German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven performed his iconic Ninth Symphony for the first time on May 7, 1824. In the decades prior to this performance the legendary composer had composed eight symphonies in 12 years and then released nothing for the next 12 years. This left 19th century music fans wondering when Beethoven would compose another masterpiece. Then he gave them this:
Beethoven’s Ninth is one of the most recognisable pieces of classical music, especially its final movement, ‘Ode To Joy’. Of course, being deaf, Beethoven could not hear the applause from the audience after he presented it for the first time. One of his singers, Caroline Unger turned him around to face the audience so he could see the five standing ovations they gave him. Beethoven suffered greatly, but the most well known movement of his ninth symphony is entitled ‘Ode To Joy’. He remained optimistic in the face of his situation that allowed him to overcome tremendous odds and create something timeless.
As a piece of music, the symphony broke new ground in its time. It was longer and more complex than any other symphony and required more musicians in the orchestra to perform. However the most unique features are the choral elements and vocal solos in the final movement.
Austrian composer Gustav Mahler re-orchestrated Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for the turn of the 20th century in order to include brass instruments that could hit notes that would have been impossible during Beethoven’s time, adding more dramatic expression to the piece. Catch a streamed performance of Gustav Mahler’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony conducted in Vienna by Viennese composer Johannes Vogel.
Image: Beethoven via Wikimedia Commons.