Beethoven: The Ninth Symphony

Beethoven: The Ninth Symphony: Revised Edition

David Benjamin Levy
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nq6n1
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  • Book Info
    Beethoven: The Ninth Symphony
    Book Description:

    Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, a masterpiece that has influenced virtually every Western composer since its premiere, has become associated with the marking of momentous public occasions. In 1989, Chinese students played its finale through loudspeakers in Tiananmen Square, and Leonard Bernstein led a performance in Berlin to celebrate the razing of the Berlin Wall. This lively and up-to-date book focuses on Beethoven's Ninth, exploring the cultural and musical meanings that surround this powerful work of genius.

    David B. Levy sets the scene with a brief survey of nineteenth-century Germanic culture and society, then analyzes the Ninth symphony in detail with special emphasis on the famous choral finale. He discusses the initial performances in 1824 under Beethoven's direction and traces the symphony's critical reception and legacy. In the final chapter of the book, Levy examines interpretations of the work by prominent conductors, including Wagner, Mahler, and Weingartner. A fully annotated discography of selected recordings completes this comprehensive volume.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12903-8
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    George B. Stauffer

    The Yale Music Masterworks series is devoted to the examination of single works, or groups of works, that have changed the course of Western music by virtue of their greatness. Some were recognized as masterpieces immediately upon creation. Others lay in obscurity for decades, to be uncovered and revered only by later generations. With the passage of time, however, all have emerged as cultural landmarks.

    The Masterworks volumes are written by specialists—historians and performers—who bring to their accounts the latest discoveries of modern scholarship. They examine the political, economic, and cultural background of the works. They consider such...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    I clearly recall the first time I saw a score of the Ninth Symphony. At least once a week, my friends and I made a pilgrimage from New York City’s High School of Music and Art to the Donnell Branch of the New York Public Library on West 53rd Street. Here we would borrow LPs of musical compositions with which we wished to become more familiar. Having selected our recording of the week, we made our way over to East 58th Street—in those days the site of the NYPL’s Music Branch—in order to borrow printed music to go...

  5. Chapter 1 FROM “RESCUE FROM THE CHAINS OF TYRANTS” TO “ALL MEN BECOME BROTHERS”: THE WORLD OF THE NINTH
    (pp. 5-19)

    The utopian ideals expressed in Schiller’s “An die Freude” and in the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony remain unfulfilled, but the hope engendered by these ideals is still very much alive. The end of the Cold War, symbolized by the razing of the Berlin Wall, has raised humanity’s collective expectations of a brighter future. On Christmas Day, 1989, the Wall’s fall was celebrated in historic fashion, when Leonard Bernstein led a performance of the Ninth Symphony in the Schauspielhaus of what was formerly East Berlin. Bringing together an orchestra, a chorus, and soloists from both sides of the defunct Iron...

  6. Chapter 2 THE GENESIS OF THE NINTH
    (pp. 20-48)

    The compositional history of the Ninth Symphony is different from that of any other Beethoven work. Setting it apart, certainly, is the exceptionally long period of time—some thirty-two years—that elapsed between the composer’s first tentative ideas for a setting of Schiller’s “An die Freude” in 1792 and the eventual fulfillment of that plan in 1824 in a context that even he did not anticipate. The work as we know it represents a synthesis of at least two separate projects: the composition of a symphony in D minor (begun in earnest in 1817 in response to the Philharmonic Society...

  7. Chapter 3 THE NINTH: MOVEMENTS I–III
    (pp. 49-88)

    It would be no exaggeration to state that the mysterious beginning of the first movement of the Ninth Symphony is the work’s most striking feature. The murmuring sextuplets of the second violins and cellos and open fifth (A–E) of the horns of the first two measures are couched in a soft dynamic that obscures any clear sense of time, space, or tonality. The sextuplet figure, however, articulates a precisely-measured subdivision of each beat, and one could argue that the listener ought to be able to hear those subdivisions distinctly. Others have maintained that the sextuplet murmur is meant to...

  8. Chapter 4 THE NINTH: THE CHORAL FINALE
    (pp. 89-121)

    Few movements in the history of symphonic music have generated as diverse an array of analytical and aesthetic interpretations as the finale of the Ninth Symphony. Its structure, if not its meaning, has at times seemed ineffable. One can understand how Tovey might have concluded that it is “a law unto itself,” while at the same time asserting that there “is no part of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony which does not become clearer to us when we assume that the choral finale is right; and there is hardly a point that does not become difficult and obscure as soon as we...

  9. Chapter 5 THE PERFORMANCES OF 1824
    (pp. 122-144)

    Had Beethoven waited for encouragement from the Viennese, he might never have finished the Ninth Symphony. The impetus for the work’s final shaping and completion came not from local patrons, but from the directors of London’s Philharmonic Society who had requested in 1822 that Beethoven provide them a new symphony. The Society forwarded the agreed payment of £50 with the reasonable expectation that the first performance of the new work would take place in the British capital. The directors also harbored the hope that Beethoven himself would take a hand in leading the auspicious event, just as Haydn had done...

  10. Chapter 6 IN THE SHADOW OF THE NINTH
    (pp. 145-173)

    The first two performances of the Ninth Symphony in May 1824 were the only ones over which Beethoven had direct control. Any success that the piece would enjoy afterward would depend on musicians who were brave enough to perform the work and critics and audiences who would accept or reject the piece based upon their experience of it. The story of the Ninth’s reception, and of the immense shadow that the work cast, is as complex as the masterpiece itself. The respect that Beethoven’s name commanded assured that the Ninth would be performed. But the efficacy of the composer’s “late”...

  11. Chapter 7 PERFORMANCE TRADITIONS
    (pp. 174-191)

    The conductor has always stood in the vanguard of the battle to gain an audience for the Ninth Symphony. We have seen, in chapter 6, how the demands of the Ninth, especially the difficult changes of tempo and meter within its movements, required a fundamental change in the way orchestral rehearsals and performances were directed. The problems that plagued the earliest performances of the Ninth were gradually solved by the enlistment of a conductor, the provision of adequate rehearsal time, and the general rise in performance standards. But above all, it was the conductor who began to place an indelible...

  12. NINE NINTHS: A SELECT DISCOGRAPHY
    (pp. 192-204)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 205-220)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-226)
  15. Index
    (pp. 227-232)