By: Brad Kronen
A quality most Americans assume is a natural condition of life, akin to the assumption that breathing is an obvious and necessary aspect to being alive.
As I have aged, I can finally say I understand why we observe dates such as The 4th of July and Veteran’s Day. These legal holidays mean much more than just a day off from work or simply a heads up to get our banking done earlier than usual. I now realize we have set aside these days to commemorate Freedom.
And Freedom is an aspect to this modern American life most of us take for granted.
I like to equate the typical Freedom assuming American to those born under the sign of Sagittarius. Of the 12, Sagittarians are the children of bounty and having the freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want is of utmost importance to them.
Being ruled by the largest planet in our Solar System known as “The Great Benefic”, Jupiter, the typical Sag is born with an inherent sense of hardcore, fortune-showering Luck. For those Centaurs who didn’t feel too strongly about that last statement, allow me to re-describe that part of yourselves that is Jupiter aligned – most Sagittarians have an amazingly uncanny sense of being in the right place at the right time. So much so, the Sag presumes that problems, challenges, and obstacles in their lives will fix themselves and overall, everything will work out to their advantage in the bigger scheme of things.
Most Sagittarians only become fully aware of the dominant role freedom plays in their lives as well as their inherently fierce need of it usually when it is taken from them. It is when Freedom is noticeably absent or forcibly removed that the child of Jupiter will realize how unobstructed their lives have been, and will focus their energies on regaining whatever freedoms have been lost.
But what if that freedom is irretrievable?
For the Fire signs, especially the Sagittarius, when a core freedom is removed from their life with no option of it returning, the future becomes a very grim prospect to say the least.
Thus it was for Sagittarian Ludwig van Beethoven when he was made aware something was very, very wrong with his hearing at the age of 28.
There are not many individuals who in their own right are a historical “force” unto themselves. In my opinion, Beethoven is a force who single handedly changed the face of music as we know it. Upon his entrance onto the world stage in the late 18th century, anything deemed “music” would be forever changed by this cantankerous German who would lose the very facility needed to absorb and appreciate his musical creations that were like no other.
Few realize how close the world came to never being affected by that force which is the music of Beethoven when at the close of his Saturn Return, the Sagittarian had to fully grasp the reality that his freedom was being permanently altered.
A common tie amongst all Fire signs is a strong sense of self worth which is always accompanied with an equally strong sense of pride. For the young Beethoven, having to face the realization that his foundational ability to hear was compromised and seemed to be greatly diminishing with the passage of time was excruciating enough, but to have other people be made aware of his situation was simply unacceptable.
Next to Gemini, Sagittarius wins the prize for the sign naturally having the least amount of patience. Sags greatly dislike having to repeat themselves or re-explain any of their words. Imagine their temperament when the situation is reversed by constantly having to ask others to speak once more due to the inability to hear what was being said.
The Heiligenstadt Testament
By the age of 31, the maddening frustration and depletion of pride due to the constant need of having to ask others to repeat themselves, left Beethoven a surly, unapproachable recluse. Unlike a majority of composers who were able to write sublime creations of music but couldn’t necessarily play them, Beethoven made his living by being a virtuoso performer of his own works, and his time was highly in demand as one of the most skilled interpreters of the renowned composers of his day, such as Mozart and Haydn, etc. But there soon came a point when his growing loss of hearing made even playing works by Beethoven more and more difficult for Beethoven. After not being able to complete a performance of his own 5th Piano Concerto while playing the masterpiece in concert, the illustrious pianist vowed to never perform in public again
Seeing the severity of Beethoven’s situation, his doctors advised the composer and star performer to temporarily reside in the tiny Austrian village of Heiligenstadt, “Heaven’s Town”, a picturesque hamlet surrounded by pristine woodlands and babbling brooks as a last attempt for him to come to terms with his condition.
Beethoven acquiesed to this medical order because it was tacitly understood: He either accept the fact his freedom had greatly diminished and would never be regained once deafness had completely set in, or consciously opt to no longer function in the world and succumb to life ceasing to exist through his own doing.
Continue living in a world where one identified and initmately worked with sound, knowing the ability to hear would soon be completely absent during an age when the term “hearing impaired” and its accompanying accessories didn’t exist, or commit suicide – that was the question at hand for the music genius who hadn't even come remotely close to the pinnacle of his composing abilities in 1802.
While in Heiligenstadt, Beethoven grappled with Life, itself. We know the Sagittarian made a conscious choice to continue living with the full knowledge most of his freedoms would be lost through a letter the artistic great wrote to his brothers, Karl and Johan, which historians now call “The Heiligenstadt Testament”.
