Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 debuts

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 debuts

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On May 7, 1824, Ludwig van Beethoven’s ninth and final symphony debuts at Vienna’s Theater am Kärntnertor. Having lost his hearing years earlier, the celebrated composer nonetheless “conducts” the first performance of his Ninth Symphony, now widely considered to be one of the greatest pieces of music ever written.

LISTEN ON APPLE PODCASTS: Beethoven's Silent Symphony

Having established himself as one of the greatest composers of the era in the early 1800s, Beethoven had almost completely lost his hearing by 1814 but continued to compose. The Ninth Symphony required the largest orchestra ever employed by Beethoven, and was unusual at the time for its use of voices in addition to instruments. Beethoven hand-picked two young singers, 18-year-old Henriette Sontag and 20-year-old Caroline Unger, for the soprano and alto parts. He stood on stage and appeared to conduct the orchestra when the Ninth debuted, although due to his deafness the players were instructed to ignore the composer and instead follow Michael Umlauf, the actual conductor. Beethoven was several bars off from the actual music by the time the piece concluded. As he could not hear the applause, Unger had to turn him to face the audience as they hailed him with five standing ovations, raising their hats and handkerchiefs in the air.

Critics consider the Ninth one of Beethoven’s crowning achievements. The choral section, adapted from the Friedrich Schiller poem “Ode to Joy,” has transcended the world of classical music and become one of the most often-played and easily recognizable pieces of music of all time. The “Ode to Joy” has been interpreted in almost every way imaginable, and has been employed as an official or unofficial anthem by an enormous range of entities, including the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the Nazi Party, the East-West German Olympic Team and the European Union.


The symphony is scored for the following orchestra. These are by far the largest forces needed for any Beethoven symphony at the premiere, Beethoven augmented them further by assigning two players to each wind part.

(all voices fourth movement only)

The symphony is in four movements, marked as follows:

  1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
  2. Scherzo: Molto vivace - Presto
  3. Adagio molto e cantabile - Andante Moderato - Tempo Primo - Andante Moderato - Adagio - Lo Stesso Tempo : (Presto – Allegro ma non troppo – Vivace – Adagio cantabile – Allegro assai – Presto: 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 GötterfunkenSeid umschlungen, Millionen!) – Allegro ma non tanto: Freude, Tochter aus Elysium! – Prestissimo, Maesteoso, Prestissimo: Seid umschlungen, Millionen!

Beethoven changes the usual pattern of Classical symphonies in placing the scherzo movement before the slow movement (in symphonies, slow movements are usually placed before scherzi). This was the first time that he did this in a symphony, although he had done so in some previous works (including the quartets Op. 18 no. 5, the "Archduke" piano trio Op. 97, the "Hammerklavier" piano sonata Op. 106). Haydn, too, had used this arrangement in a number of works.

First movement

Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso. Duration approx. 15 mins.

The first movement is in sonata form, and the mood is often stormy. The opening theme, played pianissimo over string tremolos, so much resembles the sound of an orchestra tuning, many commentators have suggested that was Beethoven's inspiration. But from within that musical limbo emerges a theme of power and clarity which will drive the entire movement. Later, at the outset of the recapitulation section, it returns fortissimo in D major, rather than the opening's D minor. The introduction also employs the use of the mediant to tonic relationship which further distorts the tonic key until it is finally played by the bassoon in the lowest possible register.

The coda employs the chromatic fourth interval.

Second movement

Scherzo: Molto vivace - Presto. Duration approx. 10 mins.

The second movement, a scherzo, is also in D minor, with the opening theme bearing a passing resemblance to the opening theme of the first movement, a pattern also found in the Hammerklavier piano sonata, written a few years earlier. It uses propulsive rhythms and a timpani solo. At times during the piece Beethoven directs that the beat should be one downbeat every three bars, perhaps because of the very fast pace of the majority of the movement which is written in triple time, with the direction ritmo di tre battute ("rhythm of three bars"), and one beat every four bars with the direction ritmo di quattro battute ("rhythm of four bars").

Beethoven had been criticised before for failing to adhere to standard form for his compositions. He used this movement to answer his critics. Normally, scherzi are written in triple time. Beethoven wrote this piece in triple time, but it is punctuated in a way that, when coupled with the speed of the metre, makes it sound as though it is in quadruple time.

