CHAPTER 9: Putting It All Together -- Beethoven's Ninth



Listening Guide 9.1

Historical Background

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Era of music history: Classical

Nationality: German

Life and work:  Born into a musical family, Beethoven attracted the attention of Joseph Haydn and by the time he was thirty was the hottest composer in Vienna.  For much of his life, he enjoyed the patronage of the aristocracy.  But he also made money through publishing and performing his music.  A legend within his own time, Beethoven’s works have been the backbone of the classical repertoire since his death.

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 “Choral” (1824)

I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso

Instrumentation: orchestra

Duration: 15 minutes and 26 seconds

Mode: minor

Form: sonata-allegro (Exposition, 0:00; Development, 4:40; Recapitulation, 8:24; Coda, 11:54).

Comment: This was the first time Beethoven skipped the exposition repeat in one of his symphonies.  Already of imposing length, the movement would be overly long with a repeated exposition.  Note here also the long concluding coda, a trademark of Beethoven’s style.

Below you’ll find the timings for other important musical events in the first movement.

Listening Guide 9.2

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 “Choral”

II. Molto Vivace

Duration: 11 minutes and 10 seconds

Mode: minor and major

Form: ternary (A, 15:26; B, 20:16; A, 22:46).

Comment: As with ternary forms we’ve seen before, the sections are organized into binary form—in this case, rounded binary.  The chart below gives the timings for the binary subsections. Notice how, in the final coda, the Trio theme briefly returns.

On a rather technical note, Beethoven does indicate that the b subsection of the first A section and the a subsection of the second A section be repeated.  This recording does not observe these repeats.  It should.  But ternary forms are very conventional, and playing loose with such conventions is hardly the worst of musical crimes.

Listening Guide 9.3

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 “Choral”

III. Adagio molto e cantabile – Andante Moderato

Duration: 15 minutes and 50 seconds

Mode: major

Form: double theme-and-variations set.

Listening Guide 9.4

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 “Choral”

IV. Presto

Instrumentation: orchestra with chorus and vocal soloists

Duration: 23 minutes and 35 seconds

Mode: major

Form: non-standard.  The final movement of the Ninth has sometimes been considered an amalgamation of several different forms: concerto, theme and variations, and multi-movement form.  The following table shows how these structural ideas interact with the text.

--translation: Stanley Applebaum