Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

This week we will continue our music series on famous classical pieces with Beethoven’s masterpiece: Symphony No. 9 (Op. 125). This piece is one of the best known works in the Western classical repertoire and the European Anthem is based on the final movement, the Ode to Joy.

Most people in the Western World have probably heard the final movement at one stage or another in their lives.

The Symphony is the last complete symphony of Beethoven and he finished the masterpiece in 1824. It was the first symphony ever to use vocals and was thus the first choral symphony ever written. He kept that as a surprise at the premiere of the Symphony in Vienna where the choir was hiding behind a giant curtain until the final movement. The audience was ecstatic when the curtain fell and the vocals joined the 4th movement. Beethoven originally wanted to perform the premiere in Berlin, but his friends urged him to perform it first in Vienna.

The lyrics of the final movement were adapted from Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy and Beethoven adapted them to the melody as early as 1803, but did not write the symphony for another 20 years.

The symphony is always a highlight and many musicians dream of participating in a performance of this masterpiece. It is also traditionally played for New Year’s Eve by many orchestra’s, for example the famous Leipzig Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig.

Here the complete recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No.9:

The piece always amazes me and I will lead you through the various movements:

1st movement - Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso

The symphony starts very quietly and opening theme, played pianissimo over string tremolos, so much resembles the sound of an orchestra tuning and over about half a minute the movement builds up in a very powerful crescendo. The famous opening chords of the main motif really make the listener sit back in his/ her chair and listen in awe. The symphony starts in D minor but the movement is transposed back into D major, relieving the listener from the initial shudders.

2nd movement – Molto vivace – Presto

The second movement is a Scherzo and is also composed in D minor. The opening theme is similar to that of the first movement, but the change in tone and nature of the music makes the listener feel that there is a development, an evolution of the music. Beethoven did not adhere to the classical Scherzo form, but mutated it and it has different themes opposing each other. The dance style is very powerful and captivating. This music was also chosen for the film “A Clockwork Orange”, where the theme reoccurred various times.

3rd movement - Adagio molto e cantabile

The third movement is quiet and slow in nature and rather calming. Almost like the “stillness before the storm”. It is rather long and really prepares the listener for the final movement. Beethoven uses a clever change of rhythm between the two themes of the movement: 4/4 and 12/8. This contrast really keeps the listener alert and addicted. Even for the untrained ear the change is obvious and interesting.

4th movement 

The final movement is almost like a symphony in a symphony. It encompasses a complete symphonic composition in just one movement. The main theme is introduced with a powerful fanfare at the beginning. Slowly the famous melody of the Ode to Joy is introduced and builds up in volume and speed.

Then the same fanfare starts again, but a tenor sings the powerful introduction to the ode to joy.

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere an stimmen,
und freudenvollere.
Freude! 
Freude!
Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather, let us raise our voices in more pleasing
And more joyful sounds!
Joy!
Joy!
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, beautiful spark of divinity
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Into your sanctuary, heavenly (daughter)!
Your magic reunites
What custom strictly divided.
All men become brothers,
Where your gentle wing rests.

The chorus and the soloists then sing on the other parts of the adapted poem to give the message of brotherhood in a great musical fashion.

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!
Whoever has had the great fortune
To be a friend’s friend,
Whoever has won a devoted wife,
Join in our jubilation!
Indeed, whoever can call even one soul,
His own on this earth!
And whoever was never able to, must creep
Tearfully away from this band!
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.
Vor Gott!
Joy all creatures drink
At the breasts of nature;
All good, all bad
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us, and wine,
A friend, proved in death;
Pleasure was given to the worm,
And the cherub stands before God.
Before God!
Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt’gen Plan,
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.
Glad, as His suns fly
Through the Heaven’s glorious design,
Run, brothers, your path,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.
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!
Ãœber Sternen muss er wohnen.
Be embraced, millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the starry canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.

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
Götterfunken!

Be embraced, you 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 divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beautiful spark of divinity
Divinity!

In the middle of the movement there is a march alla turca.  It is still disputed why Beethoven chose to incorporate a Turkish March in the middle of this movement. It could however be a hint towards the victory of Western culture at the battles in the 17th century. However, all this is then overcome in brotherhood between the nations …
This symphony is a try jewel in the classical repertoire. Enjoy listening to it!