While adhering to the standard ternary design of a dance movement (scherzo-trio-scherzo, or minuet-trio-minuet), the scherzo section has an elaborate internal structure: it is a complete sonata form. Within this sonata form, the first group of the exposition starts out with a fugue.

The contrasting trio section is in D major and in duple (cut) time. The trio is the first time the trombones play in the work.

Third movement

Adagio molto e cantabile - Andante Moderato - Tempo Primo - Andante Moderato - Adagio - Lo Stesso Tempo. Duration approx. 16 mins.

The lyrical slow movement, in B flat major, is in a loose variation form, with each pair of variations progressively elaborating the rhythm and melody. The first variation, like the theme, is in 4/4 time, the second in 12/8. The variations are separated by passages in 3/4, the first in D major, the second in G major. The final variation is twice interrupted by episodes in which loud fanfares for the full orchestra are answered by double-stopped octaves played by the first violins alone. A prominent horn solo is assigned to the fourth player. Trombones are tacet for the movement.

Fourth movement

Presto Allegro molto assai (Alla marcia) Andante maestoso Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato. Duration approx. 24 mins.

The famous choral finale is Beethoven's musical representation of Universal Brotherhood. American pianist and music author Charles Rosen has characterized it as a symphony within a symphony, the view which will be followed below. It is important to note that many other writers have interpreted its form in different terms, including two of the greatest analysts of the twentieth century, Heinrich Schenker and Donald Tovey. In Rosen's view, it contains four movements played without interruption. [ 7 ] 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. Main theme which first appears in the cellos and basses is later "recapitulated" with voices.
  • Second "movement": 6/8 scherzo in military style (begins at "Alla marcia," words "Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen"), in the "Turkish style". Concludes with 6/8 variation of the main theme with chorus.
  • Third "movement": slow meditation with a new theme on the text "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!" (begins at "Andante maestoso")
  • Fourth "movement": fugato finale on the themes of the first and third "movements" (begins at "Allegro energico")

The movement has a thematic unity, in which every part may be shown to be 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 Presto passage. It then briefly quotes all three of the previous movements in order, each dismissed by the cellos and basses which then play in an instrumental foreshadowing of the vocal recitative. At the introduction of the main theme, the cellos and basses take it up and play it through.
  • The main theme forms the basis 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 suggested by cellos and basses.
  • The main theme again undergoes variations, this time for vocal soloists and chorus.

Vocal parts

Words written by Beethoven (not Schiller) are shown in italics.

German original [ 8 ] English translation
O Freunde, nicht diese Töne! Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen, und freudenvollere. Freude! (men's chorus: Freude! ) Freude! (chorus again: Freude! ) Oh friends, not these tones! Rather, let us raise our voices in more pleasing And more joyful sounds! Joy! (Joy!) Joy! (Joy!)
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, Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt. Joy, beautiful spark of divinity* Daughter of Elysium, We enter, drunk with fire, Into your sanctuary, heavenly (daughter)! Your magic reunites What custom strictly divided. All men become brothers, Where your gentle wing rests.
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! Whoever has had the great fortune To be a friend's friend, Whoever has won a devoted wife, Join in our jubilation! Indeed, whoever can call even one soul, His own on this earth! And whoever was never able to, must creep Tearfully away from this band!
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. Vor Gott! Joy all creatures drink At the breasts of nature All good, all bad Follow her trail of roses. Kisses she gave us, and wine, A friend, proved in death Pleasure was given to the worm, And the cherub stands before God. Before God!
Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen Durch des Himmels prächt'gen Plan, Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn, Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen. Glad, as His suns fly Through the Heaven's glorious design, Run, brothers, your path, Joyful, as a hero to victory.
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. Be embraced, millions! This kiss for the whole world! Brothers, above the starry canopy Must a loving Father dwell. Do you bow down, millions? Do you sense the Creator, world? Seek Him beyond the starry canopy! Beyond the stars must He dwell.
Finale repeats the words: Seid umschlungen, Millionen! Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt! Brüder, über'm Sternenzelt Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen. Seid umschlungen, Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt! Freude, schöner Götterfunken Tochter aus Elysium, Freude, schöner Götterfunken Götterfunken! Finale repeats the words: Be embraced, you millions! This kiss for the whole world! Brothers, beyond the star-canopy Must a loving Father dwell. Be embraced, This kiss for the whole world! Joy, beautiful spark of divinity, Daughter of Elysium, Joy, beautiful spark of divinity Divinity!

