Symphony No 9 Beethoven

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Template:Classical work infobox The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 is the last complete symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. Completed in 1824, it includes part of the ode An die Freude ("Ode To Joy") by Friedrich Schiller, as text sung by soloists and a chorus in the last movement. It is the first example of a major composer using the human voice on the same level with instruments in a symphony.

The symphony may be the best known of all works of European classical music, and is considered one of Beethoven's greatest masterpieces, composed whilst he was completely deaf. It plays a prominent cultural role in modern society. In particular, the music from the fourth movement (without words) is used as the official anthem of the European Union (see Ode to Joy).


Writing of the symphony

The work was originally commissioned in 1817 by the Philharmonic Society of London (later the Royal Philharmonic Society). Beethoven supposedly started work on his last symphony in 1822 and finished it early in 1824. This was about 10 years after his eighth symphony, however Beethoven was working on this work much earlier. Beethoven wanted to put the An die Freude to music as early as 1793. He did that as a song, but unfortunately that song has been lost forever. The theme for the scherzo can be traced back to a fugue written in 1815.

The introduction for the vocal part of the symphony caused a lot of headaches for Beethoven. Beethoven's friend, Anton Schindler, later said: "When he started working on the fourth movement the struggle began as never before. The aim was to find an appropriate way of introducing Schillers' ode. One day he [Beethoven] entered the room and shouted 'I got it, I got it!' Then he showed me a sketchbook with the words 'let us sing the ode of the immortal Schiller.'" That introduction didn't make it however, and Beethoven would spend a lot of time rewriting the part until it had its current form.


Beethoven was eager to get his work played in Vienna as fast as possible when he finished writing. He was equivocal, however, thinking also that the musical taste in Vienna was stricken by Italian composers such as Rossini. When his friends and financiers heard this they urged him to premiere the symphony in Vienna.

The Ninth Symphony was premiered May 7, 1824 in the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna. The conductor was Michael Umlauf, the musical director of the theater, who was assisted by the composer standing at his side. The work was premiered along with the overture Die Weihe des Hauses and the first three parts of the Missa solemnis.

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 under-rehearsed (there were only two full rehearsals) and rather scrappy in execution. On the other hand, the premiere was a big success. In any case, Beethoven was not to blame, as violist Josef Bohm recalled, "Beethoven directed the piece himself, that is: he stood before the lectern and gesticulated furiously. At times he raised, at other times he shrunk to the ground, he moved as if he wanted to play all the instruments himself and sing for the whole chorus. All the musicians minded his rhythm alone while playing".

When the audience applauded at the end, Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting. Because of that, the contralto walked over and forcibly turned Beethoven around to accept the audience's cheers and applause. According to one witness, "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."



The official name is: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, opus 125. The symphony is sometimes referred to as "Choral", pointing to the vocal end of the symphony. Also known as The Symphony of Joy.


The Ninth Symphony is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum, a string section consisting of the usual first and second violins, violas, cellos, double basses, four vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone), and a chorus singing in four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). These are by far the largest forces needed for any Beethoven symphony; at the premiere Beethoven expanded them further by assigning two players to each wind part.


The symphony is in four movements, marked as follows:

  1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
  2. Molto vivace
  3. Adagio molto e cantabile
  4. Presto/recitative - Allegro ma non troppo/recitative - Vivace/recitative - Adagio cantabile/recitative - Allegro assai/recitative - Presto/recitative: "O Freunde" - Allegro assai: "Freude, schöner Götterfunken" - Alla marcia - Allegro assai vivace: "Froh, wie seine Sonnen" - Andante maestoso: "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!" - Adagio ma non troppo, ma divoto: "Ihr, stürzt nieder" - Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato: "Freude, schöner Götterfunken" / "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!" - Allegro ma non tanto: "Freude, Tochter aus Elysium!" - Prestissimo: "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!"

This arrangement of movements adopts a slightly unusual Classical pattern, with the scherzo movement in second (rather than the normal third) position. Beethoven was familiar with this arrangement from Haydn's work and had used it on various occasions throughout his career (the quartets Op. 18 no. 4-5, the "Archduke" piano trio Op. 97, the "Hammerklavier" piano sonata Op. 106).

