Время создания: февраль или март 1790 г.
Автор текста: Severin Anton Averdonk
Charlotte Margiono, сопрано
William Shimell, бас
Chor und Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin, дир. Christian Thielemann
Joseph II, Emperor of both the Austrian and Holy Roman Empires, died on 20 February 1790. Four days later, the news of Joseph's death reached the Electoral Court at Bonn, where Beethoven was a violist in the court chapel and theater. To many, Joseph II was the embodiment of the Enlightenment, and his untimely death sent a shock wave through the Empire. Motivated by genuine grief—as well as by the Elector of Bonn, Maximilian Franz, who was Joseph II's youngest brother—the Bonn Lesegesellschaft (Reading Society) planned a memorial ceremony for March 19th that would include a new poem set to music.
The chosen text was by Severin Anton Averdonk, whose sister, Johanna Helene, was a singer at court and had studied with Beethoven's father. Beethoven (then only nineteen years old) received the commission On February 28th, but his completed cantata was never performed at the ceremony (according to the minutes of the 17 March Society meeting, this was "for various reasons"). The score would remain unknown until it appeared at auction in 1884, and would have to wait until 23 November 1884 for its première in Vienna.
The chief significance of the "Joseph" cantata lies in elements of its musical vocabulary that would appear in Beethoven's later works. Passages and dramatic ideas find their way into the Third, Sixth and Seventh Symphonies, as well as the Egmont and Coriolan overtures. Also, the music to which Beethoven set "Da stiegen die Menschen ans Licht" ("Then humankind climbs toward the light") in the cantata's third section would resurface as "O Gott! O Gott! welch' ein Augenblick!" ("O God! O God! what a moment!") in the second act of Fidelio.
Ominous cellos and contrabasses open the first section of the cantata, preparing the chorus entrance on "Tot!" ("Dead"). The atmosphere and "dissolving" tendency of the music surrounding the three-fold repetition of "Tot!" looks forward to the Marcia funebre of the Third Symphony. Chorus and soloist alternate in relating how nature itself is moved by the death of Joseph II.
Tempestuous strings introduce the second number, which begins with a recitative in which night is brought on by a monster called "Fanaticism." The ensuing bass aria tells of the defeat of this monster at the hands of Joseph.
An oboe introduces the third number, an aria for soprano, by taking up the singer's own cantabile melody. The text states that, because of Joseph, "the earth revolved more happily around the sun." Both of these arias (soprano and bass) betray the influence of Mozart, and Beethoven's assimilation of the Viennese Classical style.
The fourth number, a recitative and aria for soprano, later joined by the chorus, confronts the death of Joseph. More an arioso than a true recitative, the opening tells us that Joseph "schläft, von den Sorgen seines Welten entladen" ("sleeps, freed from the cares of his world"). The aria proper opens with text that would later appear at the beginning of the "Leopold" cantata: "Hier schlummert" ("Here sleeps"), and goes on to explain Joseph's previous suffering and forbearance. For the finale, Beethoven repeats both the text and music of the first number.
After examining the score of the Joseph cantata, Johannes Brahms remarked: "Even if there were no name on the title page none other could be conjectured—it is Beethoven through and through! The beautiful and noble pathos, sublime in its feeling and imagination, the intensity, perhaps violent in its expression, moreover the voice leading and declamation, and in the two outside sections all the characteristics which we may observe in and associate with his later works."
(All Music Guide)
On February 20th, 1790, Emperor Joseph II died. Four days later the bad news arrived in the Rhineland. Joseph II, an advocate of the enlightenment and innovator in many fields, was the brother of the reigning Elector Archbishop of Cologne, Maximilian Franz. Therefore, the "Lese- und Erholungsgesellschaft" (Society for reading and relaxation) from Bonn decided to organise a funeral service for him. Eulogius Schneider, "professor of fine arts" was chosen to hold the commemorative speech. He also suggested the performance of a cantata for which a local young poet, Severin Anton Averdonk, was to write the text for. An excellent musician, Ludwig van Beethoven, was asked to compose the music. The celebration was planned for March 19th. However, the cantata was not performed. According to the records of the Reading Society for March 17th, the cantata could not be played for various reasons. Possibly, Beethoven could not complete the work within the short time or other technical problems prevented the performance.
Whatever the case, Beethoven finally finished the cantata and gave early proof of his skills. He probably submitted the piece to Joseph Haydn as a sample of his work when Haydn visited Bonn on his way to England. According to Franz Wegeler's "Biographical notes about Ludwig van Beethoven", Haydn paid much regard to the piece and encouraged its composer to continue working. He later accepted Beethoven as a student which led to Beethoven's relocation to Vienna in November 1792.
Beethoven never discarded musical material he once had decided was useful. A good fifteen years later at the peak of his success, when composing his first opera "Leonore" (Fidelio), he remembered the cantata and used some of the musical elements for the introduction to the dungeon scene and for the last finale.