Oh! It’s over!

The audience jumps up, cheering, clapping, hugging friends, waving programs in the air. Explosive energies vibrate the floorboards and penetrate the stucco ceiling of Powell Hall in St. Louis, MO. Remembered strains from Beethoven’s Chorale Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (1824) still excite imaginations, while its German conductor Marcus Stenz, baton in hand, swings from the podium and moves offstage.

Eyes glisten, smiles ache, palms sting. Foot stamping adds to the pandemonium and again Stenz appears, honoring the four solicits, the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, and the principal chairs of the symphony. Then, he bows, still held captive by the audience, its din waxing and waning. No one wants to leave.

This almost two-hour-long cosmic drama has transported us from the pedestrian stuff of our lives to “the sparkle of God,” as evidenced in Schiller’s Ode to Joy (1785), some of which Beethoven wove into the final movement of this symphony. Perhaps his tortured spirit, plagued by decades of stomach disorders, of heavy drinking, of deafness, of inadequate funds, of difficult relationships found expression in his Chorale Symphony, thirty years in the making. Having sifted through the stuff of his life, he found deep Joy within. He was free.

The applause of that first audience stunned him to tears. He passed three years later.