Hot on the heels of the "new" Beethoven sonata, we have another Beethoven premiere.
It is almost as if he is back among us!
The latest Beethoven piece is a setting of the Gregorian chant "Pange Lingua." This is an ancient prayer that goes back to St. Thomas Aquinas.
The arrangement, which he reportedly made in 1820, was just premiered by a chorus in Manchester, England. Negotiations are under way between the Gusto blog and the folks in Manchester in hopes that we can get some audio to Beethoven fans here in Buffalo.
I for one would love to hear this chant. I have gotten to know it only recently through singing sometimes in the choir at St. Anthony of Padua Church where they have a traditional Latin Mass.
In the BBC's account of this discovery, a professor makes a point that has occurred to me too: that most of the people who research Beethoven do not know much about Gregorian chant. This is a loss when it comes to researching not only Beethoven but other great Catholic composers. Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Haydn and so many more lived in an age of faith that we can hardly conceive of now. They had Catholicism in their bones and it seems to me it is hard to overestimate how much it influenced them.
We live in a different age now and as the BBC said, most scholars are underinformed about Catholic faith and music that did so much to shape these composers. Even Catholics are pretty ignorant about it, because the liturgical and musical changes that took place after Vatican II effectively cut us off from the past.
There is also a growing antipathy toward religion in general and a tendency to downplay the artistic influence of faith. Look how much is written about Masonic influences in Mozart's music, as opposed to religious influences.
Anyway, cheers to Beethoven and his "Pange Lingua." Scholars are saying, however grudgingly, that Beethoven's arrangement of the chant could say something about the depth of his faith. With luck we will be able to hear and judge for ourselves.
Meanwhile here is the chant itself. It is kind of a modern rendition but the video shows the Latin words. Plus I think Beethoven would have liked the birdsong!
-- Mary Kunz Goldman