The ninth symphony, known as the choral symphony, is one of the world’s most famous works by the composer and musician Ludwig van Beethoven, at Argyll Rooms on 21 March 1825. Some specialists regarding it as the greatest piece of music ever written. Nevertheless, the artwork was considered a grave mistake in its time and Beethoven must amend it. What is the story of this symphony?

There is no doubt that the last movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony contains one of the most famous tunes ever written. Since its debut in 1824, “Ode to Joy” has been reused in countless ways, whether it shows on the Berlin Wall or in advertisements. The final movement of the symphony, which combines human voices with the orchestra, is based on the Friedrich Schiller poem ((Ode a die Freude)) written in 1786 that glorifies a universal idea about joy, peace and brotherhood against war and desperation.

Beethoven started to prepare his music as text in his late twenties, inspired by Napoleon. He was likely attracted to the tones of the revolutionary poem. Nevertheless, the Ninth Symphony isn’t from Beethoven’s youth, but rather a “late” work. After 12 years of his seventh and eighth symphonies (and three years before his death), Beethoven went through a lot of suffering in his life – not to mention losing his hearing – as his production decreased. Some of his works were not of high quality, in addition to his suffering to obtain custody rights of his nephew.

Why did Beethoven choose to prepare this text? Is it an expression of optimism or a sign of Beethoven’s acceptance of his fate and his reconciliation with life? Or is it an attempt to convey a message that everything fails to deliver except for music?

Image par cocoparisienne de Pixabay
Image par cocoparisienne de Pixabay

Annoying rip

After the strong questions posed by the final movement of this symphony, it was ironic that Beethoven thought at the time that he had made a mistake. After his first performance, he prepared brief alternatives to the poem. Indeed, it can be said that it is a category of music that should be above the things that can be expressed only with words, so adding lyrics in it was considered weak and a grave mistake. However, the biggest “mistake” may have been in not recognising its magnificence. In the last days of the so-called “classic” period, the symphony was usually about 30 minutes, yet Beethoven challenged audiences to remain attentive here for more than an hour tirelessly.

Besides, the orchestra had not reached its climax at the time, and the writing for wind instrument musicians, let alone loud sound lines, was beyond the reach of many. Although he was commissioned by the London Philharmonic Choir (against £ 50) to write the symphony in 1817, the first show was in Vienna on May 7, 1824.

The choir issued a statement insisting in which they insisted that the city to be the first to hear the new work, and even with many fans present, the performance was not that good as Beethoven did not hear the orchestra. And in London, one year after, The press greeted the Ninth Symphonie with hostility, and said that the deafness and ageing of the composer pushed him astray and led him to write this messy work.

London’s Harmonicon magazine described the symphony’s performance as “frightening” and undoubtedly “harshly testing the audience’s patience.” Some have said that the work can be abbreviated greatly and that it is stretched useless or justified, while the quarterly music magazine wrote a totally disapproving review saying it was an “unbridled frenzy of modern mania” in art.

More than a Final movement

But within a decade, opinions about the symphony began to change. Professional composers, – such as Berlioz,  Mendelssohn and Wagner – added the organisation to performance, so its length was not noticeable, and the melody became the most popular melody in the world. However, the ninth symphony, which consists of four different movements, has beauty and splendour that is not limited to the conclusion only.

The opening of the symphony is well-known for its strong main theme, which some have described as a blatant mystery. When this part returns later in the symphony, anger is unleashed, giving higher notes to the leading musical instruments of the orchestra and introducing the overall chromaticity of the movement. As usual in Beethoven’s music, the closing passage of the first movement is long and represents about a quarter of its length. One of the passages was considered a funeral procession. The slow movement usually follows a traditional symphony, but Beethoven instead provides us with a “Scherzo” (literally “joke” in Italian). Where initially, it appears that the broader strokes are counted in groups of four.

As the movement advanced, Beethoven played a small trick, and the tones now appear in three strikes. The next slow movement takes a “double” shape, in which two musical themes overlap in a constantly diverse form.

Thus, Beethoven offers a “prelude” to one of the colour shifts that will support an important and vital moment in the final movement. It is a unique movement, so its analysis is still going on yet. It begins with a strong repulsion (which Wagner described as a “sensation of terror”), and the listener receives a double performance, a first one by the orchestra, followed by solo singers and then by the choir (lyrical choir). Perhaps the most surprising variation of the ninth symphony is Turkish design, as the rhythm in it was played in a manner tending to make one think of the Ottoman army.

Beethoven added words to the same poem from his words saying in one of them: “He is behind the bright stars, he must certainly inhabit them.” As in Beethoven’s earlier great works, the ninth symphony’s words and melodies provide glimpses of the author’s human side.

« Such ihn überm Sternenzelt, Über Sternen muss er wohnen. »

However, the greatest thing in music (and this music in particular) is the “non-sustainable” nature of it, the continuity of change, the entry of effects and instruments, and then continuous renewal. It is just another symphony, but at the same time, Beethoven presented it as a separate entity, which continues to evolve in context and meaning as frequent generations can explore it. Whatever the message that the poem and Syphmony say – especially in “This Kiss for the Whole World” section – the symphony always advances beyond its deaf creator who dazzles the world.

« Diesen Kuss der Ganzen Welt »


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