The full libretto including repetitions can be found on German Wikisource. [ 9 ]

In the near ending, it is, "Freude, Tochter aus Elysium", and also in the near ending, "Wir betreten feuertrunken, Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!", is omitted, then the choir sings the last four lines of the main theme, where they stop at, "Alle Menschen", before the slow part when the soloists sing for one last time the song of joy.

In the ending climax, the chorus softens quietly on the word "Götterfunken". Then, the orchestra descends chords in arpeggio form, and in slow maestoso tempo, the full chorus sings, "Tochter aus Elysium, Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Götterfunken!". [ 9 ] The symphony ends with the orchestra playing the final section in prestissimo tempo.

The vocal part of Beethoven's 9th Symphony thus ends with the final word [ 9 ] "Götterfunken" (literally, "Godly-spark").

9 things you should know about Beethoven's Symphony No. 9

1. It was the last of Beethoven's symphonies, completed three years before his death in 1824.

2. It premiered in Vienna on May 7, 1824.

3. By the time of its premier 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.

4. It is the first symphony to incorporate vocal soloists and chorus into what, until then, had been a purely instrumental genre. Words are sung in the final movement by four vocal soloists and a chorus.

5. The words in the final movement were taken from the "Ode to Joy" poem written by Friedrich von Schiller in 1785. The poem has a strong message to all mankind: it is about living in peace and harmony together.

6. It's the most epic of Beethoven's symphonies, both in length and performers utilized. The piece is scored for soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists, mixed chorus, piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, and strings.

7. It was adopted as the European National Anthem in 1972. In 1985, it became the official anthem of the European Union.

8. 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, like Brahms, Dvorak, and Mahler, shows how important a figure he was.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

Reference Recordings® proudly presents Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in a new and definitive interpretation from Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. We are excited that this new release is part of the Orchestra’s 125th Anniversary joy! Other Orchestra events will include a weekend musical celebration and the release of a digital program on February 27, 2021, the 125th anniversary date of their very first concert.

This album was recorded in beautiful and historic Heinz Hall, home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, in superb DSD 256 Stereo and DSD 256 Multichannel sound. This recording was made in DSD 256 on a Pyramix DSD Workstation from Merging Technologies by the team at Soundmirror to give you, the listener, the highest sound quality possible. It is available in the recorded Stereo DSD 256 and Multichannel DSD 256 bit rate, Stereo and Multichannel DSD 64 and exclusively available in Stereo and Multichannel DSD 128, DXD and Stereo DSD 512 at NativeDSD Music.

Maestro Honeck honors us again with his meticulous music notes, in which he gives us great insight into his unique interpretation as well as the history and musical structure of Beethoven’s most famous symphony.

This release is the eleventh in the highly acclaimed Pittsburgh Live! series of Stereo and Multi­channel DSD releases on the FRESH! imprint from Reference Recordings. This series has received GRAMMY® Nominations in 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Its recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5 /Barber Adagio for Strings won the 2018 GRAMMY® Awards for Best Orchestral Performance and Best Engineered Classical Album.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, always dedicated to artistic excellence, has a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians. Past music directors have included many of the greats, including Fritz Reiner, William Steinberg, Andre Previn, Lorin Maazel and Mariss Jansons. This tradition of outstanding international music directors was furthered in fall 2008, when Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck became music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has always been at the forefront of championing new works, including recent commissions by Mason Bates, Jonathan Leshnoff, James MacMillan, and Julia Wolfe. The Pittsburgh Symphony has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and live radio broadcasts dating back to the 1930s. And, with a distinguished history of touring both domestically and overseas since 1900—including more than 37 international tours—the Pittsburgh Symphony continues to be critically acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest orchestras.

This release and the entire Pittsburgh Live! series are recorded and mastered by the team at Soundmirror, whose outstanding orchestral, solo, opera and chamber recordings have received more than 130 GRAMMY® nominations and awards. For over 40 years, Soundmirror has recorded for every major classical record label, including Reference Recordings.

