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About Symphony No. 9 by Beethoven

Symphony No. 9: The Complete Expression of Enigmatic Talent

Overview

Symphony No. 9, Op. 125, also known as the Choral Symphony, was written in D Minor by Ludwig van Beethoven, a musical prodigy born in 1770 in Germany and passed away in 1827 in Austria after bridging the gap between Classical and Romantic eras with his music. Famous for its large scale final movement, this includes a combination of chorus and solo vocalists, who bring Friedrich Schiller’s “An die Freude” (Ode to Joy) to life. Accepted as his final symphony which saw completion, it premiered on May 1824, in Vienna.

The movements are as follows:

  • The starting movement is symbolic of the ever-prevalent martial courage. It does a good job at demonstrating a feel of the political scenario of the 1820s. Despite following the Classical style, the music rises to a rather loud climax and then takes time in getting back to the home key.
  • The second movement with its tremendous rustic energy, ascending with gradual pace, is a signature of Beethoven, and a very energetic and playful scherzo is the highlight of this movement.
  • The third movement demonstrates the calm and slow adagio, which is much akin to a prayer.
  • The final and most anticipated movement of Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Op. 125), creates a feeling of brotherhood and of humanity itself. A modest start grows into a magnificent final act and with the introduction of the “Ode to Joy” tune, the music takes up a sonata style.

More on Symphony No. 9

Widely regarded by experts and musical connoisseurs as the single biggest inspiration behind disciplined analysis of music, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony triumphantly exemplifies the concept of ordered structuring in the guise of turbulent brilliance. It has been considered by artists and the general public alike to be technically and lyrically unmatched and the creative mastery behind the music is a marvel among generations of musicians. 

The Symphony No. 9 premiere took place with the involvement of a grand and huge orchestra. This was bigger than any orchestra brought together in the master composer’s earlier works. In fact, the scale of preparation was so big that it was necessary for the Kärntnertor house orchestra and the Vienna Music Society, to combine their efforts and resources. It is well known that some of the best performers were there for the premiere. Henriette Sontag and Caroline Unger sang for the premiere, both patronized and recruited by Beethoven himself. 

There is a well discussed rumor that Beethoven was absolutely unaware of the scale and magnificence of the premiere and continued to conduct despite having finished the movements. Caroline Unger is credited to have held and turned Beethoven around to face and accept the audience’s applause. Such was the beauty behind the notes, that the audience appreciated the performance through standing ovations. Even though Beethoven couldn’t hear anything due to his deafness, he could see flying handkerchiefs and raised hats, as a testament to his greatness. 

In recent times, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 has gained a lot of publicity. The EU has established the Ode to Joy as their anthem. Additionally, it is also heard during New Year’s revelries, both in Europe and Japan. Historically, it was introduced in Japan at the time of the first World War by German prisoners of war. Also, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony’s 2nd movement is audible in the most complicated and depressing moments in Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) and the final movement is played in Peter Weir’s “Dead Poets Society”, released in 1989. 

 

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If you like to learn more about Beethoven who composed Symphony No. 9 please visit our "About Ludwig van Beethoven" page. 

    Piano sheet music of Ode to Joy from Symphony No. 9 in multi levels: