Beethoven's Ninth: the Score
October 11, 2005 9:47 AM   Subscribe


posted by raedyn at 9:59 AM on October 11, 2005

Thanks for posting this, it's very interesting. I have a charity (non-profit) that has been trying to put together a copyright-free orchestral/choral performance of this for some time. Unions are the problem sadly, not the money. One day!
posted by borisyeltsin at 10:00 AM on October 11, 2005

First performed in 1824, the Ninth Symphony has become one of the most recognized and influential pieces of music of all time. Harvard professor Thomas Kelly investigates its impact, development and historical perspective through dialogue and demonstration. The three hours of video content for this site has been edited into 10 "movements" listed to the left, summarizing the over 16 hours of original content from the Alumni College.


The 9 Lives of Beethoven's Ninth


Notes that bind


Beethoven's Ninth : A Political History


Recordings of Beethoven's Ninth are numerous. Here's a sampler


Beethoven pictures


I'm trying to buy them all, little by little


Famous Beethoven fan
posted by matteo at 10:11 AM on October 11, 2005

Neato. Nice job!
posted by bardic at 10:52 AM on October 11, 2005

I *heart* you, matteo.

A few years ago a boyfriend took me to a performance called "Anatomy of the 9th", very similar to Thomas Kelly's seminar. Three hours of playing dj with the orchestra as he dissected the piece, a q & a period and then the uninterrupted symphony. Amazing.
posted by Frisbee Girl at 11:01 AM on October 11, 2005


I remember back when I was in college and didn't really see what the fuss over Beethoven's symphonies was about; I had only heard versions by, you know, the South Bavarian Pipefitters' Orchestra on Vox or Allegro or one of those two-buck-record companies that used vinyl with lots of bits of ground-up automobiles. Then I heard Toscanini. I ran right out and bought them all and spent the rest of the semester listening obsessively, following along with scores I took out of the library. What I would have given for this! Thanks, matteo.
posted by languagehat at 11:16 AM on October 11, 2005

Word, matteo--many, many thanks for this excellent post, and for the further links here in the thread. Beethoven 9 is the reason I'm a conductor today!

I've been studying this piece (off and on) since I was 14 years old, and still continue to learn from it.

THAT is what truly great art offers us.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:25 AM on October 11, 2005

I'm really enjoying the Thomas Kelly videos. (Too bad it's abridged.) Thank matteo.
posted by gwint at 11:27 AM on October 11, 2005

is the reason I'm a conductor today

*takes a bow to the superior man*

linguaggiocappello, I love the South Bavarian Pipefitters' Orchestra!!!
I once went record-shopping with a fellow mefite, and we were delighted to see some kind of "Beethoven for Your Road Trip" cd -- big red sunset on the cover -- among the Szells and Klemperers and Bruno Walters

posted by matteo at 11:28 AM on October 11, 2005

You know, it occurs to me how much this manuscript demonstrates that the piece, in its fullest reality, existed in Beethoven's head. Holding an entire work of this complexity and magnitude in one's head is no mean feat (not mention thinking it up in the first place).

It's almost like he wrote it down only because he had to, so others could play it--this is no loving, accurate rendering. It's a chicken-scratch, I-do-it-because-I-must writing down of his imagination. At least that's always been my sense when looking at Beethoven's manuscripts.

Or maybe I just wax poetic to feel closer communion with this person who has given me so much.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:30 AM on October 11, 2005

No bows to me, friend, I'm a fan first, just like everyone else!
posted by LooseFilter at 11:34 AM on October 11, 2005


where are the Beethovens of our day?
posted by swinginjohn at 11:37 AM on October 11, 2005

Awesome links.

