New Year's Eve Beethoven Bash
7:00pm Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Opus 55 (Eroica)
Berlin Philharmonic / Herbert von Karajan
DG 429036 50:03
7:53pm Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, Opus 60
Colorado Music Festival Orchestra
Michael Christie, conductor
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony No. 1 in C major, Opus 21
I. Adagio molto; Allegro con brio
II. Andante cantabile con moto
III. Menuetto: Allegro molto e vivace
IV. Adagio; Allegro molto e vivace
Sketches for the finale of Beethoven's First Symphony were found amongst counterpoint exercises for his teacher, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, dating from 1794. Most of the writing probably took place during the year before the first performance, on April 2, 1800 in Vienna.
The newspapers noted that ``Herr Ludwig van Beethoven will have the honor to give a grand concert for his benefit in the Royal Imperial Court Theater.'' The program also contained a Mozart symphony, two excerpts from Haydn's The Creation, Beethoven's Septet and one of the first two piano concertos, as well as improvisations at the piano by Beethoven. ``A new grand symphony with complete orchestra, composed by Herr Ludwig van Beethoven'' was listed last. It must have been a long evening. The concert started at 6:30 and probably didn't end until around 10:00.
A review mentioned that ``at the end one of his symphonies was performed in which there is considerable art, novelty and a wealth of ideas. The only flaw was that the wind instruments were used too much, so that the symphony is more like a piece for military band than a real orchestral work.'' The writer noted how badly the orchestra played: ``The faults of this orchestra...became all the more evident since Beethoven's compositions are difficult to execute....How, under such circumstances, is even the most excellent composition to be effective?''
A critic of the Leipzig performance two years later described the work as ``intellectual, powerful, original and difficult, but here and there somewhat over-rich in detail.'' By 1805, when the Eroica Symphony was terrifying musical conservatives, the same critic regarded the First as a ``noble work of art. All the instruments are splendidly used, an unusual wealth of ideas is magnificently and gracefully displayed and yet consistency, order and light reign throughout.''
The supposed dissonance that begins the First Symphony horrified the French critics, who said that Beethoven's music ``was a peril to art.'' Berlioz, for one, disagreed: ``This work, by its form, melodic style and harmonic and instrumental sobriety, is altogether distinct from the other compositions of Beethoven that succeeded it. The composer evidently remained under the influence of Mozart's ideas while writing it; these he sometimes enlarges but he everywhere imitates with ingenuity.''
In his book on the Beethoven symphonies, George Grove wrote: ``The finish and care observable throughout the work are very great. Beethoven began with the determination, which stuck to him during his life, not only of thinking good thoughts, but of expressing them with as much clearness and intelligibility as labour could effect; and this Symphony is full of instances of such thoughtful pains.''
Beethoven had originally intended to dedicate the First Symphony to his former employer in Bonn, the Elector Maximilian Franz. But the Elector died before publication and the dedication was changed to Baron van Swieten, the great friend of Mozart and Haydn.
The score calls for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony No. 2 in D major, Opus 36
I. Adagio molto; Allegro con brio
III. Scherzo: Allegro
IV. Allegro molto
Sketches for the Second Symphony date from as early as 1800. Most of the work was done during the summer and fall of 1802, about the time that Beethoven realized the “roaring” in his ears would lead to total deafness.
The first performance took place in Vienna on April 5, 1803. It was a typically mammoth all-Beethoven concert. Besides the Second Symphony, the program included the First Symphony, the Third Piano Concerto and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives.
Rehearsals began at eight that same morning. According to an eyewitness, “it was a terrible rehearsal, and at half past two everybody was exhausted and more or less dissatisfied. Prince Karl Lichnowsky (one of Beethoven’s patrons)…had sent for bread and butter, cold meat and wine, in large baskets. He pleasantly asked all to help themselves, and this was done with both hands, the result being that good nature was restored again.”
After the premiere, the Second Symphony was criticized for its “striving for the new and surprising.” A Leipzig performance a year later moved one reviewer to describe the work as “a gross enormity, an immense wounded snake, unwilling to die, but writhing in its last agonies and, though bleeding to death, furiously beats about with its tail in the finale.” But for Hector Berlioz, “in this symphony, everything is noble, energetic, proud.”