Soundmirror describes the recording process by noting that “Based on our long experience of recording the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in Heinz Hall, we chose five omnidirectional DPA 4006 microphones as our main microphone array. Supplementing those with “spot mics” to clarify the detail of the orchestration, we worked towards realizing the above goals. Extensive listening sessions with Maestro Honeck and orchestra musicians were crucial in refining the final balance.”

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Manfred Honeck – Music Director

Christina Landshamer – Soprano
Jennifer Johnson Cano – Mezzo Soprano
Werner Gura – Tenor
Shenyang – Bass Baritone

Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh
Matthew Mehaffey – Music Director


Total time: 01:02:44

Additional information

Soundmirror, Boston: We chose five omnidirectional DPA 4006 microphones as our main microphone array. Supplementing those with “spot mics” to clarify the detail of the orchestration.

Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, Pittsburgh, PA

Press reviews

AllMusic – Editor’s Choice 5 out of 5

Conductor Manfred Honeck and his Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra recorded this live reading of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, in 2019.

The marketplace was not exactly crying out for a new Beethoven’s Ninth, even considering Honeck’s strong track record in Classical-era repertory and Reference Recordings’ increasingly fine results in Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall. However, it is absolutely worth experiencing Honeck’s accomplishment here.

The reading is distinctive and justified at length in a booklet essay by Honeck. His reading is fast, blazing, kinetic, with moments of high contrast, such as the ethereal third movement in its entirety, giving the listener breathing space.

The first movement is quick, but Honeck relaxes the tempo just slightly as things proceed, making room for the brass to give their stentorian statements. The scherzo is very fast throughout, which has the effect of not stealing the delicate discourse from the slow movement, and the finale, though also fast, is never rushed.

There is a certain logic in playing the work this way, inasmuch as the impossible-to-sing passages in the solos become just a bit less impossible at these speeds. Most impressive is that Honeck holds the musicians and the singers together at his blazing speeds. His 22:30 timing for the finale comes in more than two minutes faster than, say, Fritz Reiner’s classic Chicago Symphony recording, and Honeck would have been even faster had he not offered a rather deliberate reading of the movement’s recitative introduction.

The soloists shine, and they deliver in a difficult reading that, at its best, feels like the cry of exultation Beethoven envisioned. The slightly American accent of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh is somehow not a detriment but an inducement here. There is real energy running through the performance and real joy.

Reference Recordings has once again produced audiophile-quality sound whose depth and transparency are awesome even on everyday equipment.

TheaterByte 5 out of 5

A thrilling performance of Beethoven’s crowning symphonic achievement by Manfred Honeck and his Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra that in terms of sound and musical execution goes to the top of my list of recordings of this venerable work.

Maestro Manfred Honeck is in his twelfth season as music director of one of America’s top-tier musical organizations, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra now celebrating its 125 th year. It is clear from this new recording of Ludwig van Beethoven’s towering Symphony No. 9, also called the “Choral” symphony, that the working relationship between conductor and orchestra has become a fruitful one as exemplified by this recording, the eleventh in Reference Recordings “Pittsburgh Live!” series on its FRESH! Imprint.

In addition to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, this DSD recording features an accomplished quartet of vocal soloists—soprano Christina Landshamer, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, tenor Werner Güra, and bass Shenyang—and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh led by Matthew Mehaffey. The Mendelssohn Choir has a long performing history with this orchestra and the hand-in-glove coordination of the all-important choral section attests to a level of familiarity that few other orchestras can equal.…

For those who are passionate about what is the greatest symphonic work ever composed, no one recording will ever be enough. While the quartet of singers may not be familiar to some listeners, they are vocally well matched and fit in perfectly with a work that is truly an ensemble piece. Honeck and his colleagues understood this unifying concept that now informs what is one of the best performances of the Ninth Symphony that I have ever heard. With sound that simply astounds and a musical pulse that continually thrills, this Beethoven Ninth joins the rarified air shared by a mere handful of recordings in my collection. Highest recommendation.

NativeDSD Mastering Engineer

Regardless of the format chosen, I believe for now, this is the definitive Beethoven 9 reading for both artistic value, and certainly sound quality.

