do you fall in worship, you millions?
World, do you know your creator?
Seek Him in the heavens;
Above the stars must he dwell.

* * * * * *

It is no wonder I have been loving this music. It is about the closest thing to heaven than exists on earth – and to see it performed over and over again by hundreds of people gives me hope for humanity.


Author: CJ

Blogger, illustrator, writer

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