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Beethoven's Political Views Reflected in His Cantata 'The Glorious Moment'

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Beethoven’s political ethos was liberal; however, he did at times seem to express views that were quite conservative and could also be interpreted as ambiguous. He was not afraid to express his political views through music. Examples of which could be heard in the opera ‘Fidelio’, about the unjust imprisonment overcome by a heroic individual. Also, in his cantata on the death of Emperor Joseph II, a kind, benevolent enlightened leader. His overriding beliefs were in family, fairness, love, and equality (Coffey, 2020, p.320). Thus, supporting the revolution only because its overarching goal was for freedom, peace, liberty, equality, and fraternity. Beethoven’s views were shaped through personal life experiences under the rule of Joseph II. He understood first-hand the impact of enlightened rule that would use its power for the good of its subjects. He also believed in democracy and that people should do good whenever possible and be truthful, regardless of who is asking, even the king. Beethoven’s music was shaped and nurtured directly by the social and political activities of the day. A case in question is his cantata ‘The Glorious Moment’, written for the Congress of Vienna, which was rewritten on several occasions. Therefore, demonstrating how his mood was affected by his beliefs and the changing political and social landscape of the revolution alongside his disdain for Napoleon and his love of lady liberty (Coffey, 2020, p.315)

The congress of Vienna 1814 was a standout moment in history, which consisted of a series of meetings held from September 1814 to June 1815. After the downfall of Napoleon, Europe was in a state of chaos and it needed reorganization. Thus, the Congress of Vienna came into force, essentially nullifying Napoleonic’s influences and attempted to re-establish the monarchies he had dethroned. Beethoven used this occasion to express his views through his music. Whilst an example of this is his cantata – ‘The Glorious Moment’. Analysis of this music piece reveals a cantata-recitative, written as words to a story of events during the French Revolution. It starts with flutes and oboe at 00:0, followed by strings at 00:27 alongside recorders, complimenting the voices of the women, in allegro non-troppo tempo. The timbre is one of jolly frolicking unity, representing the women of France stepping forward as a band of brothers in defense of the nation, its children, and families. The innocent children grow hungry and needy. The voices of the children grow louder and louder, binding their cries for food until it sounds like one voice unified. This cantata is for a quartet chorus. However, it can be sung as an aria with 4 soloists. We have men, women and children all performing in this piece. The composition lends itself well as a collective of voices each playing their part. Just as men, women, and children all would have done during the French Revolution, which impacts the whole of society and, the whole family. The women seem to be playing the role of Vienna, and the women as revolutionists, stepping forward as sans-culottes (Goodrich, 2020, p.267). At 0:28, the sound of children singing with violins and the strings at hand lift the tempo. The children as the innocent nobility kings and princes, dethroned by Napoleon, cry out and get caught up in the revolution only to bind together again.

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Evident within the piece mixed chorus and orchestra with pairs of flutes, a piccolo, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, timpani, and strings. Also noticeable are the drum, cymbals, horns and trumpets, all-powerful instruments are driven by the trumpet to announce the successful force of the people as a whole. This cantata comes together with most instruments, all playing together at 00:50, the men of the armies march together with banners and weapons held high as they fight for the nation. The drums portray marching troops, the flutes and recorders, the women banding together and finally, the violins and violas represent the innocent voices of the children.

In conclusion, it can be viewed that Beethoven’s music was influenced by life experiences and personal political views. He believed in enlightenment, liberty, equality, and fraternity. This is reflected in the composition of ‘The Glorious Moment’, which touches on the political situations within the changing times of the revolution. This piece represents Vienna as a peacemaker sung by women. The return of monarchs through the voice of children. Children's voices as the innocents. And finally, the men as an army defending the boundaries of Vienna and fighting the wars. Men, women, and children that were affected by such events. All given a voice and story to tell.

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Beethoven’s Political Views Reflected in His Cantata ‘The Glorious Moment’. (2023, September 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from
“Beethoven’s Political Views Reflected in His Cantata ‘The Glorious Moment’.” Edubirdie, 08 Sept. 2023,
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