Movement 1: Er schlummert … schlummert!
Movement 2: Fliesse, Wonnezähre, fliesse!
Movement 3: Ihr staunt, Völker der Erde!
Movement 4: Wie bebt mein Herz vor Wonne! – Ihr, die Joseph ihren Vater nannten
John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Judith Howarth (soprano), José Van Dam (bass), Corydon Orchestra, Matthew Best (conductor)
Movement 5: Heil! Stürzet nieder, Millionen
The subject matter of the ‘Leopold’ Cantata necessarily dictated a different overall plan to that of the ‘Joseph’ work; in particular, the structural prop of a framing chorus of mourning was not an option here. The ‘Leopold’ Cantata opens with a recitative narrating the death of Joseph and the emergence of Leopold as his successor. Although harmonically wide ranging, this recitative moves from A flat to C major and thus relates directly to the overall key (C minor) of the ‘Joseph’ Cantata. In fact one might argue plausibly for a tonal ‘narrative’ progression (C minor to C major) equating to the textual narrative that links the two works; such a reading inevitably calls again to mind the Fifth Symphony, with its identical tonal progression from C minor to major. The relatively underplayed opening to the Cantata—it begins as it were in medias res—allowed for considerable weight to accrue to the final chorus of praise. Here Beethoven chose the traditionally bright, celebratory key of D for a multisectional finale (Un poco allegro e maestoso – Allegro vivace – Allegro non tanto) that begins and ends in the relatively uncommon 12/8 metre. Not only in its multisectional nature, its key, and its role as the culminating point in a psychological progression from doubt and sorrow to hope and joy, but also in its attempt to find musical expression for universal rejoicing (note particularly the ungrateful setting—twice!—of ‘Erschallet Jubelchöre, dass laut die Welt es höre’ to a repeated soprano high A) this finale seems prophetic of that of the Ninth Symphony. And in setting there Schiller’s words ‘Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?’ would not Beethoven, by that time unquestionably the greatest living composer, have remembered putting music to ‘Stürzet nieder, Millionen, an dem rauchenden Altar!’ an artistic lifetime ago in Bonn?
from notes by Nicholas Marston © 1997