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Beethoven's Symphonies Ancient instruments Ninth symphony Tenth symphony Transcriptions List

Title Beethoven: The Ninth Symphony with choir in D minor, Opus 125

The Ninth Symphony in D minor, Opus 125, composed by Beethoven in 1822 to 1824, was dedicated to Friedrich Wilhelm III, King of Prussia, and first performed in Vienna on the 7th May 1824. Ignaz Schuppanzigh directed the orchestra, in the presence of the composer. This symphony was at once a great success, and it's premier gave cause for five recalls, whereas the Emperor was only able to benefit from three.

Beethoven constructed his symphony and added at the end of the fourth movement an Ode to Joy. To add an ending with choir was an idea on which he had mused upon since 1807.

Beethoven manifested an intention to compose a work containing inspiration from the Ode to Joy of Friedrich von Schiller as early as 1792 (all scolars do not agree on this). In 1799, Beethoven sketched a setting to music, in the form of a lied, which then served to lead towards Leonore-Fidelio, his opera. The other sketches are found in his notebooks of 1814-1815. Finally, Beethoven adapted the text for his ninth symphony. For this purpose, he prompted a version of 1803 revised by Schiller himself.

As for the musical theme of the Ode to Joy, it finds its origins particularly in the Fantasy for choir, piano and orchestra, opus 80.

The Ode to Joy corresponds to Beethoven's fraternal ideals, where his incessant willingness to compose a work to the measure of Schiller's writing: «Man is to all men a brother Which embraces all beings! - A kiss to all the world!».

Since then, it has not ceased to be performed around the world, by the great ensembles, and conducted by the leading conductors.

It's total length (unheard-of for the time) is 60 to 70 minutes, depending on the performance.

The Ninth Symphony

Title Orchestration and structure


The orchestra, the most important that Beethoven had employed, comprises:

  • the winds in twos, piccolo, and contra bassoon;

  • 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones;

  • 2 kettledrums, triangle, cymbals, bass drum (the three last only in the 4 th movement);

  • the strings, in quintet;

  • a quartet of solo voices (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) in the finale;

  • a four voice choir in the finale.


The Ninth Symphony of Beethoven comprises four large movements:

  • the 1 st movement: allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso, begins piano, in a mysterious manner. Then the vigorous first theme arrives, in d minor, tutti and fortissimo. The second theme is represented by three different motives, there is no reprise of the exposition which links smoothly to the grandiose development;

  • the 2 nd movement: molto vivace is a fast scherzo, notable for the use it makes of the kettledrums. The principal theme, in d minor, is presented with fugal entries. The presto, in D major, takes the place of the trio.

  • The 3 rd movement: adagio molto cantabile, in B flat major, comprises two varied and moving themes. Between the variations there is twice an interlude, andante, another more tender and optimistic theme.

  • The 4 th movement: the longest, and requiring the complete orchestra with four vocal soloists and a four voices choir. It lasts for about 25 minutes and includes the Ode to Joy.
Title The finale of the Ninth Symphony

The finale comprises 9 parts:

1 – Presto: opened by a brilliant fanfare;

2 – Allegro assai: announced by the basses with the famous theme, interrupted three times by the themes of the first three movements;

3 – Presto: after some orchestral introductory measures, the bass intervenes «O Freunde, nicht diese Töne». Note that the words of the recitative are by Beethoven;

4 – Allegro assai: here is truly the Ode to Joy, started by the bass, «Freude» then «Freude, schöner Götterfunken»; entrance of the choir «deine Zauber...», then dialogue with the vocal quartet;

5 – Alla marcia (allegro assai vivace). «Turkish» music, and tenor solo «Froh...», response of the male choir, long tutti of the orchestra following the choir «Freude, schöner Götterfunken»;

6 – Andante maestoso: slow choir accompanied particularly by trombones, followed by an adagio ma non troppo, ma divoto (with choir);

7 – Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato: brilliant choir with brass;

8 – Allegro ma non tanto: only with soloists the entry of the choir. Poco allegro passage, stringendo il tempo, sempre piu allegro: eight measures which lead to prestissimo;

9 – Prestissimo (fortissimo): brilliant choral conclusion.

Beethoven conducting

In December 1989, in Berlin, shortly after the fall of the wall, Leonard Bernstein who conducted the 9th Symphony, for the first time used the word «Freiheit».

Incidentally, it may be remembered that, in 1986, the theme of the Ode to Joy was chosen for the European Anthem.

Title The timings of the 9th Symphony

It may be interesting to examine the respective timings of each movement in some performances.

- Oscar FRIED with the Orchester Staatsoper Berlin made the first recording of the 9 th, in 1929, with the following timings;
13’56 - 10’ - 13’56 - 23’22.

- Felix WEINGARTNER: with the Vienna Philharmonic, recorded the 9th on 7th October 1938. It is an historical version, included in the first complete recording of Beethoven's symphonies by the same conductor.
15’30 - 10’01 - 14’47 - 22’53.