First movement

The first movement is in sonata form, following a formal model that had guided Beethoven throughout his career. The mood is generally bleak and stormy. A striking moment here is the onset of the recapitulation section, which instead of literally repeating the pianissimo opening bars in D minor, switches to fortissimo D major, a key change which has struck many listeners, paradoxically, as expressing terror or awe. Piccolo,Contrabassoon, and Trombones are not called for in this movement; however this is the first appearance of a quartet of horns in a Beethoven symphony.

Second movement

The second movement, a scherzo, is likewise in D minor, with the opening theme a kind of echo of the theme of the first movement, a pattern found likewise in the Hammerklavier piano sonata, written a few years earlier. It is notable for its propulsive rhythm and timpani solos (for this purpose the two timpani are tuned, unusually, an octave apart). At one point Beethoven gives the direction ritmo di tre battute, meaning that the beats of three consecutive measures must form a single rhythmic unit, as if the music were in 9/4 instead of 3/4 time; this is later reverted with ritmo di quattro battute, with the typical four-measure beat.

The contrasting trio section is in D major and in duple time. The trio also marks the first arrival of the trombones in the work.

Third movement

The lyrical and deeply felt slow movement, in B-flat major, is written in a loose variation form, with each of the two variations dividing the basic beat to produce a more elaborate melodic configuration than what went before. The first variation, like the theme, is in 4/4 time, the second in 12/8. The variations are separated by more impassioned passages in 3/4, the first in D major, the second in G major. The final variation is twice interrupted by striking episodes in which loud fanfares for the full orchestra are answered by double-stopped octaves played by the first violins alone. Also worth noting is a virtuosic horn solo assigned to the fourth player. Trombones are tacet for the movement.

Fourth movement

The famous choral finale has struck many listeners as somewhat rambling. Some helpful clarification can be found in the description of Charles Rosen, who characterizes it as a symphony within a symphony, containing four movements played without interruption. This "inner symphony" follows the same overall pattern as the Ninth Symphony as a whole. The scheme is as follows:

  • First "movement": theme and variations with slow introduction. Main theme which first appears in the cellos and basses is "recapitulated" with voices(see below).
  • Second "movement": 6/8 scherzo in military style (begins at "Alla marcia", words "Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen"). Beethoven's older listeners at the premiere would have recognized this as so-called "Turkish music." Concludes with 6/8 variation of the main theme with chorus.
  • Third "movement": slow meditation with a new theme on the text "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!" (begins at "Andante maestoso")
  • Fourth "movement": fugato finale on the themes of the first and third "movements" (begins at "Allegro energico")

The movement differs from an independent symphony because of its thematic unity: every part is based on either the main theme, the "Seid umschlungen" theme, or some combination of the two.

The first "movement within a movement" itself is organized into sections:

  • An introduction, which starts with a stormy, chaotic Presto passage. It then briefly quotes all three of the previous movements in order, each dismissed in various ways by the cellos and basses, which play in an instrumental foreshadowing of the vocal recitative. The introduction eventually "discovers" the famous theme, which then becomes the subject of---
  • A series of variations for orchestra alone.
  • The introduction is then repeated from the Presto passage, this time with the bass soloist singing the recitatives previously suggested by cellos and basses, followed by---
  • The variations again, this time for vocal soloists and chorus.

Text of fourth movement

Words written by Beethoven, not Schiller, are shown in italics.

German original
O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere
anstimmen und freudenvollere.
Freude! Froh Freude!
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,
(Schiller's original:
Was der Mode Schwert geteilt;
Bettler werden Fürstenbrüder,)
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
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!
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.
Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt'gen Plan,
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.
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.
Finale repeats the words:
Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, über'm Sternenzelt
Muß ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Seid umschlungen,
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Freude, schöner Götterfunken
English translation
Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather let us sing more
cheerful and more joyful ones.
Joy! Glad joy!
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
We approach fire-drunk,
Heavenly One, your shrine.
Your magic reunites
What custom sternly divides;
All people become brothers
(Schiller's original:
What custom's sword separates;
Beggars become princes' brothers)
Where your gentle wing alights.
Whoever succeeds in the great attempt
To be a friend of a friend,
Whoever has won a lovely woman,
Let him add his jubilation!
Yes, whoever calls even one soul
His own on the earth's globe!
And who never has, let him steal,
Weeping, away from this group.
All creatures drink joy
At the breasts of nature;
All the good, all the evil
Follow her roses' trail.
Kisses gave she us, and wine,
A friend, proven unto death;
Pleasure was to the worm granted,
And the cherub stands before God.
Glad, as his suns fly
Through the Heavens' glorious plan,
Run, brothers, your race,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.
Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, you millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the star-canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.
Finale repeats the words:
Be embraced, ye millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Be embraced,
This kiss for the whole world!
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods


