Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ode to Joy – the music that #Beethoven heard only in his heart

The word “joy” has been used in the Bible 250 times, "sorrow" 40 and "sadness" only once!

Beethoven first came across the inspiration to his “Ode to Joy” in 1785 when he was a 15 year-old prodigy. It was Friedrich Schiller's poem "An die Freude" ("To Joy"). Beethoven tried to set this poem to music many times but failed. It was only 27 years later that he made his final successful attempt. Even so, it took him 10 agonizing years to complete the Ninth Symphony, during which he rejected over 200 versions before he decided what we now know the Ode to Joy.
 By now Beethoven was 54 years old, ill and completely deaf…
When he conducted the premiere of his Ninth Symphony on May 7, 1824 in Vienna, the story goes that he continued conducting the orchestra and chorus long after they’d reached the end and even after the thunderous applause had begun. It was only when one of the singers turned him around that he stopped and saw the rapturous response to what was to be his final opus, perhaps the most magnificent of all his works…. an Ode to Joy that he never heard with his ears but which played so ecstatically inside his heart!
Incidentally, the centerpiece of celebrations marking the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony….
“Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy sanctuary.
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers,
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.”

An die Freude" ("To Joy") by Friedrich Schiller