In his book on the Beethoven symphonies, George Grove wrote: “The Second Symphony is a great advance on the First….The advance is more in dimensions and style, and in the wonderful fire and force of the treatment, than in any really new ideas, such as its author afterwards introduced and are specially connected in our minds with the name of Beethoven….The first movement is distinctly of the old world, though carried out with a spirit, vigor, and effect, and occasionally with a caprice, which are nowhere surpassed, if indeed they are equaled, by Haydn and Mozart. Nor is there anything in the extraordinary grace, beauty, and finish of the Larghetto to alter this…nor in the Finale, grotesque and strong as much of it is: it is all still of the old world, till we come to the Coda, and that, indeed, is distinctly of the other order.”
Grove regards the Second Symphony as “the culminating point of the old pre-Revolution world, the world of Haydn and Mozart; it was the farthest point to which Beethoven could go before he burst into that wonderful new region into which no man had before penetrated, of which no man had even dreamed, but which is now one of our dearest possessions, and will always be known by his immortal name.”
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Opus 55 (Eroica)
I. Allegro con brio
II. Marcia funèbre: Adagio assai
III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace
IV. Finale: Allegro molto
As early as the spring of 1798, so the legend goes, the French ambassador to Vienna, General Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, suggested that Beethoven write a symphony about Napoleon Bonaparte. At the time, Napoleon was one of Beethoven's idols, but it wasn't until 1801 that the composer first sketched ``Third Symphony, written on Bonaparte.'' He worked on it during 1803 in the countryside near Vienna and finished during the spring of 1804.
The title page originally read ``Grand Symphony composed on Bonaparte.'' But in May, 1804, Beethoven heard the news that Napoleon had proclaimed himself Emperor. Beethoven flew into a rage, tore up the title page, and bellowed: ``Is he too no more than a mere mortal? Now he will trample on all the rights of man, and indulge only his ambition. He will exalt himself above all others, become a tyrant!'' He later gave the symphony a new title, ``heroic symphony to celebrate the memory of a great man,'' and dedicated it to his patron Prince Lobkowitz.
After several private performances, the Third Symphony received its first public performance in Vienna on April 7, 1805. One critic found the work ``strident and bizarre,'' but another recognized ``the true style of really great music.'' The Director of the Prague Conservatory banned the piece as a ``dangerously immoral composition.''
When the Third Symphony was published, Beethoven included a note, requesting that ``this Symphony, being purposely written much longer than is usual, should be performed nearer the beginning rather than at the end of a concert...if it is heard too late it will lose for the listener, already tired out by previous performances, its own proposed effect.'' At the première, one heckler in the audience exclaimed, ``I'd give a kreutzer with pleasure if it would only end.'' But others were undeterred by the size of the Third Symphony. Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia once insisted on hearing it three times in a single evening.
Paul Henry Lang called the Eroica ``one of the incomprehensible deeds in arts and letters, the greatest single step made by an individual composer in the history of the symphony and the history of music in general.'' For Richard Wagner, ``the first movement embraces, as in a glowing furnace, all the emotions of a richly-gifted nature in the heyday of unresting youth.'' When, in 1821, Beethoven heard the news of Napoleon's death, he remarked: ``Well, I've written the funeral oration for that catastrophe seventeen years ago,'' referring to the second movement, a funeral march. Donald Francis Tovey said the third movement is ``the first in which Beethoven fully attained Haydn's desire to replace the minuet by something on a scale comparable to the rest of a great symphony.'' The Finale is a set of twelve variations on a tune Beethoven first used in a little country dance in 1801, then again in The Creatures of Prometheus ballet and also in the Eroica Variations for piano. Edward Downes comments that ``each variation is a little cosmos in itself and the sum of them is overwhelming.''
The score calls for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, Opus 60
I. Adagio; Allegro vivace
III. Allegro vivace
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
Beethoven had already begun his C minor Symphony (No. 5) when he and his patron, Prince Franz Lichnowsky, visited Count Franz von Oppersdorf at his castle in Silesia. The Count's private orchestra played Beethoven's Second Symphony for the guests. The host then commissioned a new symphony from the composer.