Image reproduced from www.futura-sciences.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / AnAmericanComposer

 

 

Mozart’s Requiem

This week I continue my music series on City Connect, reporting on famous classical compositions. This time I will discuss Mozart’s Requiem, one of the most famous classical compositions of all times, which also happens to be my personal favourite of all music.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756 in the city of Salzburg which was part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. He was a child progeny and finished his first compositions at a very young age. After a life as a successful and renowned musician in the entirety of Europe, he died in 1791 at the young age of only 35. He started work on his Requiem in 1790 and he never finished it. This Requiem is one of the most enigmatic pieces of music that has ever been composed, mostly because of the myths and controversies surrounding it, especially around how much of the piece was completed by Wolfgang before his death.

The piece was finished by one of Mozart’s former students Franz Xaver Süssmayr. Until today it is still being disputed how much Mozart actually composed of the music. Other composers, such as Joseph von Eybler, have been suggested to having been involved. Furthermore, it is unclear if Mozart left some sketches or ideas about the movements after the Lacrimosa, which are believed to having been composed almost entirely by Süssmayr.

This piece of music is stunning and up to today one of the most played classical music pieces of all times.

The Requiem is divided into 14 parts:

1. Introitus Requiem

The opening movement of the requiem has a very slow crescendo building up to the choir singing Requiem, requiem aeternam, dona eis – Grant them eternal rest. The first notes of this music put me into a trance and into a complete bubble until the performance is finished. Mozart then continues the fugue style introduced by the choir and introduces the solo singers one after another: soprano, alto, tenor and bass.

2.Kyrie

Kyrie eleison! Lord have mercy upon us. This powerful movement starts with the choir in forte. The prayer is sung over and over and introduced by the male voices and then echoed by the female voices of the choir. Afterwards the roles are reversed, giving the entire movement a hectic character creating a feeling of awe in the listener. It ends in a heavy forte bridging over to the next movement.

3. Dies Irae

Dies Irae – The Day of Wrath. Again, the choir introduces the movement in a powerful forte. The string instruments accompany the music in a frantic style and one cannot but feel the words echo in the bones.

4. Tuba Mirum

A trumpet spreading a wondrous sound. Mozart really took the words literally and composed a slow movement carried by a single trumpet at the beginning of the movement until it builds up more powerfully.

5. Rex Tremendae

King of awful majesty. This movement is introduced by the choir and is a slower but heavy movement really captivating the listener and creating a sense of wondrous awe.

6. Recordare

Remember blessed Jesus. This movement is slow and delicate, building up expectations for the next movement. It is dominated by the solo singers.

7. Confutatis Maledictis

When the accursed have been confounded. This movement makes one really feel about the sinners that are accused here.

8. Lacrimosa

The Lacrimosa is the most famous of all the movements, in particular as it is thought to be the last music Mozart ever composed. Probably only the first few chords were composed my the maestro himself and the movement was finished by Süssmayr. It is my personal favourite and fully captivates me every single time I listen to it.

9. Domine Jesu

This movement has a more frantic style and almost seems simpler than the previous movements. The style is definitely different which may hint towards Süssmayr’s influence?

10. Hostias

We offer to you … This movement is slower again and makes the listener reflect. It has a powerful crescendo that “makes you sit firmly in your seats”

11. Sanctus

Holy, holy, holy! The choir introduces the movements with these words. It is a intense movement celebrating the holiness of god. The Hosanna in Excelsis is composed in the fugue style that hints towards Mozart’s education.

12. Benedictus

Blessed is the who cometh in the name of the Lord. The alto and soprano introduce this movement and it is slowly building up.

13. Agnus Dei

This movement is very powerful and is more reminiscent of the typical style of Mozart. Many believe that the maestro himself had composed part of this movement, as it is so typical for him.

14. Lux Aeterna

The Requiem finishes with the “eternal light”. It is almost calming to the listener and sounds like a more resolved version of the first movement. This bridges the Requiem well and gives an impression of all-roundedness and finishes the circle of Life and Death. The eternal light! Listen and be amazed!

Here some selected recordings on Youtube:

CM Giulini, 1979 – Philharmonia Orchestra

Vienna State Orchestra

 

You can also order a fantastic recording by the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester on Amazon UK:

 

Image reproduced from http://grumel.nicolas.free.fr
Video reproduced from YouTube / davidhertzberg and ComposerJMA