Besides lacking patience, another common trait amongst many Sagittarians is a dearth of tact. This is especially so for the Sag who needs to discuss things of a most serious nature. Rather than open with social niceties and small talk, The Heiligenstadt Testament begins from the first word with the most heart breaking of heart felt admissions – Beethoven accounting to his brothers for his asocial behavior, which the composer writes is diametrically different from his natural, Sagittarian self. The fire signed great goes so far to emphasize this point through the use of the phrase “fiery, active temperament”, as well as by using a word I have incorporated numerous times to describe the benevolence of Sagittarius’ planetary ruler, Jupiter, “goodwill”. The Heiligenstadt Testament opens with:
“Oh you men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn, or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me? You do not know the secret cause which makes me seem that way to you. From childhood on, my heart and soul have been full of the tender feeling of goodwill, and I was ever inclined to accomplish great things. But, think that for six years now I have been hopelessly afflicted, made worse by senseless physicians, from year to year deceived with hopes of improvement, finally compelled to face the prospect of a lasting malady (whose cure will take years or, perhaps, be impossible). Though born with a fiery, active temperament, even susceptible to the diversions of society, I was soon compelled to withdraw myself, to live life alone. If at times I tried to forget all this, oh how harshly I was I flung back by the doubly sad experience of my bad hearing. Yet it was impossible for me to say to people, “Speak louder, shout, for I am deaf.” Ah, how could I possibly admit an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than others, a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection, a perfection such as few in my profession enjoy or ever have enjoyed.–Oh I cannot do it; therefore forgive me when you see me draw back when I would have gladly mingled with you.”
In Astrology, Saturn returns to the same place in the sky as it was at the time of a person’s birth between the ages of 28-31 and is known as “The Saturn Return”. This is a time when we officially become adults through the workings of Saturn, the planet also known as “The Lord of Karma”. Governing over such traits as wisdom gained through Life’s Lessons learned the hard way, Saturn’s favorite learning tools, especially during its Return, are hardship, restriction, and loss. In The Heiligenstadt Testament, Beethoven readily admits at the start of his Saturn Return at the age of 28 how difficult his life has been, which even for Saturn, are imposed restrictions that are beyond extreme.
To me, Beethoven’s choice to continue making art in the face of what must have been unbearable loss is resolved through the use of one word – “philosopher”, the vocation of the evolved Sagittarian, whose ruling House, The 9th (we’ll be hearing that number again, believe me), is also categorized as “The House of Philosophy”.
“Forced to become a philosopher already in my twenty-eighth year, oh, it is not easy, and for the artist much more difficult than for anyone else.”
The Heiligenstadt Testament doesn’t end with Beethoven proposing false hopes that his hearing could very well return or even hinting at any “What if”s. By reaching near conclusion with the simple but immensely powerful phrase, “I am ready.” Beethoven’s decision to continue living, come what may, is marked with the kind of bravery befitting the most steadfast of Fire signs.
“Ah, it seemed to me impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me. So I endured this wretched existence – truly wretched for so susceptible a body, which can be thrown by a sudden change from the best condition to the very worst… Perhaps I shall get better, perhaps not; I am ready.”
At the time The Heiligenstadt Testament was written in October of 1802, Beethoven had only written 2 of his 9 Symphonies. He had yet to create his opus which would turn out to be the most famous and widely recognized symphony of all time, The 5th (astrological number referring to creative self expression), along with the piece that is the essence of Sagittarian Joy and Optimism, The 9th (Sagittarius’ number since they are the 9th sign of the Zodiac), as well as his opera which explicitly deals with the gamut of awareness and appreciation of Freedom itself, “Fidelio”.
Fidelio – Fully Appreciating Freedom
Almost 30 years exactly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1805, Beethoven wrote his one and only opera, “Fidelio”.
“The Prisoners’ Chorus” from Fidelio is a musical piece of deepest appreciation and heart felt thanks vocally expressed by those who are granted freedom after being imprisoned in a political environment of silenced repression and despotic tyranny. The title character, Fidelio, has been thrown in jail for his political convictions for many years as the opera opens. Upon learning there has been a mass pardon of all political prisoners, Fidelio’s wife, Leonora, ignores everyone’s warnings not to go to the institutional cage that has held Fidelio all this time, in order to avoid witnessing the difficult sights of men who have lived in the pain and squalor of indefinite incarceration. Remaining even more resolute in her convictions, Leonora dresses as a man, races to the prison, finds Fidelio in the dank darkness and assists him outside. Observing her undaunted actions, the rest of the prisoners follow the couple out into the light of day.
Beethoven begins “The Prisoner’s Chorus” distantly, slowly, and near silently, as if to mirror the movements of men whose sight and senses have not bore witness to actual sunlight in years and are painfully adjusting to this shocking change of atmosphere.
The adjustment is not long, however.
