Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)

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Symphony No. 9
by Ludwig van Beethoven
Ninth Symphony original.png
A page (leaf 12 recto) from Beethoven's manuscript
Key D minor
Opus 125
Period Classical
Genre Choral symphony
Text Friedrich Schiller's "Ode to Joy"
Durationabout 70 minutes
Scoring Orchestra with SATB chorus and soloists
DateMay 7, 1824 (1824-05-07)
Location Theater am Kärntnertor, Vienna
Conductor Michael Umlauf and Ludwig van Beethoven
PerformersKärntnertor house orchestra, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde with soloists: Henriette Sontag (soprano), Caroline Unger (alto), Anton Haizinger (tenor), and Joseph Seipelt (bass)

The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, also known as Beethoven's 9th, is the final complete symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, composed between 1822 and 1824. It was first performed in Vienna on 7 May 1824. One of the best-known works in common practice music, [1] it is regarded by many critics and musicologists as one of Beethoven's greatest works and one of the supreme achievements in the history of western music. [1] [2] In the 2010s, it stands as one of the most performed symphonies in the world. [3] [4]

D minor minor key with a single-flat key signature

D minor is a minor scale based on D, consisting of the pitches D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. Its key signature has one flat. Its relative major is F major and its parallel major is D major.

In musical composition, the opus number is the "work number" that is assigned to a composition, or to a set of compositions, to indicate the chronological order of the composer's production. Opus numbers are used to distinguish among compositions with similar titles; the word is abbreviated as "Op." for a single work, or "Opp." when referring to more than one work.

Ludwig van Beethoven 18th and 19th-century German classical and romantic composer

Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the classical and romantic eras in classical music, he remains one of the most recognized and influential musicians of this period, and is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time.


The symphony was the first example of a major composer using voices in a symphony [5] (thus making it a choral symphony). The words are sung during the final (4th) movement of the symphony by four vocal soloists and a chorus. They were taken from the "Ode to Joy", a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with text additions made by Beethoven.

Choral symphony musical composition for orchestra and choir

A choral symphony is a musical composition for orchestra, choir, and sometimes solo vocalists that, in its internal workings and overall musical architecture, adheres broadly to symphonic musical form. The term "choral symphony" in this context was coined by Hector Berlioz when he described his Roméo et Juliette as such in his five-paragraph introduction to that work. The direct antecedent for the choral symphony is Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Beethoven's Ninth incorporates part of the Ode an die Freude, a poem by Friedrich Schiller, with text sung by soloists and chorus in the last movement. It is the first example of a major composer's use of the human voice on the same level as instruments in a symphony.

Choir Ensemble of singers

A choir is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform. Choirs may perform music from the classical music repertoire, which spans from the medieval era to the present, or popular music repertoire. Most choirs are led by a conductor, who leads the performances with arm and face gestures.

Ode to Joy ode by Schiller

"Ode to Joy", is an ode written in the summer of 1785 by German poet, playwright, and historian Friedrich Schiller and published the following year in Thalia. A slightly revised version appeared in 1808, changing two lines of the first and omitting the last stanza.

In 2001, Beethoven's original, hand-written manuscript of the score, held by the Berlin State Library, was added to the United Nations Memory of the World Programme Heritage list, becoming the first musical score so designated. [6]

Berlin State Library state library in Germany

The Berlin State Library is a universal library in Berlin, Germany and a property of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. It is one of the largest libraries in Europe, and one of the most important academic research libraries in the German-speaking world. It collects texts, media and cultural works from all fields in all languages, from all time periods and all countries of the world, which are of interest for academic and research purposes. Some famous items in its collection include the oldest biblical illustrations in the fifth-century Quedlinburg Itala fragment, a Gutenberg Bible, the main autograph collection of Goethe, the world's largest collection of Johann Sebastian Bach's and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's manuscripts, and the original score of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization tasked with maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international co-operation, and being a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. It was established after World War II, with the aim of preventing future wars, and succeeded the ineffective League of Nations. Its headquarters, which are subject to extraterritoriality, are in Manhattan, New York City, and it has other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193.