Setting aside the Fifth, Beethoven started a new symphony in B flat major. Most of the work was done in the autumn of 1806. By November, the Symphony--now known as the Fourth--was finished. Beethoven wrote to his publishers: ``I cannot give you the promised symphony yet--because a gentleman of quality has taken it from me.'' In fact, Beethoven never sent the score to Count Oppersdorf. All he ever received was the dedication to the published edition.
The first performance of the Fourth Symphony probably took place at the Viennese palace of another Beethoven patron, Prince Franz Joseph Lobkowitz. Two all-Beethoven concerts were given there during March of 1807. The programs included the first four symphonies, the Coriolan Overture, excerpts from Fidelio and a piano concerto. One review noted that ``richness of ideas, bold originality and fullness of power, which are the particular merits of Beethoven's muse, were very much in evidence to everyone at these concerts; yet many found fault with the lack of a noble simplicity and the all too fruitful accumulation of ideas which on account of their number were not always adequately worked out and blended, thereby creating the effect more often of rough diamonds.'' Another critic noted the new Beethoven symphony ``which has pleased, at most his fanatical admirers.''
Carl Maria von Weber, then a rash twenty-year-old, wrote an article on Beethoven's Fourth Symphony that he would later regret. In it, he portrayed the violin complaining of having to ``caper about like a wild goat'' in order to ``execute the no-ideas of Mr. Composer.''
Referring to its place between the mighty Eroica (No. 3) and Fifth Symphonies, Robert Schumann called the Fourth ``a slender Greek maiden between two Norse giants.'' Hector Berlioz found the Fourth ``generally lively, nimble, joyous, or of a heavenly sweetness.''
Berlioz loved this symphony. After the seminal slow introduction, he writes, ``the first movement is almost entirely given up to joyfulness....As far as the Adagio--it escapes analysis. It is so pure in form, the melodic expression is so angelic and of such irresistible tenderness, that the prodigious art of the workmanship disappears completely.''
Sir Donald Francis Tovey found great fun in the last two movements. Towards the end of the third, he says, ``the two horns blow the whole movement away.'' The last movement contains what he calls ``The Great Bassoon Joke,'' when the solo bassoon clowns the return of the main theme.
The Symphony is scored for flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Opus 67
I. Allegro con brio
II. Andante con moto
III. Scherzo: Allegro
“So often heard,” Robert Schumann wrote of the Fifth Symphony, “it still exercises its power over all ages, just as those great phenomena of nature that, no matter how often they recur, fill us with awe and wonder. This Symphony will go on centuries hence, as long as the world and world's music endure.”
According to Beethoven's biographer, Alexander Thayer, “this wondrous work was no sudden inspiration. Themes for (three of the movements) are found in sketchbooks belonging, at the very latest, to the years 1800 and 1801.” After interrupting himself to write the Fourth Symphony, Beethoven finished the Fifth in the spring of 1808.
Beethoven conducted the first performance at a typically massive all-Beethoven concert in Vienna on December 22, 1808. Besides the Fifth, the program included the Sixth Symphony, the concert aria Ah, Perfido, two movements from the Mass in C major, the Fourth Piano Concerto and the Choral Fantasy. One listener complained: “There we continued, in the bitterest cold, too, from half past six to half past ten, and experienced the truth that one can easily have too much of a good thing--and still more of a loud....Many a failure in the performance vexed our patience in the highest degree.”
“In spite of several faults which I could not prevent,” said Beethoven, “the public received everything most enthusiastically.” Critic Amadeus Wendt wrote: “Beethoven's music inspires in its listeners awe, fear, horror, pain, and that exquisite nostalgia that is the soul of romanticism.” E.T.A. Hoffmann called the Fifth “one of the most important works of the master whose position in the first rank of composers of instrumental music can now be denied by no one....It is a concept of genius, executed with profound deliberation, which in a very high degree brings the romantic content of the music to expression.”
In 1830, Mendelssohn played the first movement on the piano for Goethe, who said: “It is tremendous--quite crazy--one is almost afraid the house will collapse; and imagine how it must sound in the orchestra!” Of the celebrated four notes that begin the movement, Beethoven is supposed to have said: “Thus Fate knocks at the door.” Much has been made of this remark, most of it nonsense. Pointing to the same four notes in the Fourth Piano Concerto, theorist Heinrich Schenker wondered, “Was this another door on which Fate knocked or was someone else knocking at the same door?” By coincidence, the rhythm of the four notes corresponds to the Morse code for the letter “V.” That, coupled with Winston Churchill's “V for Victory” gesture, inspired the BBC to use the phrase as a signature during World War II.