Tom Caulfield, NativeDSD Mastering Engineer

Bach Track 5 out of 5

Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony is a cornerstone of Western art music. Orchestras program it frequently, yet sometimes that greatness is nowhere to be found. Yet, given all the critical praise that Maestro Honeck receives for his interpretations of the Viennese classical canon, one might wonder, does he really deserve it? To the extent that one can make such a judgment based on a single performance, the answer is a resounding “Yes”.

This was a performance of grand intensity that followed the arc of the music, from the quietude of the introduction to the grand finale some forty minutes later. The control of the violins in the opening murmurs was astonishing. The timpani, with strong yet focused strikes, were awe-inspiring in the Molto vivace, the third movement providing much needed respite. The finale unleashed a torrent of passion and beautiful sound that was spine-tingling.

Honeck’s controlled dynamic contrasts add to the musical drama. This was very apparent when the low strings introduced the famous “Ode to Joy” theme. The rich sound of the PSO cellos and basses seemed to come from deep within the earth only to emerge into a grand statement of brotherhood that leaped into the heavens. The vaunted PSO brass was nothing short of amazing. The horn section was absolutely confident. Every note they played was perfect, down even to the smallest accents. This enabled Honeck to bring out inner voices employing the horns that lesser orchestras mostly blur. The trumpets were similarly gifted, and the strings were models of precision and warmth.

Pittsburgh’s Mendelssohn Choir showed a keen ability to respond to Honeck’s direction, including modifying their dynamics, even within a phrase. The Maestro chose an excitingly crisp tempo in the final movement march, which added even more spark to the fire. The soloists were placed behind the orchestra on stage right. Jennifer Johnson Cano, Christina Landshamer, and Werner Güra were powerful vocalists. Shenyang’s “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!” sounded a little tentative, but he went on to provide a great performance.

Honeck seats the PSO sections in the European style, with the cellos adjacent to the first violins on his left and the second violins to his right. This worked well in Beethoven, especially in contrapuntal passages where the two sections play contrasting roles. The Heinz Hall auditorium is large and reverberant, yet the PSO plays with transparency and precision. Honeck understands this hall and coaxes his orchestra to keep its sound clean and clear.

The lesson learned from this concert is that grand expectations do not always lead to disappointment. In fact, they can lead to great joy and satisfaction. Bravo to everyone involved in this standard-setting performance.

HRAudio.Net 5 out of 5

The majority of the ten previous releases by Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for Reference Recordings Fresh! label have featured the music of composers most familiar to, and popular with, the concert going public – Beethoven, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Bruckner et al. Inevitably, this has brought each of them into direct competition with a cornucopia of recordings from the past, all vying for attention by collectors. Nevertheless, the brilliance and charisma of Honeck’s conducting, his unique interpretive insights into the works he performs and the manner in which they are realized by the magnificent orchestra of which he has been Music Director for the past ten years, have resulted in each of these recordings moving effortlessly and justifiably into the select group of top recommendations for their respective repertoire.

The icing on the cake, of course, has been the stunningly realistic sound quality consistently achieved by the Soundmirror recording team of engineer Mark Donahue and producer Dirk Sobotka. Their longtime familiarity with the acoustics of Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh and close collaboration with the conductor in matters of post-concert editing has ensured an enthralling experience for both audiophiles and those seeking great music making.

A glance at his extensive discography indicates that Honeck has long been associated with the Austro-German repertoire that naturally places Beethoven at its core. His survey of the composer’s Symphonies for Reference Recordings has, so far, focused on the odd numbered works with outstanding accounts of symphonies 3, 5 and 7 to which this superb new recording of the Ninth can now be added.

As has become customary with these Pittsburgh releases, Manfred Honeck has contributed an engagingly readable essay in the liner notes entitled “Beethoven a Musical Manifesto for all Time” in which he begins by giving a concise account of the origins of the Ninth Symphony. He then goes on to provide fascinating movement by movement details of the interpretive decisions he has made regarding, tempi, dynamics, phrasing etc. I suspect, for many of listeners, some of these nuances may go unnoticed, yet there is no doubt that collectively they contribute to the unequivocal integrity of Honeck’s performance.