Memory of the World Programme documentary heritage of worldwide importance, initiative launched by UNESCO

UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme is an international initiative launched to safeguard the documentary heritage of humanity against collective amnesia, neglect, the ravages of time and climatic conditions, and wilful and deliberate destruction. It calls for the preservation of valuable archival holdings, library collections and private individual compendia all over the world for posterity, the reconstitution of dispersed or displaced documentary heritage, and the increased accessibility to and dissemination of these items.


Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven in 1820. Beethoven was almost totally deaf when he composed his Ninth Symphony. Beethoven.jpg
Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven in 1820. Beethoven was almost totally deaf when he composed his Ninth Symphony.


The Philharmonic Society of London originally commissioned the symphony in 1817. [7] The main composition work was done between autumn 1822 and the completion of the autograph in February 1824. [8] The symphony emerged from other pieces by Beethoven that, while completed works in their own right, are also in some sense "sketches" (rough outlines) for the future symphony. The Choral Fantasy Opus. 80 (1808), basically a piano concerto movement, brings in a choir and vocal soloists near the end for the climax. The vocal forces sing a theme first played instrumentally, and this theme is reminiscent of the corresponding theme in the Ninth Symphony (for a detailed comparison, see Choral Fantasy).

Piano concerto musical composition for piano and orchestra

A piano concerto is a type of concerto, a solo composition in the Classical music genre which is composed for a piano player, which is typically accompanied by an orchestra or other large ensemble. Piano concertos are typically virtuoso showpieces which require an advanced level of technique on the instrument, including melodic lines interspersed with rapid scales, arpeggios, chords, complex contrapuntal parts and other challenging material. When piano concertos are performed by a professional concert pianist, a large grand piano is almost always used, as the grand piano has a fuller tone and more projection than an upright piano. Piano concertos are typically written out in music notation, including sheet music for the pianist, orchestra parts for the orchestra members, and a full score for the conductor, who leads the orchestra in the accompaniment of the soloist.

Choral Fantasy (Beethoven) composition for piano, vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra by Ludwig van Beethoven

The Fantasy (Fantasia) for piano, vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra, Op. 80, usually called the Choral Fantasy, was composed in 1808 by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Going further back, an earlier version of the Choral Fantasy theme is found in the song "Gegenliebe" (Returned Love) for piano and high voice, which dates from before 1795. [9] According to Robert W. Gutman, Mozart's K. 222 Offertory in D minor, "Misericordias Domini", written in 1775, contains a melody that foreshadows "Ode to Joy". [10]


Although his major works had primarily been premiered in Vienna, Beethoven was keen to have his latest composition performed in Berlin as soon as possible after finishing it, as he thought that musical taste in Vienna had become dominated by Italian composers such as Rossini. [11] When his friends and financiers heard this, they urged him to premiere the symphony in Vienna in the form of a petition signed by a number of prominent Viennese music patrons and performers. [11]

Gioachino Rossini 19th-century Italian opera composer

Gioachino Antonio Rossini was an Italian composer who gained fame for his 39 operas, although he also wrote many songs, some chamber music and piano pieces, and some sacred music. He set new standards for both comic and serious opera before retiring from large-scale composition while still in his thirties, at the height of his popularity.

The Theater am Karntnertor in 1830 Karntnertortheater 1830.jpg
The Theater am Kärntnertor in 1830

Beethoven was flattered by the adoration of Vienna, so the Ninth Symphony was premiered on 7 May 1824 in the Theater am Kärntnertor in Vienna along with the overture The Consecration of the House (Die Weihe des Hauses) and three parts of the Missa solemnis (the Kyrie, Credo, and Agnus Dei). This was the composer's first onstage appearance in 12 years; the hall was packed with an eager audience and a number of musicians. [12]

The premiere of Symphony No. 9 involved the largest orchestra ever assembled by Beethoven [12] and required the combined efforts of the Kärntnertor house orchestra, the Vienna Music Society (Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde), and a select group of capable amateurs. While no complete list of premiere performers exists, many of Vienna's most elite performers are known to have participated. [13]

