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Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

posted Mar 30, 2014, 10:22 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Mar 30, 2014, 10:26 AM ]
Derived from a Greek word meaning “agreement of sound”, a symphony is an extended musical composition generally scored for orchestra or concert band. The three-movement Italian style of symphony was influenced in the 18th century by German composers, and evolved into four movements with a very structured form. With the rise of established professional orchestras, the symphony assumed a more prominent place in concert life between approximately 1790 and 1820, with Ludwig van Beethoven completing his Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, in 1824.

Although this was his last symphony, it is the first example of a major composer using the human voice on the same level as orchestral instruments, thus making it a choral symphony. (If you’re not familiar with the entire work, you’ll recognize the theme as the hymn Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.)

Did you know this piece even influenced the size of your CDs? When Philips started creating the new audio format, they planned it to have a diameter of 11.5 cm (the same as a compact cassette) or 10 cm, big enough to hold exactly one hour of music. But Sony’s president, Norio Ohga, insisted that it be able to contain a complete performance of the Ninth Symphony, so it was increased to 12 cm. (Thank Beethoven the next time you’re listening to that free bonus track!)

I’m singing it this Friday, April 4th in Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall with the National Chorale. For more information, or to order tickets, call (212) 333-5333 or visit NationalChorale.com.