Honeck’s Beethoven as evinced from the previous releases is lithe and muscular qualities that are at once evident in his incandescent account of the symphony’s opening movement. The conductor’s nod to period practice (violins divided antiphonally and timpani played with hard sticks) yields dividends throughout the performance while his control of dynamics in this movement is especially impressive. The scherzo that follows is bracingly energetic with marvelously crisp timpani to the fore, while the trio section, though taken at a rapid pace, is perfectly articulated by the excellent PSO woodwinds. As always, clarity and precision are a hallmark of Honeck’s performances

The slow movement – marked ‘Adagio Molto e Cantabile’– is exquisitely played and though Honeck’s swift tempo (with a timing of 12’.34” it is faster than some period performances!) may be of concern for some listeners, there is a natural and expressive unfolding of the long melodic lines and no lack of opulent lyricism in his shaping of the variations. The Finale generates plenty of anticipatory excitement in the opening orchestral recitatives and if perhaps bass-baritone Shenyang’s forthright delivery of “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne” sounds a touch strained at the start, he quickly settles down. The other three soloists, soprano Christina Landshamer, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano and tenor Werner Güra, do not disappoint while the large and well drilled chorus – the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh – sing Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’ with unbridled enthusiasm and excellent diction. The remarkable virtuosity displayed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra throughout is beyond praise, not least in the jubilant final bars of the symphony where the conductor tells us “Here, I have tried to go to the limit of playability” and he certainly succeeds!

The recording was compiled from live performances given at Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (June 6-9, 2019) and once again the Soundmirror engineering on this Stereo and 5.0 Channel DSD 256 recording is unimpeachable.

As with most orchestras worldwide the devastating Covid-19 pandemic will have impacted on the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s future concert and recording schedules, but we are fortunate to be able to experience in wonderful high resolution DSD sound this vibrant and electrifying account of Beethoven’s final symphonic masterpiece.

New York Times

Manfred Honeck is one of today’s leading Beethoven conductors. As music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, he has created notably exciting recordings of Third, Fifth, and Seventh Symphonies. Now he and the orchestra, founded 125 years ago this month, are releasing their interpretation of the mighty Ninth.

What makes Honeck’s approach so stimulating in this most standard of repertoire is the sense that he has rethought each bar of the music. He took David Allen through the turbulent opening minutes of the Ninth Symphony’s finale — before the baritone exclaims “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!” (“Oh friends, not these sounds!”) and announces the famous choral “Ode to Joy.”

Symphony No.9, Op.125 (Beethoven, Ludwig van)

6 more: Complete Score (color) • 1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso (monochrome) • 2. Scherzo. Molto vivace - Presto (monochrome) • 3. Adagio molto e cantabile (monochrome) • 4. Presto (monochrome) • Cover Page (grayscale)

4 more: 1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso • 2. Scherzo. Molto vivace - Presto • 3. Adagio molto e cantabile • 4. Presto

5 more: 1. Allegro, ma non troppo, un poco maestoso • 2. Molto vivace • 3. Adagio molto e cantabile • 4. Presto • Replacement page 5 (improved)

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6 more: 1. Allegro, ma non troppo, un poco maestoso • 2. Molto vivace • 3. Adagio molto e cantabile • 4. (Part 1) Presto • 4. (Parts 2, 3) Allegro molto assai (Alla marcia)  Andante maestoso • 4. (Part 4) Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato

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12 more: Oboe 1, 2 • Clarinet 1, 2 (B♭, C) • Bassoon 1, 2, Contrabassoon • Horn 1, 2 (D, B♭) • Horn 3, 4 (B♭ basso, E♭, D) • Trumpet 1, 2 (D, B♭) • Trombone 1, 2, 3 (alto, tenor, bass clefs) • Timpani, Triangle/Bass Drum/Cymbals • Violins I • Violins II • Violas • Cellos and Basses

Ode to joy! A Chicago Symphony Orchestra recording of Beethoven’s Ninth will be featured in a History Channel podcast next week about the landmark work’s premiere.

