Heiliger Dankgesang (Beethoven)

Sincere thanks to Quartetto al Volo for this recording. For song description and sheet music, see below.

Description: “Heiliger Dankgesang,” is my choral adaptation of the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 132. Dedicated to Nicol Matt and the World Choir for Peace.

Lyrics (adapted from Psalm 116):

German: “Liebe erfüllt mich, weil mein Gott die Stimme meines Flehens erhört hat. Kehre zurück, meine Seele, in deine Ruh: denn mein Gott hat dir wohlgethan. Liebe erfüllt mich. O Freude, O Wonne, Die Sonne! O Freude, das ich am Leben bin. Liebe erfüllt mich.”

English translation: “I am filled with love, for my God has heard the voice of my supplication. Return, my soul, to your rest: for my God has made you well. I am filled with love. O Joy, O Bliss, the Sun! O Joy that I am alive. I am filled with love.”


In July 2019, I went to one of Julian Armour’s Music and Beyond concerts in Ottawa, where I first heard the Bennewitz Quartet play Beethoven’s stunningly beautiful “Heiliger Dankgesang” movement. I was transformed and at times I thought I could hear a choir singing in my head.

NB: Beethoven created this deeply personal music after surviving a serious illness and wrote these words on the score: “Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lydischen Tonart” (“Holy song of thanksgiving of a convalescent to the Deity, in the Lydian mode”).

Shortly after this concert, I travelled to Austria and Germany, where I had the honour of listening to Nicol Matt premiere my Ave Maria arrangement of a favourite Brahms Intermezzo with the Chamber Choir of Europe: https://youtu.be/z2nh40PPpu0?list=PL6F-ucaLKW-y0r3yI_lbbsi9bQJpUvuvV.

I then journeyed to one of the most remote areas of Europe, the Hebridean Island of Jura, where my ancestors come from, and I began the long process of adapting “Heiliger Dankgesang” for choir.

Many months later, in March 2020, I completed an SATB arrangement, and hoped that it could be premiered during the Beethoven 250 celebrations. I realized, however, that with the global pandemic, finding a mixed choir to sing a 15-minute choral work (either live or virtually) would be a very tall order indeed.

Hence, I re-scored the piece for TTBB and asked my “buddies” in Quartetto al Volo if they would give it a try. I’m grateful for this “demo recording” that these amateur singers in their late 60s were able to produce, as a “virtual choir.” And I hope that future years might bring the opportunity to hear a live, full-choir performance for the first time.

Other acknowledgements:

I would like to thank my singing friends in the Ottawa “Ad hoc Chorale” for testing out this piece in our informal workshops and Friederike Knabe for her suggestions on some of the German lyrics.

Special thanks go to Kathleen Allan and the Amadeus Choir of Greater Toronto for workshopping an early version of “Heiliger Dankgesang” at their special composer workshop in January 2020.

Sheet music (SATB div., TTBB): contact rain@magma.ca.