Sunday Morning Opera: Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125

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screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-11-12-02-pmEric Leinsdof
Sherrill Milnes
Placido Domingo
Jane Marsh
Josephine Veasey

This is considered one of the finest recordings of Beethoven’s classic yet created. I am partial because it contains the greatest baritone, ever. The lyrics are based on 1785 by Friedrich Schiller’s poem Ode to Joy. The background is the trauma and horror of a near world war Napoleon had created, where millions died, sacrificed to his ceaseless demand for conquest and European domination.

He failed.

I don’t think anything can be more appropriate for the fifteenth anniversary of what was the most traumatic day in this nation’s history. It is about victory, of love for our fellow humans – and eternal joy.  In a way it doesn’t matter. No matter how many times you see it, and see the photos, it still hurts.  I don’t believe anyone who has a soul can look at the horror and the ruins and not be moved to tears.

English translation
Joy, beautiful sparkle of god,
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, fire-drunk,
Heavenly one, your shrine.
Your magics bind again
What custom has strictly parted.
(1785 version: What custom’s sword has parted.)
All men become brothers
(1785 version: Beggars become princes’ brothers.)
Where your tender wing lingers.
Chorus
Be embraced, millions!
This kiss to the entire world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father reside.

Who has succeeded in the great attempt
To be a friend’s friend;
Whoever has won a lovely woman
Add in his jubilation!
Yes, who calls even one soul
His own on the earth’s sphere!
And whoever never could achieve this,
Let him steal away crying from this gathering!
Chorus
Those who occupy the great circle,
Pay homage to sympathy!
It leads to the stars
Where the unknown one reigns.

All creatures drink joy
At the breasts of nature,
All good, all evil
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us, and the vine,
A friend, proven in death.
Pleasure was given to the worm,
And the cherub stands before God.
Chorus
Do you fall down, you millions?
Do you sense the creator, world?
Seek him above the starry canopy,
Above the stars he must live.

Joy is the name of the strong spring
In eternal nature.
Joy, joy drives the wheels
In the great clock of worlds.
She lures flowers from the buds,
Suns out of the firmament,
She rolls spheres in the spaces
That the seer’s telescope does not know.
Chorus
Happy, as his suns fly
Across Heaven’s splendid map,
Run, brothers, along your path
Joyfully, as a hero to victory.

From the fiery mirror of truth
She smiles upon the researcher,
Towards virtue’s steep hill
She guides the endurer’s path.
Upon faith’s sunlit mountain
One sees her banners in the wind,
Through the opening of burst coffins
One sees them standing in the chorus of angels.
Chorus
Endure courageously, millions!
Endure for the better world!
There above the starry canopy
A great God will reward.

Gods one cannot repay
Beautiful it is, to be like them.
Grief and poverty, acquaint yourselves
With the joyful ones rejoice.
Anger and revenge be forgotten,
Our deadly enemy be forgiven,
No tears shall he shed
No remorse shall gnaw at him
Chorus
Our debt registers be abolished
Reconcile the entire world!
Brothers, over the starry canopy
God judges, as we judged.

Joy bubbles in the cup,
In the grape’s golden blood
Cannibals drink gentleness
The fearful, courage —
Brothers, fly from your perches,
When the full cup is passed,
Let the foam spray to the heavens
This glass to the good spirit
Chorus
He whom the spirals of stars praise,
He whom the seraphim’s hymn glorifies,
This glass to the good spirit
Above the starry canopy!

Courage firm in great suffering,
Help there, where innocence weeps,
Eternally sworn oaths,
Truth towards friend and foe,
Mens’ pride before kings’ thrones —
Brothers, even if it costs property and blood, —
The crowns to those who earn them,
Defeat to the lying brood!
Chorus
Close the holy circle tighter,
Swear by this golden vine:
Remain true to the vows,
Swear by the judge above the stars!
(The 1803 version ends here; the 1785 version continues with the following.)

Escape the tyrants’ chains,
Generosity also to the villain,
Hope upon the deathbeds,
Mercy from the high court!
The dead, too, shall live!
Brothers, drink and chime in,
All sinners shall be forgiven,
And hell shall be no more.
Chorus
A serene departing hour!
Sweet sleep in the shroud!
Brothers—a mild sentence
From the final judge!

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