Part of the cable channel’s “History This Week” series, the podcast will focus on the debut May 7, 1824, of the composer’s monumental Ninth Symphony and his evolution as an artist despite his many physical challenges. The free podcast, which will go live on May 4 and will be available on all streaming platforms, also coincides with the worldwide celebration of the composer’s birth 250 years ago.

The CSO’s Beethoven recording comes from a performance conducted by Music Director Riccardo Muti in September 2014 and then was streamed online beginning May 7, 2015. (To date, that version has been viewed more than 21.5 million times on YouTube.) Earlier this month, the 2015 stream was resurrected as a Facebook Premiere event.

Hosted by NPR veteran Sally Heim, the podcast series revisits historic events that occurred “this week” in time. The May 4 episode features commentary by composer-author Jan Swafford, regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities on Beethoven.

Of the Ninth Symphony, Swafford has observed: “[The work] reached out of the concert hall. The whole piece was outsized and very much related to the large ceremonial works of the French Revolution that [Beethoven] had known from his youth. These are great ceremonial pieces raising big ideas. Everybody knew that the Schiller poem [Ode to Joy, heard in the work’s fourth movement] was a revolutionary poem from the 1780s. Beethoven wrote the Ninth in part as an anthem for humanity to keep the idea of freedom alive, and for the ideal society, in a time of terrible repression.”

Like many of Beethoven’s pioneering works, the Ninth Symphony stands not only as a monument of its own time, but also as a gateway to the music of the future. Of this masterpiece, Muti has remarked: “Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is such a sublime work that I only dared to conduct it for the first time after being on the podium for almost 20 years. … To try to understand what is behind this sometimes metaphysical language is not easy, but we realize in the end that the message is universal.”

Recorded live at Orchestra Hall, the Ninth also features the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by Chorus Director Duain Wolfe), and vocal soloists soprano Camilla Nylund, mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova, tenor Matthew Polenzani and bass-baritone Eric Owens. The complete performance, which opened the CSO’s 2014-2015 season, is available on YouTube.

TOP: Riccardo Muti conducts the CSO and Chorus in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, with vocal soloists Camilla Nylund, Ekaterina Gubanova, Matthew Polenzani and Eric Owens. | © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2014

Other composers of the mature Classical period

So overwhelming was the impact of Beethoven’s symphonies, along with that of Mozart’s and Haydn’s mature ones, on later generations that they utterly obscure the productions of many other worthy symphonists. François Joseph Gossec, an early French symphonist (born in Vergnies, now in Belgium), and the Flemish composer Pierre van Maldere came to grips successfully with the dominating German-Italian idiom both were influenced by Stamitz and his school. Van Maldere was eulogized for his imaginative thematic structures as well as for the unusually serious nature of his compositions, which strongly contrasted with the more lighthearted style characteristic of the Mannheimers.

An English composer, William Boyce, eclipsed by Johann Christian Bach, wrote eight sinfonias that betray in design the strong influence of theatre music. Basically merely overtures in French or Italian styles, they show none of the modern characteristics being formulated at the time in Germany England, in general, was not quick to adopt the new symphonic style.

Eastern Europe produced revolutionary composers of whom little was known until the mid-20th century. Stamitz, Bohemian by birth, overshadowed such competent composers as Jiří Benda. Benda’s symphonies, dating mostly between 1750 and 1765, are generally brief, in three movements, and close to the Italian overture in form and feeling. The sonata form is not exploited, although characteristics such as contrasting themes and contrast within a single theme (a technique used also by Mozart) suggest a Mannheim influence or at least a revolt against Baroque conventions.

Luigi Boccherini, Giovanni Giuseppi Cambini, Michael Haydn (Joseph’s brother), Leopold Mozart (father of Wolfgang), and many other important chamber music composers contributed numerous symphonies well worth performance. Later composers included the conservative Swede Franz Berwald and a brilliant but short-lived Spaniard, Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga, influential mostly in their own countries and Muzio Clementi, Luigi Cherubini, Louis Spohr, and Carl Maria von Weber, who, although better known for work in other genres, were nevertheless popular symphonists. Spohr wrote a number of highly pictorial programmatic symphonies, going well beyond Beethoven’s Pastoral.

Expert-led trips to the musical capitals of Europe

“A grand performance of a new work” is how a prominent Viennese musical newspaper announced a concert of music by Beethoven. Another paper wrote that “anyone whose heart beats warmly for greatness and beauty will surely be present.”