The soprano and alto parts were sung by two famous young singers: Henriette Sontag and Caroline Unger. German soprano Henriette Sontag was 18 years old when Beethoven personally recruited her to perform in the premiere of the Ninth. [14] [15] Also personally recruited by Beethoven, 20-year-old contralto Caroline Unger, a native of Vienna, had gained critical praise in 1821 appearing in Rossini's Tancredi . After performing in Beethoven's 1824 premiere, Unger then found fame in Italy and Paris. Italian composers Donizetti and Bellini were known to have written roles specifically for her voice. [16] Anton Haizinger and Joseph Seipelt sang the tenor and bass parts, respectively.

Caroline Unger, who sang the contralto part at the first performance and is credited with turning Beethoven to face the applauding audience. CarolineUngher.jpg
Caroline Unger, who sang the contralto part at the first performance and is credited with turning Beethoven to face the applauding audience.

Although the performance was officially directed by Michael Umlauf, the theatre's Kapellmeister, Beethoven shared the stage with him. However, two years earlier, Umlauf had watched as the composer's attempt to conduct a dress rehearsal of his opera Fidelio ended in disaster. So this time, he instructed the singers and musicians to ignore the almost totally deaf Beethoven. At the beginning of every part, Beethoven, who sat by the stage, gave the tempos. He was turning the pages of his score and beating time for an orchestra he could not hear.

There are a number of anecdotes about the premiere of the Ninth. Based on the testimony of the participants, there are suggestions that it was underrehearsed (there were only two full rehearsals) and rather scrappy in execution.[ citation needed ] On the other hand, the premiere was a great success. In any case, Beethoven was not to blame, as violinist Joseph Böhm recalled:

Beethoven himself conducted, that is, he stood in front of a conductor's stand and threw himself back and forth like a madman. At one moment he stretched to his full height, at the next he crouched down to the floor, he flailed about with his hands and feet as though he wanted to play all the instruments and sing all the chorus parts. – The actual direction was in [Louis] Duport's [n 1] hands; we musicians followed his baton only. [17]

When the audience applauded—testimonies differ over whether at the end of the scherzo or symphony—Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting. Because of that, the contralto Caroline Unger walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience's cheers and applause. According to the critic for the Theater-Zeitung, "the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them." [18] The audience acclaimed him through standing ovations five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven, who could not hear the applause, could at least see the ovations.[ citation needed ]


The first German edition was printed by B. Schott's Söhne (Mainz) in 1826. The Breitkopf & Härtel edition dating from 1864 has been used widely by orchestras. [19] In 1997, Bärenreiter published an edition by Jonathan Del Mar. [20] According to Del Mar, this edition corrects nearly 3,000 mistakes in the Breitkopf edition, some of which were "remarkable". [21] David Levy, however, criticized this edition, saying that it could create "quite possibly false" traditions. [22] Breitkopf also published a new edition by Peter Hauschild in 2005. [23]


The symphony is scored for the following orchestra. These are by far the largest forces needed for any Beethoven symphony; at the premiere, Beethoven augmented them further by assigning two players to each wind part. [24]


The symphony is in four movements. The structure of each movement is as follows: [25]

Tempo markingMeterKey
Movement I
Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg = 882
Movement II
Molto vivace Figure rythmique blanche hampe haut.svg . = 1163
Presto Figure rythmique ronde.svg = 1162
Molto vivace3
Movement III
Adagio molto e cantabile Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg = 604
Andante moderato Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg = 633
Tempo I 4
Andante moderato3
Lo stesso tempo 12
Movement IV
Presto Figure rythmique blanche hampe haut.svg . = 663
Allegro assai Figure rythmique blanche hampe haut.svg = 804
Presto ("O Freunde")3
Allegro assai ("Freude, schöner Götterfunken")4
Alla marcia; Allegro assai vivace Figure rythmique blanche hampe haut.svg . = 84 ("Froh, wie seine Sonnen")6
Andante maestoso Figure rythmique blanche hampe haut.svg = 72 ("Seid umschlungen, Millionen!")3
Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato Figure rythmique blanche hampe haut.svg . = 84

("Freude, schöner Götterfunken" – "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!")

