Explication of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

ACTIVITY #1: PRE-LISTENING ASSIGNMENT

Focus Question: How does this text relate to the historical events of the French Revolution and the characteristics of the Romantic Period?

  1. Read and mark-up the “Ode To joy” background notes.
  2. Take notes in response to Friedrich von Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy" through an analysis of at least one example from the poem for each of the following: diction, figurative language, and archetype
  3. State and support with a quotation from the poem what you feel is the tone and theme of this poem.
  4. Using an example from above and a historical fact, explain why this poem is typical of the Romantic period.



ACTIVITY #2: Explication of Beethoven's Symphony #9


  1. Students listen to a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
  2. LCD projector is used to project the musical score of the symphony onto the whiteboard at the front of the room.
  3. Students listen to the symphony and look at the projected score to help them complete notes related to the listening and post-listening questions listed below:

    LISTENING QUESTIONS

    1. Briefly describe a color or image that best illustrates your feelings when the main theme of this work is first introduced at the beginning of the fourth movement. Explain in writing what specific aspect of the music creates this feeling. Complete a quick sketch to help illustrate your feelings.
    2. Describe a color or image that best illustrates your feelings when the main theme is repeated in a different way later in the movement. Explain what specific aspect of the music creates this feeling. Complete a quick sketch to help illustrate your feelings.

    POST-LISTENING QUESTIONS

    1. Identify two different tones for this movement and justify each tone with a piece of support from the lyrics to the poem “Ode To Joy”.
    2. Based on your responses to the questions above, write a paragraph that explains how Beethoven’s Ninth relates to the literary and historical characteristics of the time in which it was created.

HANDOUT

“Ode To joy” background notes

Ludwig van Beethoven was often referred to as a revolutionary; this is partly due to the fact that he grew up during a time of great social and political upheaval. Although he was only six when the American colonies rebelled against the British, he was well aware of the revolution in France and closely followed Napoleon's rise to power. So, much of Beethoven's music can be interpreted to reflect his interest in the struggle for personal and political freedom. This struggle is blatantly clear in his opera Fidelio and the Ninth "Choral" Symphony, but it can also be heard in abstract music such as the Fifth Symphony.

Friedrich von Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy" had aroused Beethoven's republican instincts even in his youth. In 1773, at the age of twenty-two, he had intended, according to a contemporary source, to set the poem "verse by verse." In 1811 some of the poem's words are found in sketches for the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, along with a note describing a planned four- movement symphony using the Schiller text for the finale. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Op. 125 was actually written between 1817 and 1823. The entire work, especially the famous choral melody itself, evolved painstakingly over many years from sketchbook to sketchbook, assuming its final form only in 1822. Nevertheless, there is evidence that, as late as 1823, while composing the choral finale of the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven was also considering a purely instrumental ending for the work.

The Ninth Symphony had its first performance on May 7, 1824, at Vienna's Kärtnertor Theater. By this time Beethoven was totally deaf, so there could be no thought of his conducting the premiere. However, he did stand next to the conductor during the performance to indicate the proper tempi. The music was received with a great deal of emotion, not only by the audience but, more unusually, by the orchestra (some of the players reportedly wept). This work broke new ground in terms of scale and introduced choral forces into the symphony for the first time. It has inspired audiences and musicians for over a century and a half, and, in the words of Richard Wagner, "It is wonderful how the master makes the arrival of the human voice and tongue a positive necessity, by this awe-inspiring recitative of the bass strings; almost breaking the bounds of absolute music already, it stems the tumult of the other instruments with its eloquence, insisting on decision, and passes at last into a songlike theme whose simple stately flow bears with it, one by one, the other instruments, until it swells into a mighty flood."


HANDOUT

"The Chorale" of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (Symphony in D Minor, opus 125)

"Ode to Joy" by Friedrich Schiller

 (Baritone Solo Introduction)

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern lasst uns angenemere
anstimmen, und freudenvollere!

Oh, friends, not these tones!
Let us raise our voices in more pleasing and more joyful sounds.

   

(Baritone, Solo, Quartet, and Chorus)

Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feurer-trunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Wem der grosse Wurf gelungen,
Eines Freundes Freud zu sein,
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,
Mische seinen Jubel ein!
Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
Sein nennt auf Erdenrund!
Und wer's nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!

Joy, fair spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
Drunk with fiery rapture, 
Goddess, we approach thy shrine!
Thy magic reunites those
Whom stern custom has parted;
All men will become brothers
Under thy gentle wing.
May he who has had the fortune
To gain a true friend,
And he who has won a noble wife
Join in our jubilation.
Yes, even if he calls but one soul
His own in all the world!
But he who has failed in this
Must steal away alone and in tears.

Freude trinke alle Wesen
An den Brüsten der Natur;
Alle Guten, alle Bösen
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Küsse gab sie uns und Reben
Einen Freud geprüft im Tod;
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
Under der Cherub steht vor Gott.

All the world's creatures
Draw joy from nature's breast;
Both the good and the evil
Follow her rose-strewn path.
She gave us kisses and wine,
And a loyal friend unto death;
She gave the lust for life to the lowliest; 
And the cherub stands before God.

(Tenor Solo and Chorus)

Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt'gen Plan
Laufet Brüder eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.
Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium!

Joyously, as His suns speed
through the glorious order of Heaven,
Hasten, Brothers, on your way,
Exulting as a knight in victory.
Joy, fair spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium!

(The first stanza is repeated; then the chorus sings.)

Seid umschlungen Millionen!
Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!
Bruder, über'm Sternetizelt
Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Ihr sturzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest due den Schopfer Welt?
Such inh über'm Sternenzelt!
Uber Sternen muss er wohnen.

Be embraced, Millions!
Take this kiss for all the world!
Brothers, surely a loving Father
Dwells above the canopy of stars.
Do you sink before him, Millions?
World, do you sense your Creator?
Seek Him then beyond the stars.
He must dwell beyond the stars.

LISTENING ACTIVITY: Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony in D Minor, opus 125 (Beethoven's Ninth)

1. Briefly describe a color or image that best illustrates your feelings when the main theme of this work is first introduced at the beginning of the fourth movement. Explain in writing what specific aspect of the music creates this feeling. Complete a quick sketch to help illustrate your feelings.

2. Describe a color or image that best illustrates your feelings when the main theme is repeated in a different way later in the movement. Explain what specific aspect of the music creates this feeling. Complete a quick sketch to help illustrate your feelings.

POST-LISTENING QUESTIONS:

1. Identify two different tones for this movement and justify each tone with a piece of support from the lyrics to the poem “Ode To Joy”.

2. Based on your responses to the questions above, write a paragraph that explains how Beethoven’s Ninth relates to the literary and historical characteristics of the time in which it was created.

 © 2010 The Visual Literacy Project