It was on May 7, 1824 that Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was first performed. The symphony was remarkable for several reasons. It was longer and more complex than any symphony to date and required a larger orchestra. But the most unique feature of “The Ninth” was that Beethoven included chorus and vocal soloists in the final movement. He was the first major composer to do this in a symphony.

Beethoven actually started thinking about setting Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” poem to music as early as 1793 when he was 22 years old. Over the following years, the composer would return to this text occasionally and sketch some possible themes for it, but no music was completed. Of course, the “Ode to Joy” has become one of the most recognized melodies in all of music

A Choral Finale

Laimgrubengasse 22 was one the three places Beethoven lived while composing the Ninth Symphony.

In 1817, the Philharmonic Society of London commissioned Beethoven to write a symphony, but he did not start serious work on the new piece until 1822. The first three movements were for the orchestra alone, but the composer knew he needed to end the work with something special. This is when he recalled Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” poem. A movement based on this famous melody was exactly the ending his new symphony needed.

Although it was commissioned by an organization in London, influential Viennese citizens convinced Beethoven to present the first performance in Vienna. The orchestra of the Kärnnertor Theater had to be supplemented with additional musicians, and a chorus of 90 was needed to balance the strength of the orchestra.

Jumping Around Like a Madman

By 1824, Beethoven was almost entirely deaf, but still wanted to be part of the performance and was on stage while the piece was performed to indicate the tempos. Yet, Beethoven could not resist “helping” the musicians on stage by showing them the style and dynamics that he wanted.

The Kaerntnertor Theater in Vienna was where Beethoven’s Ninth was performed for the first time. The theater no longer exists. Today, on the site of the old theater is the Hotel Sacher, right behind the Vienna State Opera House.

The great composer’s actions were animated to say the least. One musician wrote, “he stood in front of the conductor’s stand and threw himself back and forth like a madman. At one moment he stretched to his full height, at the next he crouched down to the floor. He flailed about with his hands and feet as though he wanted to play all the instruments and sing all the chorus parts.” It was a good thing that the conductor had already instructed the musicians not to pay attention to the composer!

Unable to Hear the Applause

Beethoven’s deafness created one of the most touching stories in music. When the symphony was completed, he remained facing the orchestra and could not hear the thunderous applause of the audience for his new symphony. Caroline Unger, the mezzo-soprano soloist, had to tap the deaf composer’s arm and have him turn around so that he could see how the crowd’s response. Many of those in attendance, including Miss Unger, had tears in their eyes when they realized the extent of Beethoven’s deafness.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 debuts - HISTORY


Ludwig van Beethoven

Ozawa: Beethoven – Symphony no.9. Live (24/96 FLAC)

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer: Rie Miyake, Mihoko Fujimura, Kei Fukui, Markus Eiche, Tokyo Opera Singers
Orchestra: Mito Chamber Orchestra
Conductor: Seiji Ozawa
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Label: Decca
Release: 2019
Size: 1.21 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 – “Choral” (Live)
01. 1. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
02. 2. Molto vivace
03. 3. Adagio molto e cantabile
04. 4a. Finale: Presto
05. 4b. Allegro assai
06. 4c. Presto – “O Freunde nicht diese Töne” –
07. 4d. Alla marcia (Allegro vivace assai)
08. 4e. Andante maestoso
09. 4f. Allegro energico e sempre ben marcato
10. 4g. Allegro ma non tanto
11. 4h. Poco allegro, stringendo il tempo, sempre più allegro – Presto

“Ozawa may be entering a glorious Indian summer of creativity” Gramophone

45 years after his debut Philips recording of Beethoven’s 9th, Seiji Ozawa returns to this epic masterpiece

The Mito Chamber Orchestra features many international star players including Radek Baborák (horn), Ricardo Morales (clarinet) and Philippe Tondre (oboe). The German baritone Markus Eiche leads a quartet of leading Japanese soloists and the Tokyo Opera Singers in a fascinating performance on a chamber orchestra scale.

Watch the video: Itzhak Perlman Beethoven: Violin Concerto with Daniel Barenboim, Berliner Philharmoniker