Skip to content

Conductor of Israel-Palestine Symphony Hits the Right Notes for 200th Birthday oOf Beethoven's 9th Symphony

The incomparable “Ode to Joy” symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven was born on this day, 200 years ago, May 7, 1824. He had worked for a proper musical treatment of Friedrich Schiller’s “An die Freude” for his whole adult life, over 30 years. Beethoven composed three incredible movements, each a complete and monumental work on its own—and then challenged the audience as to what possibly could be missing.

Little recognized is that the Lilliputians of the 1815 Congress of Vienna had thought they had finally defeated Beethoven, with a systematic dumbing down of Europe’s populations; and Beethoven wrote no major works, meant to be performed by large audiences, from 1815 to 1824. Had he disappeared from the scene? His 9th Symphony, along with his “Missa solemnis,” premiered only one month earlier, represented a stupendous “breakout”—in which Beethoven’s capacity for “universal love” conquered the cultural dark age descending upon his world. The power of his love and genius was able to speak not only to his present, problematic generation, but for generations to come.

An important intervention, on behalf of Beethoven’s 9th, was made today by Daniel Barenboim, the co-founder and conductor of the joint Israeli-Palestine orchestra, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. His New York Times article for the occasion argued, in part, that Beethoven was not addicted to political fads: “Instead, he was a deeply political man in the broadest sense of the word. He was concerned with moral behavior and the larger questions of right and wrong affecting all of society.”

Further, and beyond political exegesis upon his 9th Symphony, Barenboim posed:

This post is for paying subscribers only


Already have an account? Sign In