Fifth Dimension

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An Evaluation of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony: Introduction

Posted by fifthdimension on May 15, 2007

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Opus 125 is undoubtedly one of the greatest works of the master composer. Various interpretations and critical appreciations of this musical feat provide ample reasons for its claim to greatness.


For decades, Beethoven had been developing the elements that were to go into the Ninth Symphony. As early as 1792, he was contemplating on setting Friedrich Schiller’s poem “An die Freude” (published in 1786). The familiar melody to which the poem is set has a special origin of its own, with notable antecedents in the same opera, the song “Gengenliebe” (“Requited Love”), and most clearly, in the Choral Fantasy, op. 70, premiered at an exhausting concert in 1808.


The Ninth is the only symphony of Beethoven’s late period, which is usually characterized by experimentation with the standard forms of music. Here, the master composer resorts to the perfectly straightforward four-movement plan developed by Haydn, and honored by Beethoven in most of his own earlier symphonies. However, Beethoven’s arrangement of the materials generates something that was new in its time– strange, and wholly unexpected, even by audiences familiar with Beethoven’s taste for the unexpected.



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