Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Classical Era > Symphony No. 9, in D Minor ("Choral"). Op. 125. (Beethoven)
Symphony No. 9, in D Minor ("Choral"). Op. 125.
Ludwig Van Beethoven
1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso.
2. Scherzo, molto vivace; Trio, presto.
3. Adagio molto e cantabible.
4. Recitative, Presto; Allegro ma non troppo, etc.
5. Allegro assai.
2. Quartette and Chorus: Allegro assai.
3. Tenor Solo and Chorus: Allegro assai vivace; Alla marcia.
4. Chorus: Andante maestoso.
5. Chorus: Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato.
6. Quartette and Chorus: Allegro ma non tanto.
7. Chorus: Prestissimo.
The Ninth, or "Choral," Symphony, written in 1823, the last of the immortal group, stands prominently out among all other works of its class by its combination of voices and instruments. Before its compositions, Beethoven had been preparing the way such a reunion. In the Choral Fantasie written in 1808, he advanced upon the idea by employing a chorus in the Finale; but in the Choral Symphony he made a still bolder advance and introduced a chorus with variations on a colossal scale. There is a striking resemblance between the two in the choral parts, and Beethoven himself describes the symphony as being "in the style of the Pianoforte Choral Fantasie, but on a far larger scale." Schiller's "An die Freude," the "Ode to Joy," was selected by Beethoven for the Finale.
The symphony is without introduction proper. There is a prologue introducing the first subject, "always Pianissimo," in which the instruments seem to be feeling their way. It begins with an incomplete chord, cello, second violin, and horns, the first violins following sotto voce. After a repitition the real work begins. Against the background of the second violins and cellos, strengthened by the sustained tones of the horns, clarinets, and flutes, the violins, tenors, and contrabasses appear in broken phrases. Then the wind instruments come in one by one, and at last with a mighty crescendo the whole orchestra in unison sweeps into the first subject:
The great crescendo dies away, but the titanic crash is renewed again and again whenever the theme occurs. The second subject --
is in striking contrast with the first, being tranquil and gentle in its inception. At its conclusion, the violins announce another energetic phrase, at last reaching an episode from which is developed a brief but very melodious passage followed by a second episode for the strings in unison, that leads on to the close of the first part of the movement, ending fortissimo and in unison. This division is not repeated. In its place Beethoven proceeds with the working out of his materials, the orchestral parts moving independently of each other and frequently opposed. Yet forming well-developed parts of a grand whole, until the Coda is reached. The old subjects and episodes are worked up with profound skill; but before he closes, a new and darker subject appears in the strings, companion to a threnody sung by the reeds, the strings repeating a chromatic passage through and above which is heard the wail of the oboes, until the movement closes with a powerful outburst.
After twelve bars of prelude the orchestra is fairly launched into the Scherzo, as follows:
in which all the instruments successively join with spirited and brillant effect. The wind instruments follow with a second theme, acompanied by the strings, which, after repetition, leads up to still other tuneful motives given out by the winds. The Scherzo closes pianissimo, but at last the horns and trombones joyfully announce the Trio with its charming pastoral opening:
A vivacious subject for violas and cellos follows the first, and then the horns join in the principal theme until the Coda is reached, in which the whole orchestra enters with the utmost joyousness.
The third movement changes to celestial rest and serenity, and is among the noblest, purest, and most grandly beautiful hymns of joy the great master has written. It is made up of two distinct subjects differing in every musical respect, which are alternately developed until the second disappears. The first for delicious repose and ethereal sweetness can hardly be excelled in the whole realm of musical art. It is taken by the quartet of strings with interludes by the clarinets and horns, as follows:
After the strings have finished the melody, and the first part of the movement comes to a close, the time changes as well the key, and the second violins and tenors announce the following subject in unison:
The transition from this serene movement to the Finale is a startling one. The wind instruments and drums, reinforced by the double bassoon, break out in a most clamorous fanfare, which is interrupted by a recitative passage for the double basses. Again the recitative is heard, and again the clamor; but at last there is an instant hush. The opening bars of the first three movements appear, alternating with recitative, but these evidently are not wanted. At last the final theme is foreshowed, quietly and almost timidly, until the cellos and basses vigorously and unmistakably give it out in the setting of the "Hymn of Joy":
Next the violas and cellos take the theme, then the first violins, and at last the whole orchestra in full force. After its variation, the ominous clamor which introduced the Presto is heard again. This time it is not interrupted by the basses, but by the solo baritone intoning the recitative ("O Brothers, these Tones no longer! Rather let us join to sing in cheerful measures a Song of Joyfulness"). The same voice sings the Hymn, accompanied by the oboes and clarinets, and is followed by the chorus, at first without the sopranos, and alternating with the solo quartet ("Hail thee, Joy, from the heaven descending, Daughter from Elysium!").
Now the orchestra resounds with martial strains in which the percussion instruments are used with powerful effect, introducing the tenor solo, with chorus, in a variation of the theme, "Joyful like her Sons so glorious." The next number is also for chorus, and its solemnity and religious sentiment finely contrast with the martial clang of its predecessor. It is at first given out by the male voices, the female voices following ("Millions, loving, I embrace you"). Following this comes a chorus full of spirit, with a lively accompaniment, based upon the two related themes that have been employed ("Hail thee Joy, from Heaven descending, Daughter from Elysium," etc.). The solo quartet again intones the hymn, alternating with chorus ("Hail thee, Daughter from Elysium, thine Enchantments bind together"). The time is gradually accelerated to a Prestissimo, and voices and orchestra in full volume close the work with the triumphant shout :
Millions, loving, I embrace you,
All the world with this kiss I send.