- Arturo TOSCANINI, 22nd December 1939, recorded in public, with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, another historic 9th, of:
12’46 - 12’37 - 13’02 - 23’17.
The same TOSCANINI recorded, in the limits of his complete «official», the 9th, in April 1952 with the same orchestra in:
13’30 - 13’09 -14’21- 23’24 (total: 64’43).

- Wilhelm FURTWAENGLER frequently conducted and recorded the 9th Symphony; there exists around 12 recordings, with five different orchestras.
The most well known version, regularly re-edited since the mid century is that of 29th July 1951, performed with the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra then in its revival a grand and solemn performance:
17’51 - 12’ - 19’32 - 24’59 (total: 74’23).
- l another FURTWANGLER version, quite comparable, was recorded 30th May 1953 in Vienna with the Vienna Philharmonic, in:
18’28 - 12’18 - 19’17 - 25’33 (total: 75’33).

- Herbert von KARAJAN left five recordings of the 9th Symphony:
1. with the Vienna Philharmonic in December 1947:
15’56 - 10’10 - 15’44 - 24’52.
2. with the London Philharmonia in 1955:
15’08 - 10’09 - 16’06 - 24’06.
3. with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1962:
15’27 - 10’58 - 16’25 - 23’58.
4. with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1977:
15’21 - 10’04 - 16’50 - 24’13.
5. with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1985:
15’34 - 10’26 - 15’54 - 24’19.
The consistency of Karajan's tempi is astounding, unvarying in 40 years.

Title A discography of the 9th Symphony

Since the age of 78s to our times, the 9th Symphony has been recorded a great number of times, we have counted no fewer than 150 versions!

The 9th is to be found, of course, included in the 80 complete signals on this site. The majority of the great conductors have recorded the nine symphonies, but certainly, for example Ferenc Friscay disappear prema turely,and could not complete their cycle.

Nevertheless there exists many single 9ths, some recorded “live”, in concert.

Citing some interpretations allows the conductors of the past (this list is by no means definitive):
  - Erich KLEIBER, in 1955. Search

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony


Beethoven's Ninth Symphony


- Carl SCHURICHT, in 1958.

  - Ferenc FRICSAY, in 1958. Search
  - Otto KLEMPERER, in 1958. Search
  - Bruno WALTER, in 1959. Search
  - George SZELL, in 1963. Search
  - Carlo-Maria GIULINI, in 1972. Search
  - Eugen JOCHUM, in 1952, 1962, 1972.


  - Karl BOEHM, in 1956, 1972, 1980. Search
  - Leonard BERNSTEIN, in 1969, 1979, 1989. Search
And also conducted by French chiefs:
  - Charles MUNCH Search
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
  - Pierre MONTEUX Search
  - René LEIBOWITZ around 1960 Search
  - Alain LOMBARD in 1990 Search
More recent recordings:
  - Claudio ABBADO, in 1986 and 2000. Search

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony


- Nikolaus HARNONCOURT, in 1991.

Dispo sur Amazon
  - Michael GIELEN, in 1995. ---
  - David ZINMAN, in 1998. Search
Dispo sur Amazon
  - Daniel BARENBOIM, in 1999. Search
  - Roger NORRINGTON, in 2002 Search
  - Simon RATTLE, in 2002. Search
  - Donald RUNNICLES, in 2003. Search

And many excellent 9ths figure in other cycles which it is impossible to cite here.

Note the cycles on period instruments:
  - Monica HUGGETT and Roy GOODMAN
The Hanover Band ;

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony


London Classical Players ;
  - John Eliot GARDINER
Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique ;
  - Frans BRÜGGEN
Orchestra of the 18th Century ;
  - Christopher HOGWOOD
Academy of Ancient Music.
Citing the two most recent on period instruments: Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
  - Jos van IMMERSEEL, 1999
Anima Eterna Symphony Orchestra and Chorus ;
Buy from
  - Philippe HERREWEGHE, in 1999. Search

There also exist transcriptions of this symphony, for piano, but also for other instruments.

Point out also the re orchestrations of Gustav Mahler.

Title The Ninth sung in French

The CD “Serge Kousevitzky in Paris” recaptures the recording made in Paris, during a concert at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on 5th May 1950.

It includes the Symphony no. 9, opus 125 in D minor, performed by the Orchestre National de France, conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. The Ode to Joy is sung in French, unfortunately the words are barely audible.

Soloists: Janine Micheau, Solange Michel, Georges Jouatte, Charles Cambon.

The choir of the RTF is conducted by René Alix.
Also on the CD: Koussevitzky rehearses the first movement of the 9th Symphony with the Boston Symphony in 1949.

CD Beethoven
Tahra - 2005

Dispo sur Amazon

There is also another CD without the rehearsal of the Boston Symphony:

Many thanks to Melanie PIDDOCKE
for her translation of this page from French into English
© Daniel ACHACHE - Dominique PREVOT
Music Sheet Plus

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