Perusing that manuscript makes me glad that we notate music with computers these days. Nobody will ever accuse Beethoven of having good handwriting.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:39 AM on October 11, 2005

Awesome. This is great. Thanks.
posted by alms at 11:41 AM on October 11, 2005

The score looks like the music sounds- in places a bloody battle, erasures, corrections, entire passages replaced and crossed out again. Beethoven was notorious for revising. The ending of the 5th symphony was changed no less than 9 times- Leonard Bernstein once did a program on it- putting back in the deleted music, playing it, and demonstrating why it was 'wrong'. I wish it were still available- I had it on a reel to reel tape back in the 70's.
posted by pjern at 11:57 AM on October 11, 2005

swinginjohn, seriously? There are some amazing composers writing now, likely as good as Beethoven. (As much as one could make such a comparison--tenuous at best. Really, what you're asking, I think, is "where are today's composers whose music will be around, performed, speak to us and be loved a couple hundred years from now?")

For your consideration, I submit one:

John Adams.

I particularly recommend that you listen to Naive & Sentimental Music and his Chamber Symphony. So amazing.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:59 AM on October 11, 2005

For those interested, notes:

Naive & Sentimental Music

Chamber Symphony
posted by LooseFilter at 12:03 PM on October 11, 2005

Well, I am extremely lucky that a generous, wonderful person has recently indoctrinated me into the cult of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony...and am duly thankful for the dozen recordings from Giulini to Muti that are treasured gifts...and I listen to this symphony at least once a day to further discover the latent nuance and rhyme to Beethoven’s unique composition..and to gauge the fascinating adherence to tempo and rhythm that each conductor has abbeted through the century of interpretation.

My first reactions after only looking at a few pages of score?:

Was there another composer who had more romantic scribblings than Beethoven? I swear: furious cross-outs, ink smudges, conte crayon, pencil marks, key changes, revisions, intense, specific notations...good lord. Numerous passages are illegible, and it's almost impossible to decipher the original notes from the revision. (I particularly like his "CRES" and "FF" fortissimo in red if ink were not enough to detail his conviction. Absolutely terrifying.)

And again, I know it's been said about Mozart, and is nothing original, but it *is* quite true: to look at the notes on parchment belies its majesty. You can't even imagine the enormous sound that emanates from something so sparse on paper.

solopsist: very cool about Bernstein.

matteo: do you have a favorite recording of the Ninth? Perhaps Furtwängler's? ;p
posted by naxosaxur at 12:12 PM on October 11, 2005

And again, I know it's been said about Mozart, and is nothing original, but it *is* quite true: to look at the notes on parchment belies its majesty.

Indeed. It's quite an interesting relationship between music on paper and music as sound, and one that I've been coming to understand more fully over the past couple of years through studying composition and orchestration, which, it should be mentioned, are two intertwined but still distinct disciplines. Writing a gorgeous melody and great chord progression is one thing, but scoring it for 100 musicians is quite another.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:21 PM on October 11, 2005

where are the Beethovens of our day?
I think Einojuhani Rautavaara may be one, in the sense that LooseFilter's talking about - his stuff will endure for a long time. Don't forget that a lot of Beethoven's output was unpopular and misunderstood during his day. Of course, every hack uses that as an excuse for his own shoddy music ('they just don't understand me!') but there are great writers now whose greatness is probably not yet widely perceived.

Anyway, Rautavaara is one contemporary who seems to care about beauty and craftsmanship in equal measure, and seems to write with the preternatural adeptness that we associate with Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and maybe Enescu.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:23 PM on October 11, 2005

very cool about Bernstein.

Ricky Leecock, the filmmaker, told me the following story:

He was in Israel shooting a film of Bernstein conducting Beethoven, and Lenny sent him out to a sporting goods store to buy a jockstrap.

Seems he kept getting an erection while conducting it.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:24 PM on October 11, 2005

I'm going to link to the manuscripts at the Schoenberg center again - some of them are absolutely gorgeous. Some of them look nearly typeset, some are full of doodles and corrections. I think I love the visual aspect of a great score nearly as much as music sometimes.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:31 PM on October 11, 2005

And why not a Mutopia link while we're at it - free, high-quality postscript and PDF scores. Some people have put in a lot of work to make these available.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:39 PM on October 11, 2005

Perhaps Furtwängler's?

