September 2017 Beethoven's Ode to Joy

Bring in the new school year with Beethoven's, Ode to Joy from 'Symphony No. 9'! 


     Symphonies are large scale works composed for instruments only….at least they were until Beethoven’s 9th! For the first time in history, a composer placed a full chorus side by side with the orchestra – it was unheard of! On top of that, the piece required instrumentalists and vocalists alike to play at a level of difficulty that surpassed anything typical of the day. Beethoven continued breaking the rules by basing his symphony off of a poem. Until Beethoven’s 9th, symphonies were abstract music. Composers of the day felt that symphonic music should be made for music’s sake: pure, and untouched by any extra-musical reference. Beethoven broke nearly every convention with his 9th symphony and paved the way for the Romantic Era in which composers delighted in the freedom to express their own personal whims in music as well as setting literary themes to music.  Beethoven’s 9th is based on a poem by Schiller entitled Ode to Joy.

            It is tradition in Japan for the fourth movement, the Ode to Joy, to be performed as part of their annual New Year celebrations. The performance you will hear was a special one in Japan – it housed over 10,000 singers! You will see young and old, amateur and professional, all joined together to make this moment one you will never forget!

            Prepare yourself for this piece! Before you listen, make sure you have a solid, fully uninterrupted 20 minutes to hear the enitre Ode to Joy movement! Remember, the ode is only 18 minutes of the full 74 that make up the entire symphony! As you listen, keep thinking about the words:

O friends! Not these sounds!

But let us strike up more pleasant sounds and more joyful!

Joy, o wondrous spark divine,

Daughter of Elysium,

Drunk with fire now we enter,

Heavenly one, your holy shrine.

Your magic powers join again

What fashion strictly did divide;

Brotherhood unites all men

Where your gentle wing’s spread wide.