Ninth Symphony by Beethoven
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Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is a symphonic-choral blend that revolutionized the way composers approached their work in the 19th century. It prepared the way for future artists like Wagner and set the tone for the Romantic spring of classical music composition. Its ideological foundation is rooted in the Romantic "Ode to Joy" poem of Friedrich Schiller, penned in 1785 in celebration of the poet's sense-feeling of the universal fraternity of mankind. Fraternity was a notion much in vogue at the time (the French Revolution adopted it as one of its mantras), but Beethoven takes Schiller's idea and elevates in an almost spiritual way, delivering sections of the "Ode" in choral form in the final movement of the Ninth Symphony. But before getting there, Beethoven develops massive musical themes that explore that nature and impulse of humankind's mind and heart. This paper will provide a biography of Beethoven, a history of the composition, and a detailed description of the Ninth in order to show how Beethoven's last symphony is truly a work of greatness.
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770 and demonstrated great skills as a pianist at an early age. He tutored under Joseph Haydn as a young adult and thus his early works are similar in a sense to the works of Mozart who also worked with Haydn. But Beethoven quickly
developed his own method of composing and sought to represent more accurately than any other composer to date the life of the emotions and the musical equivalent of nature (which is exceptionally done in his Sixth Symphony called the "Pastoral"). Beethoven's music was experimental and unorthodox in many ways. His quartet pieces were like splintered works of fine art; as opposed to the more traditional compositional form of four movements, some of his later quartets are filled with movements, the tone of them as diverse and complex as the life of the mind. They are full of dissonance and clashes of sound that depict the violence that was tearing Europe apart at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries. In this sense, Beethoven's music is representational. What is most remarkable, however, is that Beethoven was gradually going deaf during this time, and yet managed to compose some of the most beautiful music ever written -- such as the Ninth Symphony.
Beethoven began work on the Ninth Symphony in 1817 when it was first commissioned by the Philharmonic Society of London (Solomon 251). For seven years, he composed, incorporating passages and themes from other works that he was writing at the same time. Thus, the four movements of the Symphony may be said to serve as stand-alone pieces -- but this would be nothing new for Beethoven. Many of his works…
Sources Used in Documents:
Cook, Nicholas. Beethoven's Ninth. UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Levy, David. Beethoven: The Ninth Symphony. CT: Yale University Press, 2003.
Solomon, Maynard. Beethoven. NY: Shirmer Books, 1997.
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