sheet music international

Program Notes and Sheet Music

Photo of Beethoven

Beethoven Symphony Nine

Program Notes and Sheet Music
   (scroll down for sheet music)

    For composer of the 19th century, writing a symphony was the ultimate test of one’s musical skill and ingenuity. Beethoven was fully aware of the challenge and took it up with his Symphony No. 1 in 1800. With some regularity he wrote the next seven finish9ing the Eighth in 1812. It would take another twelve years before the immortal Ninth appeared.

    Nineteenth century audiences were more concerned with structural form and balance than with emotional content. But Beethoven was a man of powerful emotions that demanded adequate expression through music. He expanded and gave strength to music. He was, as one critic put it, “The man who set music free.” His emotional outpouring would culminate in the Ninth Symphony. Beethoven’s persona life was always complicated, and events unfolding in late 1812 would cause him great stress and despair which no doubt impeded his work. 

    The troubled composer wrote to his friend and sponsor Archduke Rudolph, “A number of unfortunate incidents occurring one after the other have really driven me into a state bordering on mental confusion.” It was at this time that Beethoven may have made an attempt to take his own life. By late 1813 all musical productivity came to a halt for a time.

    Beethoven worked on his Ninth Symphony for a long time. Even before 1800 he had considered setting Schiller’s Ode to Joy to music. In 1812 he interrupted work on the Seventh and Eights Symphonies to write down some ideas on the eventual finale. In 1818 he had the idea of using voices in the symphony, but not until 1822 did he consider that a setting of Schiller’s poem could finally be fulfilled. This is not a symphony based on the poem; it is a vehicle for drawing in the most expressive musical instrument of all, the human voice. What the voice says is neither important or intelligible.

    Beethoven treats the voices like another instrumental group in the orchestra which are expressed through tone, rhythm, and melodic line. The basic message is “All men should be brothers.” The first performance of the Ninth was given in Vienna on May 7, 1824. The now completely deaf Beethoven did not conduct, but was in the orchestra beating time for the conductor to follow. At the end, a famous incident occurred, reported by George Grove: The master, through placed in the midst of this confluence of music, heard nothing of it at all and was not even sensible of the applause of the audience at the end of his great work, but continued standing with his back to the audience, and beating the time, till Fraulein Ungher, who had sung the contralto part, turned him, or induced him to turn around and face the people, who were still clapping their hands and giving way to the greatest demonstrations of pleasure.

    His turning around, and the sudden conviction thereby forced on everybody that he had not done so before because he could not hear what was going on, acted like an electric shock on all present, and a volcanic explosion of sympathy and admiration followed.”

Sheet music international