Prepare yourself for the Des Moines Symphony’s 74th annual Season Debut: Ode to Joy with some little known facts about the man and the most performed orchestral work of all time — Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, you know, the one with the famous Ode to Joy finale! Be sure to hear it live September 17 and 18. — Pam Neubauer, Des Moines Symphony intern
1. Beethoven 9 was adopted as the European National Anthem in 1972. In 1985, it became the official anthem of the European Union.
2. It was the last of Beethoven’s symphonies, completed in 1824, just three years before his death.
3. It is considered one of the first examples of a choral symphony by a major composer. Words are sung in the final movement by four vocal soloists and a chorus.
4. The words in the final movement were taken from the “Ode to Joy” poem written by Friedrich von Schiller in 1785.
5. Symphony No. 9 was premiered in Vienna on May 7, 1824. By this time, Beethoven was completely deaf. At the end of the piece, the crowd burst into applause but Beethoven, who had been a few measures behind the symphony, continued to conduct. The contralto, Caroline Unger, walked over to Beethoven and turned him around so he could accept the rousing applause.
6. It was customary at that time for the Imperial couple to have three ovations whenever they entered a hall. Beethoven received five that night, causing the police agents present at the concert to break off the explosion of ovations.
7. This is Beethoven’s most heavily orchestrated composition, with ten woodwinds, nine brass, four percussionists, four vocal soloists with full choir, Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Cello, and bass. As if this wasn’t enough, Beethoven doubled every wind part for the premiere. If he hadn’t lost his hearing before, he probably would have that night!
8. Don’t think Beethoven has any affect on your day to day life? Think again. When Philips started work on their new audio format known as a compact disc, many groups argued over what size it should be. They planned on having a 11.5 cm diameter CD while Sony planned on 10 cm. One bright chap insisted that one CD ought to have the capacity to contain a complete performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The duration ranges from about 65 to 74 minutes which requires a 12 cm diameter, the size of a CD.
9. Beethoven was a compositional rebel, rejecting standard classical practices in order to write with emotion. While many of his contemporaries were disgusted, if not intimidated by this, his influence on composers to come after him shows how important a figure he truly was:
· Richard Wagner completed a piano arrangement of Symphony No. 9
· Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C Minor is related to the “Ode to Joy” theme in Symphony No.9. Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 has been both praised and chided as “Beethoven’s Tenth.”
· Bruckner used the chromatic fourth in his third symphony in much the same way as Beethoven did in the coda of the first movement.
· Mahler imitates the texture and mood of the opening of the first movement with the opening of his first symphony.
· Dvorak imitates the scherzo of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in his own “New World Symphony” in the opening notes of the third movement.
· The extremely familiar church hymn, “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” is sung to “Ode to Joy.”