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Gateway to German Lieder 13

Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur


  #""!#$!
Natures Praise of God Ludwig van Beethoven (17701827)
   !( 
" %    $#% %#
1. Die Himmel rhmen des Ewigen Ehre,
The heavens extol the Eternal-Ones honor;
!  #"# )   !#
2. Ihr Schall pflanzt seinen Namen fort.
their loud-sound communicates his name [forwards]. Musical Background
 !(# ! !#!"  !)    Beethovens non-creedal religion was based in
3. Ihn rhmt der Erdkreis, ihn preisen die Meere; Nature and in ethics. His Gellert songs were
Him extols the earth-round, him praise the seas; not written for liturgical worship services, but

!   
 ! .# % !# for amateur singers at home. They were a
4. Vernimm, o Mensch, ihr gttlich Wort! memorial to Countess Anna Margarete von
hear, o human, their divine word! Browne, who with her husband had been
Beethovens strong financial supporter. She
%! #!
# !   #"
! #
!
died unexpectedly on May 15, 1803; these
5. Wer trgt der Himmel unzhlbare Sterne?
Who carries the heavens uncountable stars? songs were published about three months later.
The style indication is Majesttisch und
%! (!#  )  " ! #"
# erhaben (majestic and solemn, or sublime). The
6. Wer fhrt die Sonn aus ihrem Zelt? time signature is alla breve, two beats to a mea-
Who leads the sun from its tent?
sure, and the tempo must not drag. The song
)  # #  - ## # '# "   
! demands long phrases; if possible, the first line
7. Sie kommt und leuchtet und lacht uns von ferne, of verse should be sung with a single breath.
It comes and shines and laughs to-us from far-away. Like most lieder composers, Beethoven
#  -#  %  "  
# expected singers to follow the dynamics in the
8. Und luft den Weg, gleich als ein Held. piano part. Both performers must understand
and runs the way same as a hero. that fortissimo means very strong. If they
Christian Frchtegott Gellert (17151769) take it to mean as loud as possible, the result
! "# ! # # 
!# will be too harsh. As the voice enters, the
dynamic drops to the same forte level as will be
Poetic Background used for the second phrase, Ihr Schall. . . The piano
May all humankind perceive the greatness of God as must be subordinate to the voice, especially when dou-
Nature shows it. A word for word translation of bling the same notes. As always in Classical style, use of
Gellerts title is The Honor of God from the Nature. the pedal should be minimal, but pedal use may be
The initial image comes from Psalm 19: The heavens implied by the portato articulation from m19 and at least
declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his through m26.
handywork (King James Version). Later the psalm says This song is not long, but Beethoven filled it with
that the sun. . . rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. grandeur and with surprises. Just after a wide leap in m4,
Beethoven set six of Gellerts odes to music, and even a diminuendo leads to an awesome hush on the word
more were composed by Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach Ehre. Modulations beginning in m11 depict the way the
and Johann Adam Hiller. This poem, the most famous of poet admires the earth, sea and starry sky in turn. As the
Gellerts odes, consisted of six four-line stanzas; the song tonic key returns in m29, the sun rises and fills the sky
uses only the first two. The odd numbered lines have with Gods light.
eleven syllables each, the alternating lines, eight. The power of Beethovens music has made this a con-
Line 2: fortpflanzen (literally, to plant forth) has sev- cert favorite in arrangements for mixed or male choruses.
eral meanings including to communicate.
Line 3: Erdkreis (literally, earth circle) means the Sources
whole round earth. Text: Geistliche Oden und Lieder, 1757. This version:
Line 4: Vernimm comes from vernehmen (to hear). Gellerts Dichtungen. Leipzig: Bibliographisches
Line 6: Zelt conveys two images: dwelling (in the Institut, 1891.
Bible tent is often synonymous with home) and Music, autograph lost. First edition: Sechs Lieder von
canopy. In German poetry the sky is often referred to Gellert, Opus 48, No. 4. Vienna: Artaria, August, 1803.
as a Zelt. Dedication to Count von Browne. Original key: C.
14 Gateway to German Lieder

Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur


C. F. Gellert Ludwig van Beethoven
(Range: C4 G5)
Majesttisch und erhaben 
a

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Die Him - mel rh - men des E - wi - gen Eh - re, ihr
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Schall pflanzt sei - nen Na - men fort. Ihn rhmt der Erd - kreis, ihn
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13
  
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prei - sen die Mee - re; ver - nimm, o Mensch, ihr gtt - lich Wort!

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a Majestic and solemn. Majesttisch, or in Italian maestoso, is a tempo between moderato and allegro, according to Muzio
Clementi, Introduction to the Art of Playing on the Pianoforte (London: Clementi et al., 1801, p. 13; reprint by Da Capo Press,
1974). Suggestion:  = ca. 66 M.M.


b The three grace notes are played quickly, beginning on the downbeat, that is, simultaneously with the lower notes of the chord
(Clementi, op. cit., page 10).

Translation: The heavens extol Gods honor; their sound communicates his name. The whole earth extols him and the
seas praise him; hear, o mankind, their divine word!
Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur 15
19

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Wer trgt der Him-mel un-zhl-ba-re Ster-ne?

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24

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Wer fhrt die Sonn aus ih - rem Zelt? Sie

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crescendo crescendo
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29
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kommt und leuch - tet und lacht uns von fer - ne, und luft den Weg, gleich als ein
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36
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Held, und luft den Weg, gleich als ein Held. $$ ++ 
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Who holds up the uncountable stars of the heavens? Who leads the sun forth from its dwelling? It comes and shines and
beams on us from afar and runs its course like a champion.