Beethoven's Other 'Ode to Joy'

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Beethoven Awareness Month is in full swing at WQXR, and The Choral Mix is jumping on board. This week Kent Tritle devotes the Choral Mix to all things Beethoven. Among the masterworks heard this we, we hear Beethoven's brilliant Choral Fantasy.

In December 1808, Beethoven unveiled is monumental Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, on the same occasion as his Symphony No. 6 and the Mass in C Major were heard for the first time. In hopes of uniting all of the works at the end of this long evening, Beethoven composed his Choral Fantasy for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra.

Set in two movements, Beethoven uses the melody to which he set Friedrich Schiller's "Ode to Joy" in his masterpiece, the Ninth Symphony. Beethoven also recycled one of his own melodies, taking the tune of his Gegenliebe and making it the Choral Fantasy's main theme. We hear the work performed by the Westminster Choir and the New York Philharmonic, led by Leonard Bernstein with Rudolph Serkin at the piano.

Also on this weeks Beethovenathon, a portion of the Symphony No. 9, performed by Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with the legendary Jessye Norman, Mass in C Major performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and more.

Comments [3]

Michael Meltzer

A fine program, Kent, and a great, great sampler of the master's hand in choral music.
I had just one disappointment when you began the Choral Fantasy at the point you did, because I have always considered the moment when in the 'theme and variations' section a bit earlier, the string quartet variation suddenly and joyfully morphs and explodes into full orchestra and gives us one of the greatest moments in all classical music.
It's similar to your earlier example of the "And there was light" from your Haydn Creation program, and to me makes or breaks any Choral Fantasy recording. I may buy it just for Rudolf Serkin anyway, but I wouldn't trust Bernstein on anything without hearing it first.

Nov. 22 2011 03:28 PM
Serge Ledan from Queens, NY

Indeed, Mr. Ekman, I greatly concur. Nothing in classical music beats listening to the works of the Unsurpassed Master... at any time may I had: sunrise, sunset and anything in between.

Nov. 20 2011 08:45 AM
Gary Ekman from Manhattan/NYC

What could be more wonderful than listening to Beethoven's magnificent choral music as the sun rises over Manhattan?

Nov. 20 2011 07:32 AM

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