Sir Donald Francis Tovey compared the second movement to Shakespeare's heroines, for “the same courage, the same beauty of goodness, and the same humor.” Berlioz claimed that the third movement produces “the inexplicable emotion that one experiences under the magnetic gaze of certain individuals.” With the finale, writes George Grove, “all the noisy elements at Beethoven's command in those simpler days (burst) like a thunder-clap into the major key and into a triumphal march.”
The Symphony is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani and strings.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony No. 6 in F major, Opus 68 (Pastoral)
I. Allegro ma non troppo (Awakening of Cheerful Feelings on Arriving in the Country)
II. Andante molto mosso (Scene by the Brook)
III. Allegro (Merry Gathering of Country Folk)
IV. Allegro (Thunderstorm, Tempest)
V. Allegretto (Shepherd's Song, Happy, Thankful Feelings after the Storm)
``How glad I am to be able to roam in wood and thicket, among the trees and flowers and rocks. No one can love the country as I do,'' wrote Beethoven. ``My bad hearing does not trouble me here. In the country, every tree seems to speak to me, say `Holy! Holy!' In the woods, there is enchantment which expresses all things.''
Beethoven's thoughts on imitating Nature in music were scribbled in the sketches for his Sixth Symphony as early as 1803. ``All painting in instrumental music is lost if it is pushed too far,'' he scribbled. ``Anyone who has an idea of country-life can make out for himself the intentions of the composer without many titles.'' During the summer of 1808, he finished his Pastorale Symphony, or Recollections of Country Life, complete with programmatic titles for all five movements.
Beethoven conducted the first performance at a typically massive all-Beethoven concert in Vienna on December 22, 1808. Besides the Sixth, the program included the Fifth Symphony, the concert aria Ah, Perfido, two movements from the C major Mass, the Fourth Piano Concerto and the Choral Fantasy. One listener complained: ``There we continued, in the bitterest cold, too, from half past six to half past ten, and experienced the truth that one can easily have too much of a good thing--and still more of a loud....Many a failure in the performance vexed our patience in the highest degree.''
Beethoven cautioned against taking the movement titles too literally. In a letter to his publisher, he described the Sixth as ``an expression of feeling rather than a description.''
Nevertheless, Hector Berlioz, for one, imagined very specific activities when hearing the opening movement, ``Awakening of Cheerful Feelings on Arriving in the Country.'' ``The herdsmen begin to appear in the fields,'' he wrote, ``their pipes are heard afar and near. Ravishing phrases caress one's ears deliciously, like perfumed morning breezes. Flocks of chattering birds fly overhead; and now and then the atmosphere seems laden with vapors; heavy clouds flit across the face of the sun, then suddenly disappear, and its rays flood the fields and woods with torrents of dazzling splendour.''
Anton Schindler described being taken by Beethoven to a valley near Heiligenstadt. ``Here I composed the `Scene by the Brook' (second movement),'' he said, ``and the yellowhammers up there, the quails, nightingales and cuckoos round about, composed with me.'' Modern ornithologists maintain that Beethoven's ``yellowhammer song'' is incorrect, if anything resembling more the buzzing of insects.
Schindler said that the third movement, ``Merry Gathering of Country Folk,'' was inspired by Austrian tavern bands. ``Beethoven asked me if I had not observed how village musicians often played in their sleep, occasionally letting their instruments fall and remaining entirely quiet, then awakening with a start, throwing in a few vigorous blows or strokes at a venture, but generally in the right key, and then falling asleep again: he had tried to copy these poor people in his Pastorale Symphony.''
Berlioz wrote of the fourth movement (``Thunderstorm, Tempest''): ``Listen to those gusts of wind, laden with rain; those sepulchral groanings of the basses; those shrill whistles of the piccolo, which announce that a fearful tempest is about to burst. The hurricane approaches, swells; an immense chromatic streak, starting from the highest notes of the orchestra, goes burrowing down into its lowest depths, seizes the basses, carries them along, and ascends again, writhing like a whirlwind, which levels everything in its passage. Then the trombones burst forth; the thunder of the timpani redoubles its fury. It is no longer merely a wind and rain storm: it is a frightful cataclysm, the universal deluge, the end of the world.''