Allegro ma non tanto Figure rythmique blanche hampe haut.svg = 120 ("Freude, Tochter aus Elysium!")2
Prestissimo Figure rythmique blanche hampe haut.svg = 132 ("Seid umschlungen, Millionen!")2

Beethoven changes the usual pattern of Classical symphonies in placing the scherzo movement before the slow movement (in symphonies, slow movements are usually placed before scherzi). [26] This was the first time he did this in a symphony, although he had done so in some previous works, including the String Quartet Op. 18 no. 5, the "Archduke" piano trio Op. 97, the Hammerklavier piano sonata Op. 106. Haydn, too, had used this arrangement in a number of his own works such as the String Quartet No. 30 in E major.

I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso

The first movement is in sonata form without an exposition repeat. It begins with open fifths (A and E) played pianissimo by tremolo strings, steadily building up until the first main theme in D minor at m. 17. [27]

Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)

The opening, with its perfect fifth quietly emerging, resembles the sound of an orchestra tuning up. [28]

At the outset of the recapitulation (which repeats the main melodic themes) in m. 301, the theme returns, this time played fortissimo and in D major, rather than D minor. The movement ends with a massive coda that takes up nearly a quarter of the movement, as in Beethoven's Third and Fifth Symphonies. [29]

A typical performance lasts about 15 minutes.

II. Molto vivace

The second movement is a scherzo and trio. Like the first movement, the scherzo is in D minor, with the introduction bearing a passing resemblance to the opening theme of the first movement, a pattern also found in the Hammerklavier piano sonata, written a few years earlier. At times during the piece, Beethoven specifies one downbeat every three measures—perhaps because of the fast tempo—with the direction ritmo di tre battute (rhythm of three beats) and one beat every four measures with the direction ritmo di quattro battute (rhythm of four beats). Beethoven had been criticized before for failing to adhere to standard Classical form for his compositions. He used this movement to answer his critics.[ citation needed ] Normally, a scherzo is in triple time. Beethoven wrote this piece in triple time but punctuated it in a way that, when coupled with the tempo, makes it sound as if it is in quadruple time.

While adhering to the standard compound ternary design (three-part structure) of a dance movement (scherzo-trio-scherzo or minuet-trio-minuet), the scherzo section has an elaborate internal structure; it is a complete sonata form. Within this sonata form, the first group of the exposition (the statement of the main melodic themes) starts out with a fugue in D minor on the subject below.

Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)

For the second subject, it modulates to the unusual key of C major. The exposition then repeats before a short development section, where Beethoven explores other ideas. The recapitulation (repeating of the melodic themes heard in the opening of the movement) further develops the exposition's themes, also containing timpani solos. A new development section leads to the repeat of the recapitulation, and the scherzo concludes with a brief codetta.

The contrasting trio section is in D major and in duple time. The trio is the first time the trombones play. Following the trio, the second occurrence of the scherzo, unlike the first, plays through without any repetition, after which there is a brief reprise of the trio, and the movement ends with an abrupt coda.

The duration of the movement is about 12 minutes, but this may vary depending on whether two (frequently omitted) repeats are played.

III. Adagio molto e cantabile

The third movement is a lyrical, slow movement in B major – a minor sixth away from the symphony's main key of D minor. It is in a double variation form, with each pair of variations progressively elaborating the rhythm and melodic ideas. The first variation, like the theme, is in 4
time, the second in 12
. The variations are separated by passages in 3
, the first in D major, the second in G major, the third in E major, the fourth in F major, and the fifth in B major. The final variation is twice interrupted by episodes in which loud fanfares from the full orchestra are answered by octaves by the first violins. A prominent French horn solo is assigned to the fourth player.

