Conducted by Christian Thielemann, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Wiener Philharmoniker) and the Vienna Singverein perform Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op 125. Recorded in 2006 at the Musikverein in Vienna.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op 125, also known as simply the “Choral”. Wiener Philharmoniker & Vienna Singverein. Conductor: Christian Thielemann

Performers (soloists):

  • Annette Dasch, soprano
  • Mihoko Fujimura, contralto
  • Piotr Beczala, tenor
  • Georg Zeppenfeld, bass
  • Vienna Singverein
  • Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Wiener Philharmoniker)
  • Christian Thielemann, conductor

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op 125 “Choral”

The idea for this symphony tormented Beethoven for many years. Dating as far back as 1809, we find notes of musical ideas that will be later used for this symphony. The material he gathered was ultimately used between 1822-1824 when the great symphony was elaborated with chorus and soloists. Its general tone is happiness captured in multiple instances. Perhaps that is why it was also titled “The Symphony of Joy”.

German playwright, poet, and philosopher Friedrich Schiller’s (10 November 1759 – 9 May 1805) poem “The Ode to Joy” interested him from 1793 when he sought to write a song, but the musical theme of Part IV was written only a year before the completion of the symphony.

Symphony No. 9 Movements

  1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso. The first movement constitutes an everlasting moment in the creation of the composer and proof of his creative genius. The secondary violins and the cellos constitute the musical background and, bit-by-bit, scattered sonorities of cvarta (the fourth, the interval formed between two sounds at a distance of four sounds. The fourth is a perfect interval -4p- and contains two tones and a semitone) and cvinta (the fifth, the interval formed between two sounds at a distance of five steps. Fifth is a perfect interval -5p- and contains three tones and a semitone) come into place expressing slight indecision. But afterward, with incredible force, the first theme is introduced, contrasting with the secondary themes and motives derived from it.
  2. Scherzo. Molto vivace — Presto. The second movement is a joyful scherzo with a theme coined by Beethoven in 1815 initially meant for a fugato (see notes 1). Evidently, he does not give up this idea, for the general form of this part is that of a fugato. It expresses the joy of such intensity and depth that the repetition of the scherzo does not overshadow it.
  3. Adagio molto e cantabile. The third movement is marked by a different atmosphere than the previous parts, so we are under the impression that a new cycle begins. This is a moment of great lyricism, from which the composer eliminates any trace of doubt and conflict. The first theme can be considered a coral on a melodic construction, rendered by the chord instruments, and then followed by a secondary theme with a different structure (in ternary meter). It has a dancing disposition resulting from the removal of certain motifs, giving the impression of an “infinite, elliptical melody”.
  4. Presto — Allegro ma non troppo. The choral finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 represents the synthesis of the whole symphony, a memorable page in the book of universal culture. The movement starts with an introduction in which musical material from each of the preceding three movements-though none are literal quotations of previous music-are successively presented and then dismissed by instrumental recitatives played by the low strings. Following this, the “Ode to Joy” theme is finally introduced by the cellos and double basses. After three instrumental variations on this theme, the human voice is presented for the first time in the symphony by the baritone soloist, who sings words written by Beethoven himself: ”O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!’ Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen, und freudenvollere.” (“Oh friends, not these sounds! Let us instead strike up more pleasing and more joyful ones!”). The last movement is the longest of the four movements. Indeed, it is longer than some entire symphonies of the Classical era.

The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (sometimes known simply as “the Choral”), is the final complete symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven (17 December 1770-26 March 1827). Completed in 1824, the symphony is one of the best-known works of the repertoire of classical music. Among critics, it is almost universally considered to be among Beethoven’s greatest works and is considered by some to be the greatest piece of music ever written.

The symphony was the first example of a major composer using voices in a symphony (thus making it a choral symphony). The words are sung during the final movement by four vocal soloists and a chorus. They were taken from the “Ode to Joy”, a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with additions made by the composer. Today, it stands as one of the most played symphonies in the world.

In 2002, Beethoven’s autograph score of the Ninth Symphony, held by the Berlin State Library, was added to the United Nations World Heritage List, becoming the first musical score to be so honored.

Lyrics of the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9


O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern lasst uns angenehmere anstimmen,
und freudenvollere.

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.

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!

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.

Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt’gen Plan,
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.

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!
Über Sternen muss er wohnen.

English Translation

Oh friends, not these sounds!
Let us instead strike up more pleasing
and more joyful ones!

Joy, beautiful spark of divinity,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, burning with fervor,
heavenly being, your sanctuary!
Your magic brings together
what fashion has sternly divided?
All men shall become brothers,
wherever your gentle wings hover.

Whoever has been lucky enough
to become a friend to a friend,
Whoever has found a beloved wife,
let him join our songs of praise!
Yes, and anyone who can call one soul
his own on this earth!
Any who cannot let them slink away
from this gathering in tears!

Every creature drinks in joy
at nature’s breast;
Good and Bad alike
follow her trail of roses.
She gives us kisses and wine,
a true friend, even in death;
Even the worm was given desire,
and the cherub stands before God.

Gladly, just as His suns hurtle
through the glorious universe,
So you, brothers, should run your course,
joyfully, like a conquering hero.

Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss is for the whole world!
Brothers, above the canopy of stars
must dwell a loving father.
Do you bow down before Him, you millions?
Do you sense your Creator, o world?
Seek Him above the canopy of stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.


  1. Fugato: (of a passage of music) having the style of a fugue, but not in strict or complete fugal form. A fugue is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (a musical theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and which recurs frequently in the course of the composition.


M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

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