Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)

From Academic Kids

The Symphony No. 9 in D minor is the last complete symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. Completed in 1824, it includes part of the ode An die Freude ("Ode To Joy") by Friedrich Schiller, as text sung by soloists and a chorus in the last movement. It is the first example of a major composer using the human voice on the same level with instruments in a symphony.

The symphony may be the best known of all works of European classical music, and is considered one of Beethoven's greatest masterpieces, composed whilst he was completely deaf. It plays a prominent cultural role in modern society.



Writing of the symphony

Beethoven supposedly started work on his last symphony in 1822 and finished it early in 1824. This was about 10 years after his eighth symphony, however Beethoven was working on this work much earlier. Beethoven wanted to put the An die Freude to music as early as 1793. He did that as a song, but unfortunately that song has been lost forever. The theme for the scherzo can be traced back to a fuga written in 1815.

The introduction for the vocal part of the symphony caused a lot of headaches for Beethoven. Beethoven's friend, Anton Schindler, later said: "When he started working on the fourth movement the struggle began as never before. The aim was to find an appropriate way of introducing Schillers' ode. At one day he [Beethoven] entered the room and shouted 'I got it, I got it!' Then he showed me a sketchbook with the words 'let us sing the ode of the immortal Schiller'". That introduction didn't make it however, and Beethoven would spend a lot of time rewriting the part until it had its current form.


Beethoven was eager to get his work played in Vienna as fast as possible when he finished writing. He was equivocal however, Beethoven thought the musical taste in Vienna was stricken by Italian composers as Rossini. When his friends and financiers heard this they urged him to premiere the symphony in Vienna.

The Ninth Symphony was premiered May 7, 1824 in the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna. The conductor was Michael Umlauf, the musical director of the theater, who was assisted by the composer standing at his side. The work was premiered along with the overture Die Weihe des Hauses and the first three parts of the Missa solemnis.

There are a number of anecdotes about the premiere of the Ninth. Based on testimony of the participants there are suggestions that it was under rehearsed (there were only two full rehearsals) and rather scrappy in execution. On the other hand the premiere was a big success. In any case Beethoven was not to blame, as violist Josef Bohm recalled "Beethoven directed the piece himself, that is: he stood before the lectern and gesticulated furiously. At times he raised, at other times he shrinked to the ground, he moved as if he wanted to play all the instruments himself and sing for the whole chorus. All the musicians minded his rhythm alone while playing".

At the conclusion of the performance Beethoven had to be forcibly turned around to accept the audience's cheers and applause According to one witness, "the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them."



The official name is: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, opus 125. The symphony is sometimes referred to as "Chorale", pointing to the vocal end of the symphony. Also know as The Symphony of Joy.


The Ninth Symphony is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum, a string section consisting of the usual first and second violins, violas, cellos, double basses, four vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), and a chorus singing in four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). These are by far the largest forces needed for any Beethoven symphony; at the premiere Beethoven expanded them further by assigning two players to each wind part.


The symphony is in four movements, marked as follows:

  1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
  2. Molto vivace
  3. Adagio molto e cantabile
  4. Presto/recitative - Allegro ma non troppo/recitative - Vivace/recitative - Adagio cantabile/recitative - Allegro assai/recitative - Presto/recitative: "O Freunde" - Allegro assai: "Freude, schöner Götterfunken" - Alla marcia - Allegro assai vivace: "Froh, wie seine Sonnen" - Andante maestoso: "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!" - Adagio ma non troppo, ma divoto: "Ihr, stürzt nieder" - Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato: "Freude, schöner Götterfunken" / "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!" - Allegro ma non tanto: "Freude, Tochter aus Elysium!" - Prestissimo: "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!"

This arrangement of movements adopts a slightly unusual Classical pattern, with the scherzo movement in second (rather than the normal third) position. Beethoven was familiar with this arrangement from Haydn's work and had used it on various occasions throughout his career (the quartets Op. 18 no. 4-5, the "Archduke" piano trio Op. 97, the "Hammerklavier" piano sonata Op. 106).

First movement

The first movement is in sonata form, following a formal model that had guided Beethoven throughout his career. The mood is generally bleak and stormy. A striking moment here is the onset of the recapitulation section, which instead of literally repeating the pianissimo opening bars in D minor, switches to fortissimo D major, a key change which has struck many listeners, paradoxically, as expressing terror or awe.

Second movement

The second movement, a scherzo, is likewise in D minor, with the opening theme a kind of echo of the theme of the first movement, a pattern found likewise in the Hammerklavier piano sonata, written a few years earlier. It is notable for its propulsive rhythm and timpani solos (for this purpose the two timpani are tuned, unusually, an octave apart). At one point Beethoven gives the direction ritmo di tre battute, meaning that the beats of three consecutive measures must form a single rhythmic unit, as if the music were in 9/4 instead of 3/4 time; this is later reverted with ritmo di quattro battute, with the typical four-measure beat.

The contrasting trio section is in D major and in duple time.

Third movement

The lyrical and deeply felt slow movement, in B-flat major, is written in a loose variation form, with each of the two variations dividing the basic beat to produce a more elaborate melodic configuration than what went before. The first variation, like the theme, is in 4/4 time, the second in 12/8. The variations are separated by more impassioned passages in 3/4, the first in D major, the second in G major. The final variation is twice interrupted by striking episodes in which loud fanfares for the full orchestra are answered by double-stopped octaves played by the first violins alone.