A typical performance lasts about 16 minutes.

IV. Finale

The choral finale is Beethoven's musical representation of universal brotherhood based on the 'Ode to Joy' theme and is in theme and variations form.

Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)

The movement starts with an introduction in which musical material from each of the preceding three movements – though none are literal quotations of previous music [30] – are successively presented and then dismissed by instrumental recitatives played by the low strings. Following this, the 'Ode to Joy' theme is finally introduced by the cellos and double basses. After three instrumental variations on this theme, the human voice is presented for the first time in the symphony by the baritone soloist, who sings words written by Beethoven himself: ''O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!' Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen, und freudenvollere.'' ("Oh friends, not these sounds! Let us instead strike up more pleasing and more joyful ones!").

Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)

At about 24 minutes in length, the last movement is the longest of the four movements. Indeed, it is longer than some entire symphonies of the Classical era. Its form has been disputed by musicologists, as Nicholas Cook explains:

Beethoven had difficulty describing the finale himself; in letters to publishers, he said that it was like his Choral Fantasy, Op. 80, only on a much grander scale. We might call it a cantata constructed round a series of variations on the 'Joy' theme. But this is rather a loose formulation, at least by comparison with the way in which many twentieth-century critics have tried to codify the movement's form. Thus there have been interminable arguments as to whether it should be seen as a kind of sonata form (with the 'Turkish' music of bar 331, which is in B major, functioning as a kind of second group), or a kind of concerto form (with bars 1–207 and 208–330 together making up a double exposition), or even a conflation of four symphonic movements into one (with bars 331–594 representing a Scherzo, and bars 595–654 a slow movement). The reason these arguments are interminable is that each interpretation contributes something to the understanding of the movement, but does not represent the whole story. [31]

Cook gives the following table describing the form of the movement: [32]

11 [n 2] dIntroduction with instrumental recitative and review of movements 1–3
9292D'Joy' theme
116116'Joy' variation 1
140140'Joy' variation 2
164164'Joy' variation 3, with extension
2081dIntroduction with vocal recitative
2414DV.1'Joy' variation 4
26933V.2'Joy' variation 5
29761V.3'Joy' variation 6, with extension providing transition to
3311BIntroduction to
34313'Joy' variation 7 ('Turkish march')
37545C.4'Joy' variation 8, with extension
431101 Fugato episode based on 'Joy' theme
543213DV.1'Joy' variation 9
5951GC.1Episode: 'Seid umschlungen'
62776gC.3Episode: 'Ihr stürzt nieder'
6551DV.1, C.3 Double fugue (based on 'Joy' and 'Seid umschlungen' themes)
73076C.3Episode: 'Ihr stürzt nieder'
7631DV.1 Coda figure 1 (based on 'Joy' theme)
83270 Cadenza
8511DC.1Coda figure 2
92070Coda figure 3 (based on 'Joy' theme)

In line with Cook's remarks, Charles Rosen characterizes the final movement as a symphony within a symphony, played without interruption. [33] This "inner symphony" follows the same overall pattern as the Ninth Symphony as a whole:

The movement has a thematic unity in which every part is based on either the main theme, the "Seid umschlungen" theme, or some combination of the two.[ citation needed ] Indeed, Rosen also notes that the movement can also be analysed as a set of variations and simultaneously as a concerto sonata form with double exposition (with the fugato acting both as a development section and the second tutti of the concerto). [33]

Text of the fourth movement

The text is largely taken from Schiller's "Ode to Joy", with a few additional introductory words written specifically by Beethoven (shown in italics). [34] The text, without repeats, is shown below, with a translation into English. [35] The score includes many repeats. For the full libretto, including all repetitions, see German Wikisource. [36]

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen,
und freudenvollere.

Oh friends, not these sounds!
Let us instead strike up more pleasing
and more joyful ones!



Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!
Deine Zauber binden wieder
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

Joy, beautiful spark of divinity,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, burning with fervour,
heavenly being, your sanctuary!
Your magic brings together
what custom has sternly divided.
All men shall become brothers,
wherever your gentle wings hover.

