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The Choral Fantasy

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symphony1

Schmeichelnd hold und lieblich klingen
unsres Lebens Harmonien,
und dem Schönheitssinn entschwingen
Blumen sich, die ewig blühn.
Fried und Freude gleiten freundlich
wie der Wellen Wechselspiel.
Was sich drängte rauh und feindlich,
ordnet sich zu Hochgefühl.

Wenn der Töne Zauber walten
und des Wortes Weihe spricht,
muss sich Herrliches gestalten,
Nacht und Stürme werden Licht.
Äuss’re Ruhe, inn’re Wonne
herrschen für den Glücklichen.
Doch der Künste Frühlingssonne
lässt aus beiden Licht entstehn.

Großes, das ins Herz gedrungen,
blüht dann neu und schön empor.
Hat ein Geist sich aufgeschwungen,
hallt ihm stets ein Geisterchor.
Nehmt denn hin, ihr schönen Seelen,
froh die Gaben schöner Kunst:
Wenn sich Lieb und Kraft vermählen,
lohnt den Menschen Göttergunst.

With grace, charm and sweet sounds
The harmonies of our life,
And the sense of beauty engenders
The flowers which eternally bloom.
Peace and joy advancing in perfect accord,
Like the alternating play of the waves;
All harsh and hostile elements
Render to a sublime sentiment.

When the magic sounds reign
And the sacred word is spoken,
That strongly engender the wonderful,
The night and the tempest divert light,
Calm without, profound joy within,
Awaiting the great hour.
Meanwhile, the spring sun and art
Bathe in the light.

Something great, into the heart
Blooms anew when in all its beauty,
Which spirit taken flight,
And all a choir of spirits resounds in response.
Accept then, oh you beautiful spirits
Joyously of the gifts of art.
When love and strength are united,
The favour of God rewards Man.

Christoph Kuffner, Choral Fantasy (written on commission for Ludwig van Beethoven, 1808)


Moritz von Schwind’s painting, The Symphony, is generally reckoned to be a depiction of a performance of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, in which the audience and performers have joined in singing the final bars (“Hat ein Geist sich aufgeschwungen,/
hallt ihm stets ein Geisterchor
.”) The boundary between audience and performers is suspended as the magic of the music unites all.


Listen to Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, op. 80 (1808), in a New Year’s performance in Beijing from 2008. Seiji Ozawa conducts, Lang Lang performs on the piano. Think of this as a test run for the great final movement of the choral symphony.

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