Conducted by Daniel Barenboim, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a youth orchestra based in Seville, Spain, plays Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op 125, also known as the “Choral”.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is a very special ensemble: It is made up of young Israeli and Arab musicians and is campaigning for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which was founded in 1999, gives concerts all over the world. Proceeds from the concert in Berlin went to the Barenboim-Said Academy, which supports musical education programs.
- Soprano: Angela Denoke
- Mezzo-Soprano: Waltraud Meier
- Tenor: Burkhard Fritz
- Bass: René Pape
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9
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 a chorus and soloists. Its general tone is happiness captured in multiple instances. Perhaps that is why it was also titled “The Symphony of Joy”.
Friedrich Schiller’s 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.
There are four movements:
- 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 and cvinta 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. “This first somber introduction with epic character renders the bloody days of terror. The empire of freedom and union must be conquered. All the horrors of war constitute the musical substance of this first part…” – A.N.Serov quoted by Alsvang
- Scherzo. Molto vivace – Presto. This movement is a joyful scherzo with a theme coined by Beethoven in 1815 initially meant for a fugato. 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. After this second movement, the public applauded the Austrian violinist Karl Holtz (1798 – 9 November 1858) who served as secretary to Ludwig van Beethoven during the last few years of the composer’s life was recounted: “The instrumentalists had tears in their eyes. The maestro was constantly pointing the measure, up to the point when Umlauf, by a show of hands, pointed to the public. He looked around him and calmly bowed.”
- 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”.
- Presto – Allegro ma non troppo. The finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 represents the synthesis of the whole symphony, a memorable page in the book of universal culture. Schiller wrote the poem “The Ode to Joy” in 1785 and it brought great enthusiasm at that time among the German youth, Beethoven included. Only he became aware of this poem much later, when he was 20, through one of his professors, Fischenich, also a friend of the Schiller family.
Completed in 1824, 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). The symphony is one of the best-known works in classical music repertoire. 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 honored.
Symphony No. 9: Lyrics of the fourth movement
O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern lasst uns angenehmere anstimmen,
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.
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.
- Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven) on Wikipedia
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- Debussy: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune [Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, James Gaffigan] - December 6, 2023
- Pavarotti sings Fra poco a me ricovero [Milano, 1990] - December 5, 2023