Wem der große Wurf gelungen,
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein;
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,
Mische seinen Jubel ein!
Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Und wer's nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!

Whoever has been lucky enough
to become a friend to a friend,
Whoever has found a beloved wife,
let him join our songs of praise!
Yes, and anyone who can call one soul
his own on this earth!
Any who cannot, let them slink away
from this gathering in tears!

Freude trinken alle Wesen
An den Brüsten der Natur;
Alle Guten, alle Bösen
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Küsse gab sie uns und Reben,
Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.

Every creature drinks in joy
at nature's breast;
Good and Evil alike
follow her trail of roses.
She gives us kisses and wine,
a true friend, even in death;
Even the worm was given desire,
and the cherub stands before God.

Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt'gen Plan,
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.

Gladly, just as His suns hurtle
through the glorious universe,
So you, brothers, should run your course,
joyfully, like a conquering hero.

Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, über'm Sternenzelt
Muß ein lieber Vater wohnen.

Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such' ihn über'm Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muß er wohnen.

Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss is for the whole world!
Brothers, above the canopy of stars
must dwell a loving father.

Do you bow down before Him, you millions?
Do you sense your Creator, O world?
Seek Him above the canopy of stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.

Towards the end of the movement, the choir sings the last four lines of the main theme, concluding with "Alle Menschen" before the soloists sing for one last time the song of joy at a slower tempo. The chorus repeats parts of "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!", then quietly sings, "Tochter aus Elysium", and finally, "Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Götterfunken!". [36]


Music critics almost universally consider the Ninth Symphony one of Beethoven's greatest works, and among the greatest musical works ever written. [1] [2] The finale, however, has had its detractors: "[e]arly critics rejected [the finale] as cryptic and eccentric, the product of a deaf and aging composer." [1] Verdi admired the first three movements but lamented the confused structure and the bad writing for the voices in the last movement:

The alpha and omega is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, marvelous in the first three movements, very badly set in the last. No one will ever approach the sublimity of the first movement, but it will be an easy task to write as badly for voices as in the last movement. And supported by the authority of Beethoven, they will all shout: "That's the way to do it... [37]

Giuseppe Verdi, 1878

Performance challenges

Handwritten page of the fourth movement Beethoven Ninth Symphony.png
Handwritten page of the fourth movement

Metronome markings

Conductors in the historically informed performance movement, notably Roger Norrington, [38] have used Beethoven's suggested tempos, to mixed reviews. Benjamin Zander has made a case for following Beethoven's metronome markings, both in writing [21] and in performances with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra of London. [39] [40] While one account holds that Beethoven's metronome still exists and was tested and found accurate, [41] a 2013 mathematics paper finds that his metronome was likely damaged and out of calibration. [42] Some hold Beethoven's markings to be accurate if interpreted metrically, i.e. in relation to the indicated note values halved. They take this interpretation to be the standard also for Beethoven's contemporaries. [43]

Re-orchestrations and alterations

A number of conductors have made alterations in the instrumentation of the symphony. Notably, Richard Wagner doubled many woodwind passages, a modification greatly extended by Gustav Mahler, [44] who revised the orchestration of the Ninth to make it sound like what he believed Beethoven would have wanted if given a modern orchestra. [45] Wagner's Dresden performance of 1864 was the first to place the chorus and the solo singers behind the orchestra as has since become standard; previous conductors placed them between the orchestra and the audience. [44]

2nd bassoon doubling basses in the finale

Beethoven's indication that the 2nd bassoon should double the basses in measures 115–164 of the finale was not included in the Breitkopf & Härtel parts, though it was included in the full score. [46]

Ino Savini conducting the Ninth Symphony at the Rivoli Theatre in Porto, Portugal (1955) Ino Savini (Porto 25-05-1955) dirige L. v. Beethoven Sinfonia N.9.jpg
Ino Savini conducting the Ninth Symphony at the Rivoli Theatre in Porto, Portugal (1955)

Notable performances and recordings

The British premiere of the symphony was presented on 21 March 1825 by its commissioners, the Philharmonic Society of London, at its Argyll Rooms conducted by Sir George Smart and with the choral part sung in Italian. The American premiere was presented on 20 May 1846 by the newly formed New York Philharmonic at Castle Garden (in an attempt to raise funds for a new concert hall), conducted by the English-born George Loder, with the choral part translated into English for the first time.

