Beethoven – Coral Phantasy (Bernstein, Vienna Philharmonic, Francesch)

Conducted by Leonard Bernstein, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Wiener Philharmoniker), Wiener Jeunesse Choir and the Uruguay-born Swiss pianist Homero Francesch as a soloist perform Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op. 80; simply known as the “Choral Fantasy”.

The work was composed in 1808 and first performed at the Akademie (benefit concert) of 22 December 1808, which also saw the premieres of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and the Fourth Piano Concerto as well as a performance of excerpts of the Mass in C major.

The Choral Fantasy is divided into two movements:

  1. Adagio
  2. Finale. Allegro – Meno allegro (Allegretto) – Allegro molto – Adagio ma non troppo – Marcia, assai vivace – Allegro – Allegretto ma non troppo quasi andante con moto »Schmeichelnd hold und liebliech klingen« – Presto

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.

Text

German

Schmeichelnd hold und lieblich klingen
unseres 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.

English translation

Graceful, charming and sweet is the sound
Of our life’s harmonies,
and from a sense of beauty arise
Flowers which eternally bloom.
Peace and joy advance in perfect concord,
like the changing play of the waves.
All that was harsh and hostile,
has turned into sublime delight.

When music’s enchantment reigns,
speaking of the sacred word,
Magnificence takes form,
The night and the tempest turns to light:
Outer peace and inner bliss
Reign o’er the fortunate ones.
All art in the spring’s sun
Lets light flow from both.

Greatness, once it has pierced the heart,
Then blooms anew in all its beauty.
Once one’s being has taken flight,
A choir of spirits resounds in response.
Accept then, you beautiful souls,
Joyously the gifts of high art.
When love and strength are united,
Divine grace is bestowed upon Man.

Homero Francesch

Homero Francesch
Homero Francesch

Homero Francesch (born 6 December 1947, Montevideo, Uruguay) is a Uruguay-born Swiss pianist. He attended piano lessons under Santiago Baranda Reyes in Uruguay and in 1967 he was awarded a scholarship by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). He then went on to study in Munich under Hugo Steurer and Ludwig Hoffmann.
He has performed concerts in all major European capital cities, in Canada, Japan, Australia and the USA, as well as in Latin America.
Homero Francesch has recorded works by Bach, Bartok, Henze, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Ravel, Schumann, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky for Deutsche Grammophon and works by Scarlatti, Ravel, Chopin, Mozart and Reinecke for Tudor. The record label Kontrapunkt has released all of Mozart’s Sonatas and Piano Concertos played by Homero Francesch. In 1978 he was awarded the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, which is the German equivalent of the Grammy.

He has taken part in numerous televised music productions, including among others, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, which was awarded the Prix Italia in 1973, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Leonard Bernstein, Hans Werner Henze’s “Tristan” with the Cologne-based WDR Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer, Haydn’s Concerto in D Major and Mendelssohn’s Concerto in D Minor in a concert with The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Sir Neville Marriner and original solo recitals with works by Mozart, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Albeniz, de Falla, Villa-Lobos and Alberto Ginastera.

He has been invited to perform as a soloist by the most renowned orchestras from all over the world such as, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Munich Philharmonic, the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, all the radio symphony orchestras in Germany, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Orchestre National de France, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI Torino or the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich.

Homero Francesch has played together with Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Masur, Sir Colin Davis, Gary Bertini, Herbert Blomstedt, Riccardo Chailly, Eliahu Inbal, Neeme Järvi, Zdenek Macal, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Marek Janovski, Michael Gielen, Witold Rowicki, Karl Richter, Hiroshi Wakasugi, Sir Neville Marriner, Sir Charles Mackerras, Charles Dutoit and many others.

He has been invited to perform at numerous festivals such as, the Berliner Festwochen, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, the Beethoven Festival in Bonn, the Wiener Festwochen, the Rheingau Music Festival, the Ruhr Piano Festival, the Prague Spring, the Salzburg Festival, the George Enescu Festival in Bucharest, the Cervantino Festival in Mexico, the Schubertiade, Aix en Provence, the Kasseler Musiktage, Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland, the Duzniki Chopin Festival in Poland or the Bach Festival in London with Bernstein.

Homero Francesch has held a professorship at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK) and has been teaching there a soloist class over more than 33 years. He serves as a jury member at numerous international piano competitions. From 2004 to 2009 he was the Artistic Director of the Sommer Akademie Lenk in Switzerland. Since 2006 he is the Artistic Director of the Viersener Musiksommer.

Sources

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