The Glorious Moment (Der glorreiche Augenblick) op. 136. – cantata

Following the fall of Napoleon, representatives of the major states of Europe gathered in Vienna to redraw the map of the continent. The Congress of Vienna (1814–1815) occasionedthe composition of the cantata The Glorious Moment(Der glorreiche Augenblick). The work received its premiere on 29 November 1814 at the Grosser Redoutensaal. A report published in Wiener Zeitung the following day claimed the entire court and numerous high-ranking foreign guests (including the King of Prussia) had graced the event, and the cantata was an unequivocal success. Beethoven’s music perfectly fits the occasion. It is deliberately ‘sensationalist’ and makes easy listening. In the words of one critic it paints the text in a ‘poster-like’ manner, with large contrasts and a structure of clearly marked sections. Composed for orchestra, choir and four soloists, the cantata consists of six movements. The soloists represent allegorical figures. The first soprano sings the role of Vienna, the second soprano that of a Prophetess, the tenor the Genius and the bass the Leader of the People. The opening chorus presents a vision of a crowned figure walking across the rainbow of peace. In the following recitativo the Leader of the People and Genius name this figure wearing the imperial cloak: it is Vienna. The third movement consists of a recitativoand an ambitious aria alternating with a chorus, where Vienna greets the rulers of the nations gathered there, telling them she was hosting the greatest event in history that would rebuild Europe. In a recitativo the Prophetess calls the nations to thank the Lord for saving them. Her cavatina is an intimate prayer. The fifth movement – recitativo and a quartet of the four soloists –is an optimistic look to the future: old times return and the continent will again stand on steady foundations. In the dance-like, joyous closing chorus, a choir of women, children and men greet the participants of the congress, and finally, in an effective choral fugue they praise Vienna (referred to by its Roman name, Vindobona) and the great moment in history.