Richard Wagner conducted the symphony many times in his career. His last performance took place in 1872 at a concert to mark the foundation stone for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. Wagner later published an essay entitled "The rendering of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony" in which he described the changes he made to the orchestration (see above) for the 1872 performance. [47]

The London Philharmonic Choir debuted on 15 May 1947 performing the Ninth Symphony with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Victor de Sabata at the Royal Albert Hall. [48] In 1951, Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra reopened the Bayreuth Festival with a performance of the symphony, after the Allies temporarily suspended the Festival following the Second World War. [49] [50]

American conductor Leonard Bernstein made his first of three recordings of the Beethoven Ninth in 1964 with the New York Philharmonic, for Columbia Masterworks, with soloists Martina Arroyo (soprano), Regina Sarfaty (mezzo), Nicholas di Virgilio (tenor), Norman Scott (bass), and the Juilliard Chorus. It was later reissued on CD.

Bernstein made his second recording of the piece with the Vienna Philharmonic for Deutsche Grammophon, in 1979. This featured Gwyneth Jones (soprano), Hanna Schwarz (mezzo), René Kollo (tenor), and Kurt Moll (bass), with the chorus of the Vienna State Opera. [51]

Bernstein conducted a version of the Ninth at the Schauspielhaus in East Berlin, with Freiheit (Freedom) replacing Freude (Joy), to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall during Christmas 1989. [52] This concert was performed by an orchestra and chorus made up of many nationalities: from both Germanies, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the Chorus of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, and members of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, the Philharmonischer Kinderchor Dresden; from the Soviet Union, members of the orchestra of the Kirov Theatre; from the United Kingdom, members of the London Symphony Orchestra; from the US, members of the New York Philharmonic; and from France, members of the Orchestre de Paris. Soloists were June Anderson, soprano, Sarah Walker, mezzo-soprano, Klaus König, tenor, and Jan-Hendrik Rootering, bass. [53] It was the last time that Bernstein conducted the symphony; he died ten months later.

Sir Georg Solti recorded the symphony with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Chorus on two occasions: first in 1972 with soloists Pilar Lorengar, Yvonne Minton, Stuart Burrows, and Martti Talvela; and again in 1986 with soloists Jessye Norman, Reinhild Runkel, Robert Schunk, and Hans Sotin. On both occasions, the chorus was prepared by Margaret Hillis. The second recording won the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance. [54]

The BBC Proms Youth Choir performed the piece alongside Sir Georg Solti's UNESCO World Orchestra for Peace at the Royal Albert Hall during the 2018 Proms at Prom 9, titled "War & Peace" as a commemoration to the centenary of the end of World War One. [55]

There have been various attempts to record the Ninth to come closer to what Beethoven's contemporaries would have heard, i.e., with period instruments:

At 79 minutes, one of the longest Ninths recorded is Karl Böhm's, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in 1981 with Jessye Norman and Plácido Domingo among the soloists. [57]


Plate installed at Building Ungargasse No. 5. It says: "In this house Ludwig van Beethoven finished his Symphony No. 9 during winter 1823/24. In memorial of the centenary of the world premiere on May 7, 1824 the plate was dedicated to the master and his work by the Wiener Schubertbund on May 7, 1924." Haus-UngargasseNr5-Tafel2.jpg
Plate installed at Building Ungargasse No. 5. It says: "In this house Ludwig van Beethoven finished his Symphony No. 9 during winter 1823/24. In memorial of the centenary of the world premiere on May 7, 1824 the plate was dedicated to the master and his work by the Wiener Schubertbund on May 7, 1924."

