Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is one of the greatest art works of all time. Its message of brotherhood, coupled with the fantastical music produced by Beethoven, has and always will stand the test of time. In the context of music styles and eras, this piece is a leap into the Romantic period from a composer who had been making the transition in that direction for several years.
It is difficult to discern exactly what Beethoven “meant” with this symphony. Harvey Sachs of Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute said that while many interpretations could be given, the it “belongs to each person who… attempts to listen to it attentively.” And indeed, anyone who has listened attentively has come away with their own personal interpretations.
The symphony begins with a sonata movement in D minor. A theme of power (perhaps?) emerges out of a mire of low string tremolos. The key shifts between tonic and mediant, and the recapitulation at the end of the movement is in D major. The second movement, a scherzo, begins with a fugue and is in sonata form otherwise. It makes the move to C Major, but ends in D minor at the coda. The third movement is slow and lyrical apart from a few moments of brass fanfare.
The fourth movement is the most dramatic by far. It begins by alluding to the beginning of the piece. There is a statement of a catchy theme that will be the Ode to Joy, first in the low strings and echoed in violins. This is followed by a stormy introduction to a baritone soloist intoning the message of joy. The chorus joins in and agrees with the soloist. Between four soloists and the chorus, a joyful word is spread that hints to both Bacchanalea and seeking a creator in the stars. Finally, the famous Ode to Joy is sung by the chorus and the piece closes out triumphantly in D Major as brotherhood has conquered the woes of life.
Obviously, there had been no other choral symphonies at the time of this composition. That being said, the Ninth Symphony stood out in other ways as well. Its directed messages of joy and brotherhood held highly idealistic views of humanity influenced other composers of his day to pursue loftier ideals in their composition. Brahms even quoted the Ode to Joy in his first symphony.
Beethoven’s Ninth is an encouragement to humanity and can be used for varied goals. It was used for Hitler’s birthday to celebrate German goals as well as for the fall of the Berlin wall in celebration of Germany’s reunification. In its many other uses, the idea of men acting as brothers is always perpetuated. For further reference of unity, please view the flash mob’s performance in the video above.
Form and Content in the Finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 1 (Jan., 1964), pp. 59-76
Published by: Oxford University Press
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/740186