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On Hearing a Symphony of Beethoven

For SATB Choir and piano

Text by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Composed: 2007

Duration: 2'57"

Published by 193rd Street Music (ASCAP)


Sweet sounds, oh, beautiful music, do not cease!
Reject me not into the world again.
With you alone is excellence and peace,
Mankind made plausible, his purpose plain.
Enchanted in your air benign and shrewd,
With limbs a-sprawl and empty faces pale,
The spiteful and the stingy and the rude
Sleep like the scullions in the fairy-tale.
This moment is the best the world can give:
The tranquil blossom on the tortured stem.
Reject me not, sweet sounds; oh, let me live,
Till Doom espy my towers and scatter them,
A city spell-bound under the aging sun.
Music my rampart, and my only one.

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

From the composer:

"One might wonder why I didn't include any parts of Beethoven's music in a piece entitled 'Upon Hearing a Symphony of Beethoven.' That idea did occur to me, but after considering it I decided I wanted to write an entirely original piece with the emphasis on evoking the feeling the music produces on the listener rather than the literal notes heard. I felt this approach also opened up the moment to hearing any piece of music, not just the music of one composer."

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