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The Transfiguration of Ludwig von Beethoven

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From the album “The Transfigurations for guitar”:


The Transfiguration of Ludwig van Beethoven


Fugue (2:50)

Scherzo (3:40)

Cavatina (2:36)

Resurrectio (8:37)


Title: The Transfiguration

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven

Transcribed and performed by J.A. Creaghan


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We are told that in every culture with a claim to civilisation, an Esoteric Doctrine existed that taught of an Ageless Wisdom. Pythagoras termed the system the Gnosis or Knowledge of things. From the sages of India, through to the philosophers of Greece, and up to modern times, the threads of this Ageless Wisdom can be traced.

         In the Alice A. Bailey teachings, the last phase of the evolutionary process is covered by five great expansions of consciousness called initiations. Seen from the esoteric standpoint, the gospel is in fact the story of initiation, a story presented to humanity many times in different ways. These stages on the Way are both symbolic and actual, setting the guideposts for the spiritual journey of this five part experience.

         To the prophets of Israel, the five initiations of the Master Jesus were known as the Birth, Baptism, Transfiguration, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. The story of Christ’s birth at Bethlehem can find a parallel in practically all the lives of the great Messengers of God. In the Eastern teachings, the Buddhist “entering of the stream” parallels the “baptism in Jordan”, the “hut” initiation corresponds to the Transfiguration and the Crucifixion is called the Great Renunciation.

         At the Transfiguration, the stage upon the Path wherein the third initiation is undergone, Christ revealed the glory which is innate in all men. The triple lower nature-physical, emotional, and mental, represented by the three apostles, (and here by the three variations), are completely transcended and have become simply the forms through which spiritual love may flow into the world in the task of salvation.

         This work, THE TRANSFIGURATIONS, a reference to the third of these initiations, was inspired by the teachings of Alice A. Bailey, and is a homage to the great Masters of music in their own themes.

         “Before Thy Throne I Now Appear” BWV 668a is a transcription for guitar of J.S. Bach’s last composition, which was dictated to a copyist from his deathbed. It was appropriate that it was a Chorale Prelude, for the chorale and polyphony were the foundations of his art. It is a simple, perfectly balanced melody in common time whose theme is surrender, resignation and tranquility, representing perfection and mastery of the art of composition.

         The Theme for the Variations is from Beethoven’s piano sonata in E major op. 109. This sublime hymn with its sarabande-like rhythm is quoted completely; the only difference is now it is in the minor key to express a sense of Becoming.

         The Transfiguration of J.S. BACH begins with a Prealudium which is pedagogic at an elementary level, both as a study in harmonic progression and as a finger exercise recalling the broken chord preludes of the lutanists. The following Fuga is based on a theme which resembles the D# minor theme of the fugue from the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier BWV 870-93 and is an attempt to capture its liturgical and archaic qualities. The Crucifixus is the ground from the Crucifixus of the Mass in B BWV 232 and weaves around it melodic fragments from its Agnus Dei, as well as fragments from the arias Erbame Dich, and Aus Liebe from the St. Matthew Passion BWV 244. The Resurrectio is made up of three famous themes from the Cantatas: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Where Sheep May Safely Graze, and Sleeper’s Awake.

         It is said that Mozart underwent the transfiguration initiation when he was thirty years old. (Maitreya’s Mission Vol. 1&2 by Benjamin Crème, Tara Press). In this light, all the themes were chosen from the last five years of his life. In his letters, Mozart said that he was first and foremost an opera composer. The opening movement of The Transfiguration of Mozart is an Ouvertura, and is based on themes from Don Giovanni. The second movement is constructed out of the unfinished theme of the Lacrimosa from the Requiem K 626. The third movement is an abridgement of the famous Rondo for piano K 510 and the Resurrectio is an intabulation of the theme from the Ave Verum Corpus K 618.

         Ludwig von Beethoven was born a second degree initiate and took the third initiation at the age of forty. (Crème, ibid.). This sheds some interesting light on the following years of “non-productivity” from 1810 to 1817. The third initiation brings about the process of integrating body, soul, and spirit and is said to be an experience of “terrific voltage”. Again, in this light, with the exception of the Scherzo, which is representative of a formal innovation, all the themes chosen are from the latter part of Beethoven’s life, his so called third period.

         The opening Fugue in three voices is based on the theme from the first movement of the string quartet in C# minor op. 131; a work of unearthly depth, whose serenity, in Wagner’s words, “passes beyond beauty.” The Scherzo was introduced as a musical form by Beethoven to replace the Minuet. The distinguishing features are a lively tempo, rhythmic drive in a triple meter, and a certain abruptness using the elements of surprise and humour. The material used here comes from various scherzos by Beethoven. The third movement is an intabulation of the famous Cavatina from the string quartet in B flat major op. 130 and the Resurrectio is built out of the Arietta movement from the piano sonata in C minor op. 111.

         The Coda states the Theme from the Variations in its original form in the major key, back to its source as a song for Being – “the spirit that binds together noble and virtuous souls, a spirit that time cannot destroy.” – Beethoven.


July 1997, Edmonton, Andrew Creaghan

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