|Beethoven in 1803, by Christian Horneman|
Many will remember a remarkable world-wide broadcast of Leonard Bernstein performing the Ninth in Berlin on Christmas Day 1989, soon after the city's reuniting. Leading an international orchestra and chorus made up of musicians from east and west, Bernstein changed Schiller's text from an "Ode to Joy" (An die Freude) to an "Ode to Freedom" (An die Freiheit). This alteration was certainly appropriate given the circumstances; what many in the audience may not have realized was that freedom exactly captures what the poem is about. The original message had to be disguised in a time of political repression. Schiller probably meant "Freiheit," but had to say "Freude."Gibbs also summarizes how profoundly the work influenced other composers:
On a more purely musical level, perhaps no other piece of music has exerted such an impact on later composers. How, many wondered, should one write a symphony after the Ninth? Schubert, Berlioz, Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler—the list goes on—all dealt with this question in fascinating ways that fundamentally affected the course of 19th-century music. Schubert, who apparently attended the premiere, briefly quoted the "joy" theme in his own final symphony, written the following year. Almost every Bruckner symphony begins in the manner of the Ninth—low string rumblings that seem to suggest the creation of a musical world. Mendelssohn, Mahler, and Shostakovich followed the model of a choral finale. Wagner was perhaps the composer most influenced by the Ninth, arguing that in it Beethoven pointed the way to the "Music of the Future," a universal drama uniting words and tones, in short, Wagner’s own operas.Here is part of the finale from the 1989 Christmas concert. Chills!