Just as when a Sagittarian gets excited, the voices of the chorus leap from near silence to a joyous booming crescendo as they sing “O Welche Lust!” “O What Joy!” The music is so full of overwhelmed happiness, it’s almost too much to bear. I can’t help but get choked with emotion every time I hear it, since the prisoners are expressing thanks with every ounce of their being for the freedom to simply walk in the light of day again.
The 9th Symphony – Theme Song & Battle Cry Of The Freedom Loving, Joy Filled Sagittarian
When Beethoven wrote “Fidelio” in 1805, most of his hearing was gone. When he completed his last symphony, the 9th, in 1824, the man was completely and utterly deaf. The 4th and final movement of the 9th Symphony, the “Ode To Joy”, is based on the poem “An Die Freude” “To Joy”, written by the great German poet and philosopher, Friedrich Schiller.
Juxtaposing what has been said so far about the positive traits which Sagittarians lack, of the 12, theirs is the sign whose forte lies in maintaining a positive frame of mind and projecting optimism, even when things are anything but sunshine and lollipopish.
Being Jupiter’s child of bounty, Sagittarius is the sign that's well versed in Joy itself.
The “Ode To Joy” is the musical and vocal essence of fiery optimism based on each of us having faith in ourselves and in the good things in life which we all should rightfully receive. The piece literally is unadulterated and uncontained Sagittarian joy and hope for the future. Yours truly has sung this piece in concert with full chorus and orchestra and it is indescribable to explain how moving this music is. While in the midst of singing the 9th, I felt I was in a massive wave of vocal sound and tears began to involuntarily stream down my face, the force of joyful optimism was that palpable.
The motion picture “Immortal Beloved” traces the life of Beethoven, played by Gary Oldman. One of the most poignant scenes in the film depicts the premiere performance of The 9th Symphony in Vienna on May 7th, 1824, and is based on the legendary retelling of what occurred that night over the course of that musically historical momentous event.
When the final note of the astounding work finishes playing, Beethoven, who co-conducted the piece that evening, stands with his back to the audience, still lost in thought. He is startled into reality, however, when the mezzo soloist approaches the composer while openly weeping and forcibly turns his body around to see the audience on their feet and cheering wildly with ecstatic applause.
None of which the man who changed the face of music could hear.
Over a short window of time, The 9th Symphony and its Ode To Joy became an anthem around the globe for Universal brotherhood and goodwill towards all men. So much so, when the Berlin Wall fell in the autumn of 1989, there immediately followed a full choral and orchestral performance of Beethoven’s 9th conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Realizing how momentous this performance would be for both Germany and the entire world, Bernstein actually dared to change the words of the piece in honor of Freedom.
For just that one occasion which marked the return of Freedom, Bernstein replaced the German word for Joy, “Freude”, with the German word for Freedom, “Freiheit” and called that particular performance “The Ode To Freedom”.
Happy Independence Day! May listening to the inspirational music of this freedom loving, German Sagittarian ignite in all of us the deepest of thanks to live in a country illuminated with the freedom to be, say, and do whatever we please and an even deeper appreciation for those who defend it.
*Please see the attached video of a live performance of The Prisoner’s Chorus from Beethoven’s Fidelio from the Vienna Staatsoper in 1978.
*Chorus of Prisoners from “Fidelio” (German lyrics followed by English translation)
By Ludwig van Beethoven
CHOR DER GEFANGENEN
O Welche Lust, in Freier Luft
Den Atem leicht zu heben!
Nur hier, nur hier ist Leben!
Der Kerker eine Gruft.
Wir wollen mit Vertrauen
Auf Gottes Hilfe bauen!
Die Hoffnung flüstert sanft mir zu:
Wir werden frei, wir finden Ruh
O Himmel! Rettung! Welch ein Glück!
O Freiheit! Kehrst du zurück?
CHORUS OF PRISONERS
Oh what joy, in the open air
Freely to breathe again!
Up here alone is life!
The dungeon is a grave.
We shall with all our faith
Trust in the help of God!
Hope whispers softly in my ears!
We shall be free, we shall find peace.
ALL THE OTHERS
Oh Heaven! Salvation! Happiness!
Oh Freedom! Will you be given us?
Ode To Joy, 4th Movement of The 9th Symphony
By Ludwig van Beethoven
Words by Friedrich Schiller (English Translation)
O friends, no more these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
more full of joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join in our song of praise;
But any who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.
All creatures drink of joy
At nature’s breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift;
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can feel contentment,
And the cherub stands before God!
Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He set on their courses
Through the splendor of the firmament;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
As a hero going to conquest.
You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.
Do you fall in worship, you millions?
World, do you know your creator?
Seek him in the heavens;
Above the stars must He dwell.