Tuesday, May 07, 2024

The "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 - Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus

Today is the 200th anniversary of the first public performance of Beethoven's Ninth, or "Choral" Symphony. It was unique in its addition of the human voice in the fourth, final movement. In his analysis of the Ninth in today's New York TimesDaniel Barenboim states that, of all Beethoven's works, it is the one "most likely to be embraced for political purposes."
It was played at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin; it was performed in that city again on Christmas 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when Leonard Bernstein replaced the word “Joy” in the choral finale with “Freedom”; the European Union adopted the symphony’s “Ode to Joy” theme as its anthem.

Nevertheless,  Barenboim argues, "[m]usic on its own does not stand for anything except itself," and that the "greatness" of the Ninth "lies in the richness of its contrasts." In this respect, Barenboim states for music what Frank Stella did for visual arts.

The video above is of the climactic "Ode to Joy" finale of the Ninth, performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus, under the direction of Thomas Søndergård.