"Art dictates that we not stand still," remarked Ludwig van Beethoven. Hearing all nine symphonies in four days, as we did, or over a period of eight weeks, as you have, is the clearest illustration.
The Ninth Symphony is a world in itself, with a clearly philosophical dramaturgy moving from confusion to clarity, from darkness to light. We'll begin this hour with a strong beacon, the second movement.
In the third comes a moment that maestro Andris Nelsons finds highly striking, telling DW, "It is Beethoven at his most intimate, where he opens his heart almost to the point of being naked. I see this as a conversation between Beethoven and God. I think it is some of the most touching music ever written. Conducting the third movement of the Ninth Symphony always brings tears to my eyes."
Then comes the iconic choral finale, with its vocal part set to Friedrich Schiller's "Ode to Joy." Nelsons has an very personal description of this movement as well: "It shows belief in a positive outcome, be it belief in life after death, or be it triumph over personal tragedy. Beethoven speaks to everyone in different ways, and I can’t tell you how to understand his music. For my part, I think he goes beyond time and beyond classicism. He’s a universal composer who went beyond everything.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, op. 125: 2nd, 3rd and 4th movements
Anna Gabler, soprano
Lioba Braun, alto
Toby Spence, tenor
Vuyani Mlinde, bass
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Andris Nelsons
Recorded by West German Radio, Cologne (WDR) in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn on September 10, 2014
Rebroadcasting rights: one broadcast before December 14, 2015