We'll look at three different drinking songs (on our way
to Schiller and Beethoven's Ninth), one from Sigmund Romberg's
(1924), sung by the inimitable Mario Lanza. Let's talk about
the traditional social function of alcohol (I'll hand out an old Cornell
Daily Sun piece of mine which I wrote when the legal drinking age was
raised to 21).
We'll listen to a drinking song in medieval Latin. "In taverna quando sumus" ("the bar's our favorite hangout") from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana (1937).
And finally Goethe's "Ergo Bibamus." (Translation mine; feel free to suggest improvements, but don't distort the rhythm) below.
If we had time we'd add "The Drinking Song of the Earth's Sorrow," from Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde: first performed in Munich in 1911, six months after Mahler's death, and conducted by Bruno Walter.
Let's Drink. (GOETHE, 1810)
We're gathered together to sing and rejoice,
My Brothers! Ergo bibamus!
Let's raise our glasses and stop idle talk and
Remember: Ergo bibamus!
The motto is old and tested through time
It fits the occasion whatever the kind
The echo sounds forth from so festive a place,
A glorious Ergo bibamus!
I just saw my lovely beloved and thought
What else but: Ergo bibamus!
But when I approached her she turned me away.
Consoled myself quickly: Bibamus!
And when you make up and finally kiss
Or when you sore miss the hug and the kiss
Just stay with the motto, the best that there is:
Console yourself: Ergo bibamus!
I need to move on and to bid you good bye;
My brothers: Ergo bibamus.
I leave you behind with a cheerful farewell;
So once again: Ergo bibamus!
May miserly scrooges pinch pennies and save,
The cheerful at heart always find what they crave,
They borrow from someone who's just like themselves,
My brothers: Ergo bibamus.
And what do we say to a day like today?
I think we'll say: Ergo bibamus!
The day is unique, a day like today;
Again and again then: Bibamus!
It's JOY that unlocks and opens each door.
The clouds glisten bright and the fog shrouds no more.
An image takes shape, it is small but divine;
Let's sing and rejoice and: Bibamus!
Note that I've highlighted the word JOY in the
last stanza. I am sure you know why. Now we'll move directly to Schiller's
poem and Beethoven's most glorious and noisy celebration.
The Ode to Joy.
Schiller later disowned the poem, first published in 1786. That's his business, we won't pay any attention to it. Few people have, for the Ode has by now become the unofficial anthem of a United Europe. Ozawa conducted a stirring rendition of it during the last Winter Olympics with participants across the globe. It is difficult not to be swept up by it. Three years before the French Revolution it addresses one of that violent upheaval's most pressing concerns, the brotherhood of all men and, by implication, the two other concerns as well, liberty and equality.
How do we live together in harmony as one global family, free from whatever it is that separates us? Easy. We will instantly unite in joy as we behold, with all the intensity at our command, and appreciate the wonders of creation, including ourselves and each other, the reality and the potential. That's the Franciscan spirit resurrected. If you hear echoes of Milton, of Haydn's Creation, and the nature worship of Pietism, you're right as well. Joyful appreciation of all there is is an obligation, it is the most relevant response and prayer. Here are excerpts from the Canticle of the Sun by Francis of Assissi (1181-1226):
"Praised be my Lord God with all his creatures, and especially
our brother the Sun, who brings us the day and who brings us the light;
fair is he and shines with great splendor; O Lord, he signifies to us Thee.
Praised be my Lord for our sister the Moon, and for the stars, the which he has set clear and lovely in the heaven.
Praised be my Lord for our brother the wind, and the air, and the cloud, and fair and all weather ...
Praised be my Lord for our sister water, who is very serviceable unto us and humble and precious and clean.
Praised be my Lord for our brother fire, through whom Thou givest us light in the darkness; and he is bright and pleasant and very mighty and strong.
Praised be my Lord for our mother the Earth, the which doth sustain and keep us, and bringeth forth divers fruit, and flowers of many colours, and grass.
Praised be my Lord for all those who pardon one another for His love's sake, and who endure weakness and tribulation; blessed are they who peaceably shall endure, for Thou, O most Highest, shalt give them a crown.
Praised be my Lord for our sister the Death of the Body.
Blessed are they who are found walking by thy most holy will.
Praise ye and bless ye the Lord, and give thanks unto him, and serve him with great humility."
The Ode to Joy envisions and celebrates a non-violent reorganization of society. Let's drink to it, says the poet. And let's toast the Creator who inspired the thought by creating the wonders of the universe and us in it..
Beethoven called the choral movement of his
Symphony "the greatest I have written." He talks about it as early
as 1793, well into the French Revolution which is getting uglier
and bloodier by the day, but he doesn't complete it until 1822, long after
the French Revolution and, in its aftermath, Napoleon have passed
from the scene, though not from memory.
Beethoven never heard it. In 1798 it was discovered that he was going deaf, and by 1819 his hearing was all but gone. The poet RMRilke (1875-1926) paid tribute to the composer and his affliction in his Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910) in Saemtliche Werke. VI, p.779f.
We will hear and see one of the work's most inspired performances.
It took place in Berlin's Grosses Schauspielhaus on Christmas Day,
l989, only weeks after The Wall had come down. German musicians from several
major orchestras, East and West, are joined by musicians from the four
allied countries who won the Second World War and occupied Germany: The
United States, The United Kingdom, The Soviet Union, and France.
Leonard Bernstein, "conductor laureate for life" of the NY Philharmonic and conductor of this historic musical event, made a change in the text, "authorized by the power of the moment" as he put it. Schiller's "Freude" (Joy) became "Freiheit" (Freedom). The soloists are June Anderson, Sarah Walker, Klaus Koenig and Jan Hendrick Rootering.
I'll fade you into the final 25 minutes of the fourth movement when the basses first introduce the well known melody. We'll watch and listen until the coda, no formal or formulaic ending here, builds to a jubilant ecstatic climax.
Bernstein, already ill at the time but managing a show of vitality and exuberance, died in the following year.