Berlioz called the finale (``Shepherd's Song, Happy Thankful Feelings after the Storm'') ``a hymn of gratitude. Everything smiles. The shepherds reappear; they answer each other on the mountain, recalling their scattered flocks; the sky is serene; the torrents soon cease to flow; calmness returns, and with it the rustic songs, whose gentle melodies bring repose to the soul.''
Donald Francis Tovey cautioned against the interpretive excesses of Berlioz and others. ``In the whole symphony,'' he wrote, ``there is not a note of which the musical value would be altered if cuckoos and nightingales, and country folk, and thunder and lightning, and the howling and whistling of the wind, were things that had never been named by man, either in connection with music or with anything else.''
The Symphony is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani and strings.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony No. 7 in A major, Opus 92
I. Poco sostenuto; Vivace
III. Presto; Assai meno presto
IV. Allegro con brio
Beethoven's Seventh Symphony was completed in the late spring or early summer of 1812. It wasn't performed publicly until December 8, 1813 at a concert in Vienna to benefit wounded Austrian and Bavarian soldiers. Also on the program was Beethoven's Wellington's Victory.
Beethoven himself conducted. The composer Ludwig Spohr described the scene: ``The execution was quite masterly, despite the uncertain and often ridiculous conducting of Beethoven....It is a sad misfortune for anyone to be deaf; how then should a musician endure it without despair? Beethoven's almost continual melancholy was no longer a riddle to me.''
A review of the concert reported that the Symphony ``deserved the loud applause and the exceptionally good performance it received....This symphony...is the richest melodically and the most pleasing and comprehensible of all Beethoven symphonies.'' Beethoven regarded the Seventh as ``among my best works.''
Not everyone shared Beethoven's opinion. After a performance in Leipzig, Clara Schumann's father suggested that the music could only have been written by someone who was very, very drunk. When the Seventh was played before the Congress of Vienna in 1814, Carl Maria von Weber remarked that Beethoven was ``now quite ripe for the madhouse.'' Twelve years later, Weber conducted the London Philharmonic's performance of the Beethoven Seventh. Apparently Weber had changed his mind about the piece.
It was Wagner who dubbed the Seventh ``the apotheosis of the dance, the dance in its highest condition, the happiest realization of the movements of the body in ideal form.'' He wrote: ``If anyone plays the Seventh, tables and benches, cans and cups, the grandmother, the blind and the lame, aye, the children in the cradle, fall to dancing!'' Wagner once demonstrated his theory by dancing to the Seventh Symphony, accompanied by Franz Liszt at the piano.
``It would require more than a technical yardstick to measure the true proportion of this Symphony--the sense of immensity which it conveys,'' writes John N. Burk. ``Beethoven seems to have built up this impression by willfully driving a single rhythmic figure through each movement, until the music attains (particularly in the body of the first movement, and in the Finale) a swift propulsion, an effect of cumulative growth which is akin to extraordinary size.''
After a long introduction, the opening movement launches into a persistent rhythmic propulsion that Ernest Walker found virtually unparalleled elsewhere. The second movement, according to Marion M. Scott, is ``marvelous...full of melancholy beauty.'' Beethoven's biographer Alexander Thayer says the trio of the third movement is based on an Austrian pilgrims' hymn. In the Finale, George Grove discovered ``a vein of rough, hard, personal boisterousness, the same feeling which inspired the strange jests, puns and nicknames which abound in his letters.''
There is a story about Beethoven wandering around the park after the 1814 performance of the Seventh. He stopped to buy cherries from two young maids, who said: ``There is no charge to you. We were at the concert and heard your beautiful music!''
The score calls for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony No. 8 in F major, Opus 93
I. Allegro vivace e con brio
II. Allegretto scherzando
III. Tempo di menuetto
IV. Allegro vivace
The year 1812 found Beethoven in ill health. His doctor advised treatment at the Bohemian baths at Teplitz. Beethoven did so, and on his way home, stopped at Linz to visit his brother Johann. There, in October, he finished his Eighth Symphony, which had been rattling around in his brain and sketchbooks for over a year.
