Beethoven's Greeting - Fantasy on the canon Freu' dich des Lebens

2008 marked the 400th anniversary of the 1608 founding of Quebec City in Canada. As part of the anniversary celebrations, the Band of Les Voltigeurs de Québec, an infantry regiment of the Canadian forces, commissioned two pieces from composer Philip Sparke for a concert and associated CD release; they were a Quebec folk song suite, Sounds of the Saint Lawrence, and this fantasy, based on the Beethoven canon:- Freu' dich des Lebens.

The history of the canon is a fascinating one. A German music teacher, writer, pianist and organist, Theodore Frederic Molt (who was, incidentally, a soldier in Napoleon’s army at the battle of Waterloo!) moved to Quebec in 1822. In 1825 he spent a year studying in Europe, during which time he visited Beethoven. A few days after this visit he wrote a letter to Beethoven, including a blank sheet on which he asked the composer to write “from his great soul a souvenir which shall remain for me in a distance of nearly 3000 miles (whither I am travelling again from here) an eternally precious document”

Beethoven complied and on 16 Dec 1825 (his 55th birthday) presented to Molt the canon Freu’ dich des Lebens. The manuscript is now in a Canadian collection.

Beethoven’s Greeting has a slow introduction based on the canon and this is followed by a lively Vivo which later serves as a descant to the canon which returns sung by the optional SATB choir.