Fourth movement

The famous choral finale has struck many listeners as somewhat rambling. Some helpful clarification can be found in the description of Charles Rosen, who characterizes it as a symphony within a symphony, containing four movements played without interruption. This "inner symphony" follows the same overall pattern as the Ninth Symphony as a whole. The scheme is as follows:

  • First "movement": theme and variations with slow introduction
  • Second "movement": scherzo in military style (begins at "Alla marcia", words "Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen"). Beethoven's older listeners at the premiere would have recognized this as so-called "Turkish music."
  • Third "movement": slow meditation on the text "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!" (begins at "Andante maestoso")
  • Fourth "movement": fugal finale on the themes of the first and third "movements" (begins at "Allegro energico")

The movement differs from an independent symphony because of its thematic unity: every part is based on either the main theme, the "Seid umschlungen" theme, or some combination of the two.

The first "movement within a movement" itself is organized into sections:

  • An introduction, which starts with a stormy, chaotic Presto passage. It then briefly quotes all three of the previous movements in order, each dismissed in various ways by the cellos and basses, who play in imitation of vocal recitative. The introduction eventually "discovers" the famous theme, which then becomes the subject of
  • A series of variations for orchestra alone.
  • The introduction is then repeated from the Presto passage, this time with the bass soloist singing the recitatives previously played by cellos and basses, followed by
  • The variations again, this time for vocal soloists and chorus.

Text of fourth movement

Words written by Beethoven, not Schiller, are shown in italics.

German original
O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere
anstimmen und freudenvollere.

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,
(Schiller's original:
Was der Mode Schwert geteilt;
Bettler werden Fürstenbrüder,)
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.

Final section repeats the words:
Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium/
Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!

English translation
Oh friends, not these tones!
Let us rather raise our voices together
In more pleasant and joyful ones.

Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
With fiery rapture, goddess,
We approach thy shrine.
Thy magic reunites
That which stern custom has parted;
All people become brothers
(Schiller's original:
What custom's sword has parted;
Beggars become princes' brothers)
Where thy gentle wing is spread.

Let the man who has had the great fortune
To be the friend of a friend,
And the man who has won a noble woman,
Let him join in our chorus of jubilation!
Yes, even if he holds but one soul
As his own in all the world!
But let the man who knows nothing of this
Steal away weeping from our gathering.

All the world's creatures drink
From the breasts of nature;
Both the good and the evil
Follow her trail of roses.
She gave us kisses and wine
And a friend loyal unto death;
Pleasure was granted to the serpent,
And the cherub stands before God.

Joyous, as his suns speed
Through the glorious order of Heaven,
Hasten, brothers, on your way,
Joyful as a hero to victory.

Be embraced, ye millions!
With this kiss for all the world!
Brothers, beyond the stars
Surely there dwells a loving Father.
Do you kneel before him, oh millions?
Do you sense the Creator's presence?
Seek him beyond the stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.

Final section repeats the words:
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
Be embraced, ye millions!
With this kiss for all the world!


Performing the symphony

Lasting about 75 minutes in performance, the Ninth was an exceptionally long symphony for its time, although it has been exceeded in length (and, arguably, conceptual scope) by several later symphonies, most notably those of Bruckner and Mahler. Mahler's 2nd, 3rd and 8th, as well as being conceived on an even grander scale, also make use of large choral and vocal forces, in direct imitation of Beethoven.

Beethoven's Ninth makes extreme demands on the singers, partly because his vocal writing seems designed to evoke a sense of effort, and partly because concert pitch is higher now than it was in Beethoven’s day. Thus, it is fairly rare to find a performance that is suitably forceful but avoids any hint of shrieking or shouting. Specialists in authentic performance have experimented with performing the work at Beethoven’s concert pitch, which seems to help somewhat.

A delicate issue conductors must face is the fact that Beethoven left metronome markings specifying the tempo of each section. Historically, conductors have been very reluctant to respect these markings, preferring, for example, a slower tempo than Beethoven's for the slow movement and a faster tempo for the military march section of the finale. This is part of a general pattern whereby Beethoven's metronome markings have proven unpopular among modern artists, and the possibility that Beethoven was (despite his unquestioned abilities as a composer) an inept metronome user should perhaps not be excluded. Conductors in the authentic performance movement, notably Roger Norrington, have experimented with adhering to Beethoven's tempos, to mixed reviews.

Ninth Symphony in the 20th century

In 1964 Maurice Béjart and his Ballet du XXe siècle gave an acclaimed performance of "IXe symphonie", a ballet based on the Ninth Symphony.

The Ninth Symphony has frequently been incorporated into film scores, television, and popular music. For a list of instances, see Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in popular culture.

At most Olympic games during the second half of the 20th Century, the fourth movement has been performed as part of ceremonial processions.

The symphony seems to have taken particularly deep root in Japan, where it is widely performed during December as part of the annual celebration of the new year.

An adapted form of Beethoven's setting of Schiller's ode was chosen to be the anthem of the European Union.

Students in Beijing's Tiananmen Square protest broadcast the symphony through loudspeakers in 1989 as a statement against tyranny. A famous performance conducted by Leonard Bernstein on December 25, 1989 celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall. It substituted Freiheit ("freedom") for Freude ("joy") in the sung text.

It is widely believed that the characteristics of the Sony/Philips Compact Disc were influenced by a desire to accommodate performances of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on a single disc. This requirement is variously attributed to Herbert von Karajan (a Philips artist with access to Sony chairman Akio Morita), to Morita's wife, and to Sony president Norio Ohga. The urban legends investigators at ( consider this to be "undecided." It does appear that at a late stage in development, the diameter of the CD was increased to 12 cm. to accommodate a playing time of 74 minutes. [1] (



External links

es:Novena Sinfonía de Beethoven id:Simfoni No. 9 (Beethoven) ja:交響曲第9番 (ベートーヴェン) ko:베토벤_교향곡_제9번 pt:Nona sinfonia de Beethoven zh:第九交响曲 (贝多芬)


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