Nope! Celibidache's!
posted by matteo at 12:40 PM on October 11, 2005

*bookmarks Mutopia*

Thanks Wolfdog! I haven't seen that before - I'll give it a closer look at home.
posted by raedyn at 12:58 PM on October 11, 2005

Many years ago, Microsoft released a multimedia CD with an analysis of the 9th. I felt that understood the genius of the 9th so much more after going through the program.

Just a warning: even if you can still find it, I'm not sure that it will work on the current versions of Windows.
posted by Xoc at 1:14 PM on October 11, 2005

thanks for the suggestions Loosefilter and Wolfdog.

I'll go check some stuff out.

posted by swinginjohn at 1:32 PM on October 11, 2005

AskMe thread
posted by matteo at 1:51 PM on October 11, 2005

The listener-supported public radio station I listen to plays the ninth after a successful semi-annual fund drive. It is 24/7 classical music KBPS-FM 89.9 in the Portland OR area, elsewhere streaming audio.
posted by Cranberry at 2:59 PM on October 11, 2005

Many years ago, Microsoft released a multimedia CD with an analysis of the 9th.

One of the best things to ever come out of Redmond. I remember seeing it in high school, when I just started appreciating how a computer could be used as an educational tool.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:38 PM on October 11, 2005

More online scores. Great post! What an incredible thrill to be able to open this document.
posted by ancientgower at 3:40 PM on October 11, 2005

LooseFilter, Don't forget Harmonielehre by John Adams - my favourite by a long way, though admittedly I haven't heard that much of his work. I'll buy the Earbox set one day...
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:00 PM on October 11, 2005

Fantastic post!
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:37 PM on October 11, 2005

Those Microsoft CDs were great, and I remember getting them for free with drives and such. I had such fun playing with the Musical Instruments one. Haven't seen much on the web that measures up.
posted by smackfu at 8:41 PM on October 11, 2005

I still have -- and treasure -- my copy of Multimedia really unlocked this work for me.

Also: check out 9 Beet Stretch for what it sounds like when you slow the Ninth waaaaaaaaay down...
posted by Vidiot at 9:51 PM on October 11, 2005

I loooooove my Multimedia Beethoven CD - a college boyfriend got it for me back in the mid 90s after I took a class in college (Appreciation of the Symphony) and was a little obsessed with the 9th. Man, that class changed my life.
posted by superkim at 7:53 AM on October 12, 2005

Brilliant stuff, thanks all for the links and insight.
posted by unImprinted at 10:57 AM on October 12, 2005

I've been fortunate enough to have sung the 9th twice, and every time I hear it the more convinced I become that it is possibly a perfect musical work. Fantastic post.
posted by the_bone at 5:38 PM on October 12, 2005

A Historic Discovery, in Beethoven's Own Hand
Heather Carbo, a matter-of-fact librarian at an evangelical seminary outside Philadelphia, was cleaning out an archival cabinet one hot afternoon in July. It was a dirty and routine job. But there, on the bottom shelf, she stumbled across what may be one of the most important musicological finds in years.
It was a working manuscript score for a piano version of Beethoven's "Grosse Fuge," a monument of classical music. And it was in the composer's own hand, according to Sotheby's auction house. The 80-page manuscript in mainly brown ink - a furious scattering of notes across the page, with many changes and cross-outs, some so deep that the paper is punctured - dates from the final months of Beethoven's life.
The score had effectively disappeared from view for 115 years, apparently never examined by scholars. It goes on display today, just for the afternoon, at the school, the Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.

posted by matteo at 11:28 AM on October 13, 2005

>>I've been fortunate enough to have sung the 9th twice

This is actually what corrupted it for me, as back in high school, we had to sing an ersatz english (?!!??!!) version accompanied by our high school orchestra. "bells are ringing, hearts are singing..." oh god, it was bad enough to traumatize me for almost a decade.
posted by naxosaxur at 10:47 PM on October 14, 2005

Beethoven's Jingle Bells!
posted by matteo at 1:10 AM on October 18, 2005

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