Beethoven’s patron Archduke Rudolf arranged a private performance the following year in Vienna. The first public performance took place on February 27, 1814, also in Vienna. Also on the program that night were the Seventh Symphony, a vocal trio and Wellington’s Victory.
The Eighth was not well received. One review said: “The greatest interest of the listeners seemed centered on this the newest product of Beethoven’s muse, and expectation was tense, but this was not sufficiently gratified after the single hearing, and the applause which it received was not accompanied by that enthusiasm which distinguishes a work which gives universal delight; in short, it did not create a furor.” Beethoven maintained that the Eighth Symphony was unloved “because it is so much better” than the Seventh. He would often refer to his Eighth as “my little symphony in F.”
Wagner regarded the work as “characteristic of the man, mingling tragedy with farce and a Herculean vigor with the games and caprices of a child.”
In his book on the Beethoven symphonies, Sir George Grove wrote: “At this time of life (41) his love of fun and practical joking had increased so much in him as to have become a habit; his letters are full of jokes; he bursts into horse-laughs on every occasion; makes the vilest puns, and bestows the most execrable nicknames….He had an express term for this state of things: `unbuttoned’ was his own word for it….The work might with propriety be called the Humorous Symphony--often terribly humorous; for the atmosphere of broad rough enjoyment which pervades the first and last movements is in the former darkened by bursts of unmistakable wrath.”
The second movement is based on a canon Beethoven had written the previous spring for Johann Mälzel, who claimed to have invented of the metronome. Hence, the ticking accompaniment in the music.
Describing the Symphony as “frankly a little darling--happiness incarnate and a masterpiece of character and conciseness,” biographer Marion M. Scott calls the third movement “a delicious blend of beauty and humor, where the bassoon solo completes the enchantment, and the whole movement is very Viennese in the easy sway of the tunes. The opening of the finale is typical Beethoven, with immense vitality in the rhythms and violent dynamic contrasts. The second subject, however, is a piece of pure loveliness that rises suddenly into view by one of those step-of-one-degree harmonic transitions that Beethoven uses when he has something most special to say.”
The score calls for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns and trumpets, as well as timpani and strings.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Opus 125 ("Choral")
I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
II. Molto Vivace--Presto--Molto Vivace
III. Adagio molto e cantabile--Andante moderato
IV. Allegro assai
As early as 1793, Beethoven was thinking of setting Friedrich von Schiller's Ode to Joy to music. A friend reported to the poet's sister that ``he intends to set Schiller's Ode stanza by stanza, and I expect something great as he is devoted to the lofty and sublime.'' Beethoven's notebooks record ``disjointed fragments from Schiller's Ode,'' but nothing much came of the project for some time.
Meanwhile, the theme for what would later become the second movement of the Ninth Symphony appeared in 1815. His pupil Carl Czerny claimed that the tune occurred to him while listening to the twittering of sparrows. The violinist Karl Holz maintained that Beethoven was inspired by the idea of gnomes popping in and out of their hiding places in the forest.
Three years later, Beethoven was planning a ``pious song in a symphony in the ancient modes.'' Later, he told the critic Friedrich Rochlitz: ``I have been thinking for some time about three more great works. A lot of it is all ready--in my head, of course. First I must get the following off my chest: two great symphonies, each different from my others, and an oratorio.'' Eventually, the two symphonies would merge into one, and the oratorio would become the Missa Solemnis.
``It is long since I have been able to bring myself to write easily,'' Beethoven complained in 1822. ``I sit and think and think. The ideas are there, but they will not go down on paper. I dread the beginning of large works. Once begun, it's all right.'' That year, he sketched the opening movement of the Ninth and was again toying with the Schiller Ode as a finale.
That same year the London Philharmonic Society commissioned a symphony from Beethoven, who welcomed the opportunity to compose ``for the first artists of Europe....Beethoven can compose, God be thanked--though he can do nothing else in this world.''
On August 16, 1823, Beethoven wrote to his nephew: ``Today I really began my service to the Muses.'' He was finally composing the Ninth Symphony in earnest. He had doubts about the choral finale, though, and sketched a ``finale instrumentale.'' This music would later become the last movement of the A minor string quartet (Op. 132).