Performing the symphony

Lasting about 74 minutes in performance, the Ninth was an exceptionally long symphony for its time, although it has been exceeded in length (and, arguably, conceptual scope) by several later symphonies, most notably those of Bruckner and Mahler. Mahler's 2nd, 3rd and 8th, inspired by Beethoven, are very similar in conception and style due to their "grand" demeanors and extensive use of large choral and vocal forces.

Beethoven's Ninth makes extreme demands on the singers, partly because his vocal writing seems designed to evoke a sense of effort, and partly because concert pitch is higher now than it was in Beethoven’s day. Thus, it is fairly rare to find a performance that is suitably forceful but avoids any hint of shrieking or shouting. Specialists in authentic performance have experimented with performing the work at Beethoven’s concert pitch, which seems to help somewhat.

A delicate issue conductors must face is the fact that Beethoven left metronome markings specifying the tempo of each section. Historically, conductors have been very reluctant to respect these markings, preferring, for example, a slower tempo than Beethoven's for the slow movement and a faster tempo for the military march section of the finale. In general, Beethoven's metronome markings have proven unpopular among modern artists, and the possibility that Beethoven was (despite his unquestioned abilities as a composer) an inept metronome user should perhaps not be excluded. Conductors in the authentic performance movement, notably Roger Norrington, have experimented with adhering to Beethoven's tempos, to mixed reviews.

Ninth Symphony in the 20th century

In 1964 Maurice Béjart and his Ballet du XXe siècle gave an acclaimed performance of "IXe symphonie", a ballet based on the Ninth Symphony.

Among recorded performances, those conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, especially those of 1942, 1951, and 1954, Herbert von Karajan, especially those of 1963 and 1976, Fritz Reiner, Leonard Bernstein, George Szell, and John Eliot Gardiner are highly regarded. Such judgments about musical performances are often biased or controversial. The musicologist Richard Taruskin has a detailed analysis and comparison of performances of Beethoven's 9th in his essay "Resisting the Ninth".

The Ninth Symphony has frequently been incorporated into film scores, television, and popular music. For a list of instances, see Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in popular culture.

At most Olympic games during the second half of the 20th Century, the fourth movement has been performed as part of ceremonial processions.

The symphony seems to have taken particularly deep root in Japan, where it is widely performed during December as part of the annual celebration of the new year.

An adapted form of Beethoven's setting of Schiller's ode was chosen to be the European anthem first by the Council of Europe and later by the European Union.

Students in Beijing's Tiananmen Square protest broadcast the symphony through loudspeakers in 1989 as a statement against tyranny. A famous performance conducted by Leonard Bernstein on December 25, 1989 celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall. It substituted Freiheit ("freedom") for Freude ("joy") in the sung text.

It is widely believed that the playback time specifications of the Sony/Philips Compact Disc were influenced by a desire to accommodate performances of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on a single disc, without interruption. This requirement has been variously attributed to Herbert von Karajan (a Philips artist with access to Sony chairman Akio Morita), to Morita's wife, and to Sony president Norio Ohga. The urban legends investigators at consider this to be "undecided." It does appear that at a late stage in development, the diameter of the CD was increased to 12 cm. to accommodate a playing time of approximately 74 minutes. [1]



See also


Richard Taruskin, "Resisting the Ninth", in his Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance (Oxford University Press, 1995). David Benjamin Levy, "Beethoven: the Ninth Symphony," revised edition (Yale University Press, 2003).

External links

Template:Ludwig van Beethoven

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