Inside Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

We deconstruct the music, and look at the world that inspired it.

"Ludwig van Beethoven," by Karl Joseph Stieler (Credit: Art Archive/Beethoven House)

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with its “Ode to Joy” finale, has come down through the centuries as history’s great and towering hymn to freedom, joy, brotherhood.

We roll it out as a climax, a capstone, a high marker of moments of human profundity.

But the year of its premier, 1824, in Vienna, was a time of great repression, of ultra-conservative nationalism, as old dynasties pushed back against years of Enlightenment and revolution.

This Hour, On Point: Beethoven’s Ninth, in the tide of history.


Harvey Sachs, music historian whose new book is called “The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824.” He is on faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. You can read an excerpt (copyright Random House 2010.)

James Conlon, music director for the Los Angeles Opera. He also serves as music director for the Ravinia Festival in Chicago and the Cincinatti May Festival. He has conducted performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

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