|Ludwig van Beethoven opus 80|
Chorfantasie (Choral Fantasy)Fantasy in C minor. 1809. Time: 20'00.Fantasia for Piano, Chorus & Orchestra.
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Background, composition, and premiere
The Fantasia 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 fulfil this role. 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).
Beethoven wrote the piece during the second half of December, an unusually short time by his standards. He commissioned a poet--whose identify is disputed--to write the words shortly before the performance to fit the already written parts. According to Beethoven's pupil Karl Czerny, the poet was Cristoph Kuffner; the later Beethoven scholar Gustav Nottebohm doubted this attribution and suggested the poet may have been Georg Friedrich Treitschke, who in 1814 prepared the final text of Beethoven's opera Fidelio.
The premiere performance seems to have been a rather troubled one; according to the composer's secretary, Anton Felix Schindler, it "simply fell apart," a result most likely attributable to insufficient rehearsal time. Because of a mistake in the execution of the piece, it was stopped half way through and restarted. In Ignaz von Seyfried's words:
The Choral Fantasy and the Ninth Symphony
The work includes a sequence of variations on a theme that is widely felt to be an early version of a far better known variation theme, namely the one to which Beethoven set the words of Friedrich Schiller's Ode to Joy in his Ninth Symphony. The two themes are compared below.
Michael Broyles has suggested another musical similarity: the two works share essentially the same harmonic sequence at their climactic moments, the chords (in C major) C F D (G) Eb, where the Eb stands out from its harmonic context and is performed fortissimo. The words sung at this point are (for the Choral Fantasy) "Lieb und Kraft" ("love and strength") and (for the Ninth Symphony) "Über'm Sternenzelt! Über Sternen muss er wohnen." ("Above the tent of the stars, above the stars he must dwell").
There are also affinities in the texts. The theme of the Choral Fantasy text – universal fraternity with the meeting of arts – evokes similar feelings as the "Ode to Joy" text.
Beethoven himself acknowledged the kinship of the two works. In a letter of 1824, when he was writing the Ninth Symphony, he described his project as "a setting of the words of Schiller's immortal "Lied an die Freude" in the same way as my pianoforte fantasia with chorus, but on a far grander scale."
The Choral Fantasy, which in most performances lasts about twenty minutes, is divided into two movements:
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. A presto coda with orchestra, chorus, and piano brings the piece to a close.
The work's text is as follows:
As noted above, the words were written in haste, and Beethoven was perhaps not entirely pleased with them. He later wrote to his publisher Breitkopf und Härtel:
As Kalischer et al. observe, the word Kraft "is treated with grand style in the music."
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Choral_Fantasy_(Beethoven)". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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