Beethoven/Goethe, “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last night, I heard Beethoven’s short piece Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage), Op. 112. performed at Carnegie Hall. It is a setting of two poems by Goethe.

The words enchanted me.

Beethoven, as in the Pastorale Symphony — and also in the Choral Fantasy and Ode To Joy — could write outstanding music (as, say, Stravinsky really couldn’t in this respect, despite the supposed primal quality of The Rite of Spring) that captures the elemental human expression of nature and human emotions.

Goethe’s beautiful words follow.

 

 

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Meerestille

Tiefe Stille herrscht im Wasser,
Ohne Regung ruht das Meer,
Und bekümmert sieht der Schiffer
Glatte Fläche ringsumher.
Keine Luft von keiner Seite!
Todesstille fürchterlich!
In der ungeheuern Weite
Reget keine Welle sich.

 

Glückliche Fahrt

Die Nebel zerreißen,
Der Himmel ist helle,
Und Äolus löset
Das ängstliche Band.
Es säuseln die Winde,
Es rührt sich der Schiffer.
Geschwinde! Geschwinde!
Es teilt sich die Welle,
Es naht sich die Ferne;
Schon seh ich das Land!

 

 

Calm Sea

Deep stillness rules the water
The sea lies motionless,
And sadly, the sailor observes
The smooth surfaces all around.
No air from any side!
Deathly, terrible stillness!
In the immense distances
not a single wave stirs.

Prosperous Voyage

The fog is torn,
The sky is bright,
And Aeolus releases
The fearful bindings.
The winds whisper,
The sailor begins to move.
Quickly, quickly!
The waves part,
The distance approaches;
Already, I see the land!

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 6, 2019

 

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