The Schiller Ode eventually prevailed. Beethoven's friend Anton Schindler reported: ``When he reached the development of the fourth movement there began a struggle such as is seldom seen. The object was to find a proper manner of introducing Schiller's Ode. One day entering the room he exclaimed `I have it! I have it!' With that he showed me the sketchbook bearing the words, `Let us sing the song of the immortal Schiller,' whereupon a solo voice began directly the hymn, to joy.''
By early 1823, the Ninth was finished. Despite his promises to the London Philharmonic, it was put into rehearsal in Vienna. The contralto soloist, Karoline Unger, called Beethoven a ``tyrant over all the vocal organs'' to his face. He refused to change a note. Whereupon she turned to the soprano and remarked, ``Well, then we must go on torturing ourselves in the name of God.''
The first performance took place on May 7, 1824. Beethoven, completely deaf, sat in the middle of the orchestra, with a score. The conductor, Michael Umlauf, instructed the orchestra and chorus to ``pay no attention whatever to Beethoven's beating of the time.''
Sir George Grove later talked to Fräulein Unger and gave the following account: ``The master, though placed in the midst of this confluence of music, heard nothing of it at all and was not even sensible of the applause of the audience at the end of his great work, but continued standing with his back to the audience, and beating the time, till Fräulein Unger turned him, or induced him to turn around and face the people, who were still clapping their hands, and giving way to the greatest demonstrations of pleasure. His turning around, and the sudden conviction thereby forced on everybody that he had not done so before because he could not hear what was going on, acted like an electric shock on all present, and a volcanic explosion of sympathy and admiration followed, which was repeated again and again, and seemed as if it would never end.'' Anton Schindler told Beethoven later, ``the whole audience was impressed, crushed by the greatness of your work.''
Sir Donald Francis Tovey writes: ``The great problem for Beethoven in the composition of the Ninth Symphony was obviously that of providing a motive for the appearance of the chorus. The general scheme of the whole symphony as a setting for Schiller's Ode is simple and satisfactory enough. The first movement gives us the tragedy of life. The second movement gives us the reaction from tragedy to a humor that cannot be purely joyful.... The slow movement is beauty of an order too sublime for a world of action; it has no action, and its motion is that of the stars in their courses....But it is a fundamental principle in Beethoven's art that triumph is to be won in the light of common day....Beethoven's plan is to remind us of the first three movements just as they have been described above; and to reject them one by one as failing to attain the joy in which he believes. After all three have been rejected, a new theme is to appear, and that theme shall be hailed and sung as the Hymn 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 and strings.
Text for Choral Finale
(Baritone Solo, Quartet and Chorus)
O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern lasst uns angenehmere
anstimmen, und freudenvollere!
(O Friends, no more of these
sad tones! Let us rather
raise our voices together
in more pleasant and joyful tones!)
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, thou shining spark of God,
Daughter of Elysium!
With fiery rapture, Goddess,
We approach thy shrine.
Your magic reunites those
Whom stern custom has parted,
All men will become brothers
Under your protective wing.)
Wem der grosse Wurf gelungen,
Eines Freudes 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 diesen Bund!
(Let the man who has had the fortune
To be a helper to his friend.
And the man who has won a noble woman,
Join in our chorus of jubilation!
Yes, even if he holds but one soul
As his own in all the world!
But let the man who knows nothing of this
Steal away alone and in sorrow.)
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 von Gott!
(All the world's creatures draw
Draughts of joy from Nature's breast
Both the just and the unjust
Follow in her gentle footsteps.
She gave us kisses and wine
And a friend loyal unto death;
She gave the joy of life to the lowliest,
And to the angels who dwell with God.)
(Tenor Solo and Chorus)
Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt'gen Plan,
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig wie ein Held zum Siegen.
(Joyous, as His suns speed
Through the glorious order of Heaven,
Hasten, Brothers, on your way
Of joyous deeds to victory.)
Seid umschlungen Millionen!
Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!
Brüder! Über'm Sternenzelt
Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Ihr stüzt nieder Millionen?
Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such' ihn über'm Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muss er wohnen.
(Be embraced, all ye Millions!
With a kiss for all the world!
Brothers, beyond the stars
Surely dwells a loving Father.
Do you kneel before him, O Millions?
Do you feel the Creator's presence?
Seek him beyond the stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.)