Many later composers of the Romantic period and beyond were influenced by the Ninth Symphony.

An important theme in the finale of Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C minor is related to the "Ode to Joy" theme from the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. When this was pointed out to Brahms, he is reputed to have retorted "Any fool can see that!" Brahms's first symphony was, at times, both praised and derided as "Beethoven's Tenth". [58]

The Ninth Symphony influenced the forms that Anton Bruckner used for the movements of his symphonies. His Symphony No. 3 is in the same D-minor key as Beethoven's 9th and makes substantial use of thematic ideas from it. The colossal slow movement of Bruckner's Symphony No. 7, "as usual", takes the same A–B–A–B–A form as the 3rd movement of Beethoven's symphony and also uses some figuration from it. [59]

In the opening notes of the third movement of his Symphony No. 9 (From the New World), Antonín Dvořák pays homage to the scherzo of this symphony with his falling fourths and timpani strokes. [60]

Likewise, Béla Bartók borrows the opening motif of the scherzo from Beethoven's Ninth symphony to introduce the second movement scherzo in his own Four Orchestral Pieces, Op. 12 (Sz 51). [61] [62]

One legend is that the compact disc was deliberately designed to have a 74-minute playing time so that it could accommodate Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Kees Immink, Philips' chief engineer, who developed the CD, recalls that a commercial tug-of-war between the development partners, Sony and Philips, led to a settlement in a neutral 12-cm diameter format. The 1951 performance of the Ninth Symphony conducted by Furtwängler was brought forward as the perfect excuse for the change, [63] [64] and was put forth in a Philips news release celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Compact Disc as the reason for the 74-minute length. [65]

In the film The Pervert's Guide to Ideology , the psychoanalytical Communist philosopher Slavoj Žižek comments on the use of the Ode by Nazism, Bolshevism, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the East-West German Olympic team, Southern Rhodesia, Abimael Guzmán (leader of the Shining Path), and the Council of Europe and the European Union. [66]

Use as (national) anthem

During the division of Germany in the Cold War, the "Ode to Joy" segment of the symphony was played in lieu of an anthem at the Olympic Games for the United Team of Germany between 1956 and 1968. In 1972, the musical backing (without the words) was adopted as the Anthem of Europe by the Council of Europe and subsequently by the European Communities (now the European Union) in 1985. [67] [68] The "Ode to Joy" was used as the national anthem of Rhodesia between 1974 and 1979, as "Rise, O Voices of Rhodesia". [69]

Use as a hymn melody

In 1907, the Presbyterian pastor Henry van Dyke wrote the hymn "Joyful, Joyful, we adore thee" while staying at Williams College. [70] The hymn is commonly sung in English-language churches to the "Ode to Joy" melody from this symphony. [71]

Year-end tradition

The German workers' movement began the tradition of performing the Ninth Symphony on New Year's Eve in 1918. Performances started at 11pm so that the symphony's finale would be played at the beginning of the new year. This tradition continued during the Nazi period and was also observed by East Germany after the war. [72]

The Ninth Symphony is traditionally performed throughout Japan at the end of the year. In December 2009, for example, there were 55 performances of the symphony by various major orchestras and choirs in Japan. [73]

It was introduced to Japan during World War I by German prisoners held at the Bandō prisoner-of-war camp. Japanese orchestras, notably the NHK Symphony Orchestra, began performing the symphony in 1925 and during World War II, the Imperial government promoted performances of the symphony, including on New Year's Eve. In an effort to capitalize on its popularity, orchestras and choruses undergoing economic hard times during Japan's reconstruction, performed the piece at year's end. In the 1960s, these year-end performances of the symphony became more widespread, and included the participation of local choirs and orchestras, firmly establishing a tradition that continues today.

See also

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  1. Presumably, Böhm meant the conductor Michael Umlauf
  2. The second column of bar numbers refers to the editions in which the finale is subdivided. Verses and choruses are numbered in accordance with the complete text of Schiller's 'An die Freude'


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Selected books and scholarly articles:

Scores, manuscripts and text




Other material