Beethoven – Symphony No. 9 in D-Minor, Op. 125 “Choral”

by Max Derrickson

Ludwig van Beethoven   (b Bonn, December 16, 1770; dVienna, March 26, 1827)

Symphony No. 9 in D-Minor, Op. 125 “Choral”
1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
2. Molto vivace
3. Adagio molto e cantabile
4. Presto – Allegro assai

Beethoven’s extraordinary Ninth Symphony of 1824, in culmination with all of his other exceptional output, gave the music world great reason to pause.  In particular, it is the beginning and the ending of this masterpiece that both changed the course of music history and most intensely defined Beethoven’s musical mastery.

The astonishing opening 16 measures, like nothing ever heard before, captured the essence of the staggering human effort in giving meaning and beauty to sound, arising as they do out of the infinite silence, devoid of any definable key, rhythm or direction, then culminating in such frightfully profound power.  Those bars would influence dozens of symphonic composers for decades to come [. . .]

Importantly, the Ninth expresses Beethoven.  Almost entirely deaf, feeling increasingly isolated, and a man of exceptionally high principles, the composer found himself in a world, both physically and spiritually, imperfect.  In his isolation music became even more of a realm of the Divine and deliverance.  What one hears in his latest works, the Missa Solemnis, the Hammerklavier sonata, the late string quartets, and the Ninth, is expression that was no longer in the abstract, but intimately from the deepest core — of big human questions spoken through a personal language.  Perhaps what is most influential in Beethoven’s later music was his courage in showing his own humanness. [. . .]