“Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes
At the close of 2014, a year of such over-the-top grimness and dismay that I for one am tempted to despair over belonging to such a race as the human race is proving to be, I find that Oliver Wendell Holmes’s advice is spot on. I can bathe in music and refresh my soul. But not just any music. For me, it’s glorious music, the music of JOY! And who else is the supreme creator of the music of Joy but Ludwig van Beethoven? He, who was master of the sublime in sound, was deaf himself, and most of the the time, black of mood. No matter.
The final movement, the fourth, of his towering 9th Symphony ends with the renowned Ode to Joy. It fully lives up to its name. There’s a long time of waiting and listening to three full movements, however, before spying that mountain peak.
I think of Beethoven’s less well-known Choral Fantasia in C Minor, Op. 80, as the little brother of the Ode to Joy. In less than half an hour it transports us, like a chair lift, right up to the mountain’s peak, from where we can gaze at a world transfigured, bathe in that bath of music, and be reconciled to humanity.
Think I’m exaggerating? Try it. Here’s my Christmas gift to each of you, a very short YouTube, only 3 minutes or so, of just the finale to the Choral Fantasia. This version is by the Berliner Philharmoniker, conducted by Claudio Abbado, with pianist Maurizio Pollini. (If you look quickly, you’ll recognize the soprano soloist as blonde Finnish bombshell Karita Mattila, who two years ago or so sang Salome, a rather different matter, at the Metropolitan Opera.)
There are lots of full-length versions of the Choral Fantasia on YouTube, most are excellent, and when you have need of a spiritual cleansing and a half hour to spare, I highly recommend any of them. You might especially look for the version featuring a youth orchestra of bright and shining young people. But right now if you’re still with me, treat yourself and watch and listen to this passport to Joy:
If you’re allergic to “classical music” — then close your eyes and simply listen. The final moments will lift the hairs on the back of your neck —
Thank you for the musicT2T; uplifting for the soul. Of late, this is my favourite – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZfujI9CXyw
Interesting that you should respond with the Tallis! I don’t know his music well, nor this particular kind of music; but I had a friend, Madeleine L’Engle (the writer, you may recognize her name) who LOVED both, and so I have happy associations with it.
The note on my YouTube says that the words are adapted from the Book of Judith. Which also makes me smile — being Judith.
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Wonderful and I don’t think I’ve heard it before so thank you!
Joy of the season to you, Gilly. It’s always exciting to encounter a new piece of music, I think.
perhaps we are too brainy for our own good……or perhaps we’re just too thick to appreciate – hmmm
I’m not connecting —
(Too brainy or too thick, but I don’t know which)
I so enjoyed listening to this. Classical music is perhaps not really my thing, but there are many pieces I totally loved. I played the piano as a young girl, and learned to appreciate all kinds of music then.
On a different note; have you heard about the upcoming “weather bomb”? Merry Christmas 😀
I’m happy you enjoyed!
Not so happy about an upcoming “weather bomb” though!
We get our forecast here in Western MA from Dave the Weather Nut (see Facebook page) and he’s often pretty good. If not accurate, then entertaining. He hinted at a storm for Christmas Day — what alarming things have you been hearing???????
We’ll only get rain from the “Santa Bomb” 🙂
Something about two systems merging someplace here, and they’re not sure yet how it will turn out. We won’t get snow though, that’s for sure.
The Santa Bomb???????
What will they come up with next! For some reason it made my mind flash on Eartha Kitt (remember her?) crooning “Santa baby,” in that sexy husky voice. No snow from that one, either!
Stay warm, stay dry, or dry-ish — and have a wonderful holiday is my wish for you, Gerry, and MacDuff.
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Oh for joy! Beethoven has been on my mind all week. Although no true date of birth is known, December 16th is believed to be his date of birth as he was baptized in the 17th. The Ode to Joy is my favorite piece of any of all times. You have filled my evening with such happiness, thank you.
When you have time, do watch and listen to some version of the entire Choral Fantasia. You’ll really enjoy it.
A Merry and a Happy to you and Augustine —
thx for the song!!
Thx for the comment!
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Judy (think I lost my comment???)
Anyway just wanted to say thanks for putting up this beautiful piece – my favorite – has many good memories, especially one of my younger son learning it note by note at age 4, by ear listening to his older brother practice it for one of his earliest music lessons…
and then its a great prequel for us as we prepare to attend the NSO’s Handel’s Messiah this Sunday at the Kennedy Center (mainly because the soprano Sherezade Panthaki is the talented daughter of a classmate of mine from India, whom I recently reconnected with, but I’d always wanted to listen to Handel’s Messiah at this time of the year anyway…)
So many coincidences and connections, isn’t it? like you found you learnt that words of the Tallis (was it?) was adapted from, let’s say, your book 😉
Your comment did NOT get lost, Mercy! Thank goodness —
Tickled to know it’s your favorite, it’s mine too. Imagine your son learning it by ear!
Coincidence? We just went last night to the Mount Holyoke College chapel to hear an early music outfit, the Arcadia Players perform, you got it, Messiah. We’ve heard it many times from many different groups — and I’m amazed to say that this was the BEST — in every way — we’ve ever witnessed. The trumpeter on the valveless trumpet (?) never missed a note, was strong and clear and accurate. The percussionist, at the end, sounded like he was Big Ben, striking. Orchestra — on early instruments, was great. A grand total of 21 singers, that’s all! raised the roof of the chapel, and furthermore, the soloists appeared right out of their ranks, at least half of the chorus solo-ing. And one of the basses, on The trumpets shall sound, absolutely filled the space to overflowing! No amplification. It was just so satisfying, we felt wrung out at the end.
So — coincidences, connections, we are astonished at them and yet — perhaps they are the norm, if we opened our eyes a little bit wider. The Jeweled Net of Indra —
Wonderful holidays to you, Jey, and the boys.
And coincidence again…sheesh!!! the friend who babysat our aforementioned “older” son while the younger was coming into this world, was, guess what, a Mount Holyoke graduate!! a very dear friend of mine 🙂
So wonderful to read your review of the Messiah – the instrumentalists would so love to read how you heard every one of them, so clearly!!
I will let you know how tomorrow feels after it has come and gone – (does it feel that the anticipation and the aftermath seems to last longer than the time seemed to spend at an event like that – the intensity makes the concert fly by?)
Thank you Judy, and to you too…enjoy the Season, wish Frank for all of us, and hope you get to see your brood of kids and grandkids before the year is out!!!
Wow, coincidence is really working overtime!
Looking forward to your review of your Messiah concert —
Weather bomb & a Finnish bomb shell. I feel my mood retreating.
Let’s hope a new front — the good mood smile front — is advancing!
Happy holidays, Roy, with a hug from both of us.
Thank you Judith and wishing you much more Joy!
And to you, and — to coin a song title! — Joy to the World.