Ruth Leon recommends…  Beethoven Choral Fantasy for Queen’s Funeral

Ruth Leon recommends… Beethoven Choral Fantasy for Queen’s Funeral

Ruth Leon recommends

norman lebrecht

September 19, 2022

Ludwig van Beethoven: “Choral Fantasy” op. 80 – Seiji Ozawa, Martha Argerich

I’m not sure why, but when I was trying to think of a piece of music to play in this week of the Queen’s funeral, it wasn’t Brahms German Requiem or the Faure Requiem or even the Verdi Requiem that came to mind. It was this, the Beethoven Choral Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra.

Perhaps it is the sight of this legendary Japanese conductor, Seiji Ozawa, now 87, being helped to the stage by the equally legendary Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich, now 81, that I find so touching and appropriate for this week’s memorials for a 96-year old Queen.

They look happy but elderly as they greet the young members of the orchestra at the Saito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto. Every summer since 1992 Seiji Ozawa has gathered some great musicians in Matsumoto, Japan, to play with the young musicians he is famous for encouraging. Since 2015 Saito Kinen Festival has been better known as the Seiji Ozawa Festival.

And here they are, these octogenarians, looking frail as they advance to the podium and the piano bench and then, with the orchestra and huge chorus, playing the hell out of the Choral Fantasy. All frailty banished. Not in evidence anywhere. Just pure artistry.
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  • E.R. says:

    They are legends, living treasures, as the Japanese say.
    Lovely tribute. Thank you.

  • Doc Martin says:

    That would not be suitable at all. Far better to have St. Patrick’s Breastplate hymn, arr C V Stanford.

    Here is the choir of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, John Dexter.

    I was a chorister when Victor Griffin was Dean.

    I bind unto myself today
    the strong Name of the Trinity,
    by invocation of the same,
    the Three in One, and One in Three.

    I bind this day to me for ever,
    by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
    his baptism in Jordan river;
    his death on cross for my salvation;
    his bursting from the spicèd tomb;
    his riding up the heavenly way;
    his coming at the day of doom:
    I bind unto myself today.

    I bind unto myself the power
    of the great love of cherubim;
    the sweet “Well done” in judgment hour;
    the service of the seraphim;
    confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,
    the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
    all good deeds done unto the Lord,
    and purity of virgin souls.

    I bind unto myself today
    the virtues of the starlit heaven
    the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
    the whiteness of the moon at even,
    the flashing of the lightning free,
    the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
    the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
    around the old eternal rocks.

    I bind unto myself today
    the power of God to hold and lead,
    his eye to watch, his might to stay,
    his ear to hearken, to my need;
    the wisdom of my God to teach,
    his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
    the word of God to give me speech,
    his heavenly host to be my guard.

    Christ be with me,
    Christ within me,
    Christ behind me,
    Christ before me,
    Christ beside me,
    Christ to win me,
    Christ to comfort
    and restore me.
    Christ beneath me,
    Christ above me,
    Christ in quiet,
    Christ in danger,
    Christ in hearts of
    all that love me,
    Christ in mouth of
    friend and stranger.

    I bind unto myself today
    the strong Name of the Trinity,
    by invocation of the same,
    the Three in One, and One in Three.
    Of whom all nature hath creation,
    eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
    praise to the Lord of my salvation,
    salvation is of Christ the Lord.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      Yes, well, Argerich doesn’t sing, and Ozawa isn’t strictly a choral conductor. I’m glad you got to sing this.

  • Guest says:

    I believe this was in 2016, when Martha Argerich was still in her 70s. She does not look in the least frail. However, Seiji Ozawa (at 81) had indeed suffered serious health problems. I spotted among the soloists Nathalie Stutzmann and Matthias Goerne – an illustrious ensemble indeed. But I wonder if anybody would perform this piece if it were not by Beethoven?

  • Hmus says:

    I don’t think one of Beethoven’s lesser works (replete with tawdry beer-garden tune) is the best choice.

    I rather surprised that none of you in the UK have suggested just the final movement of RVW’s London symphony in which you can hear the active Empire into which Elizabeth was shortly to be born move through time and fade away, leaving a quiet memory.

  • zweito says:

    No Henry Purcell, the most influenced English composer until later 19 century, anywhere in the service. At least some excepts of his funeral music for Queen Mary

  • Amos says:

    Parts of Haydn Lord Nelson?