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Allegro ma non troppo movement from the Ninth Symphony.
Molto vivace movement from the Ninth Symphony.
Adagio molto e cantabile movement from the Ninth Symphony.
Presto movement from the Ninth Symphony.
Choral part from the Ninth Symphony.

Ideas for a symphony in D minor, to form a trilogy with the Seventh and Eighth, occurred to Beethoven as early as 1812 when he was still at work on these pieces. It is sometimes even suggested that the roots of the project go back to the composer's early years in Bonn, where he had his first expressed desire to set Schiller's "Ode to Joy" to music; in this respect its genesis can (as Lewis Lockwood has suggested) be said to span Beethoven's entire creative career. But though there are a few hints of this ambitious undertaking in earlier works - the Cantata on the Elevation of Leopold II to the Imperial Dignity (1790) and the better-know Choral Fantasy op. 80 (1808) - it was not until autumn of 1822 that Beethoven began to plan to work in earnest. And only in 1823, with the Missa Solemnis completed and all but the finishing touches remaining to be applied to the last major work for piano, the Diabelli Variations, was he able to devote his full energy to the symphony. Even by this time Beethoven had not yet committed himself to using vocal forces in the finale, or to sticking to the four movement symphonic norm. There are several sketches for a "finale instromentale", the main theme of which was eventually moulded into the principal subject of the finale of the A minor String Quartet op. 132. A few jottings from the late autumn of 1822 for a second scherzo (also in D minor, but in 2/4 time) and for a dance movement entitled "alla autrichien" suggest the planning of a framework similar to that which was ultimately carried out in the great B flat Quartet op. 130 (Both quartets were written in the year after Beethoven completed the symphony).

There is hardly a musical genre, or a period in his composing career, in which Beethoven did not attempt to work out the problem of beginning a movement in a key other than the home key, or of giving the impression that tonality is suspended altogether. The problem itself was not a new one, having already been worked out on occasions by C.P.E. Bach and Haydn and a few times by Mozart. But never before the first movement of the Ninth Symphony had the materials used to solve i been so drastically reduced, to the primordial interval of a perfect fifth, presented in a time continuum which is meant to be perceived as being almost unmeasurable. How this opening fifth, A-E, is intended to behave cannot be determined from its sound alone; only when the full orchestra bursts in with an arpeggiated D minor chord can it be explained - retrospectively - as the dominant of the home key: as an A major chord without its third. Particularly striking is that the ambiguity is actually achieved by leaving something out; in this respect the Ninth departs radically from it Classical predecessors (for instance, Mozart's "Dissonance" Quartet or the beginning of Haydn's Creation or the third of Beethoven's own "Rasumovsky" Quartet, from 1806), which traditionally created tonal instability in a slow introduction by using more notes than needed to define the home key, not fewer. And unlike these and other earlier attempts to enshroud the tonic, Beethoven takes advantage of the opening gesture's inherent ambiguity to create still more surprises later on in the movement. Thus the resolution to D minor, far from settling the question of how the bare fifth is to behave, proves to be only one of a number of possibilities. And when the third of the chord is finally added at the beginning of the recapitulation - as it to remove all doubts concerning its meaning - Beethoven foxes us once more by suppressing its expected function as a dominant.

In contrast to the first movement, the key of the Scherzo is clearly defined even before the movement begins: in the first eight bars each of the notes of the D minor chord in turn is allowed to present its own statement of the octave motif which dominates the main part of the movement. The beginning of this movement thus also sounds like a summation of the previous one. But just as ambiguity of key is essential to the dynamic of the first movement, so the early definition of D minor is necessary here, for one thing because the ensuing fugato seesaws between D minor and A minor as fugue subject and answer alternate. Furthermore, the role of D minor in the sonata-form exposition is seriously undermined by Beethoven's unusual, an unprecedented, choice of C major (the key built on the flattened seventh) for the second subject group. Instead of creating tension in the move to the contrasting key, a basic principle of sonata form, the tonic is actually made to sound like the weaker of the two tonalities presented in the exposition: a final iconoclastic treatment of sonata design before Beethoven rejects the form outright, in the finale. Two aspects of orchestration deserve particular mention: the timpani are tuned an octave apart (as in the finale of the Eighth Symphony) and are given a part in the development of the octave motif as important as that of any other instrument; and in the trio section, which is in D major, the trombones are introduced for the first time in this symphony, enhancing the hymn-like character of the trio which contrasts sharply with the ferocity of the scherzo itself.

In the slow movement, Beethoven again establishes the home key before the piece really gets under way, but here the mood is one of understatement: the bassoons and clarinets gather up the notes of the dominant seventh chord one by one, and the resolution to the tonic takes place quietly, just before the violins enter with the main theme. Formally, the movement is similar to the Andante of the Fifth Symphony in being made up of a principal idea which alternates twice with a theme of different character. However, the second theme moves at a somewhat quicker pace, and in this respect the movement has perhaps an even greater affinity with the Heiliger Dankgesang from the Quartet op. 132. But what really distinguishes the movement from either of these is that the two statements of the second theme occur in different keys. The first is in D major and sounds tentative, unstable ; the second, in G, provides the needed resolution.

By now it is becoming apparent that the Fifth Symphony has served as a model for the large scale design of the Ninth. In each of the Ninth's first three movements, the parallel key of the tonic - D major - plays an important role. And with the advent of the "Freude" them after the introductory recitative and recall of past movements, the finale takes on D major as its own home key. But rather than build a grandiose sonata structure at this point, as he did in the finale of the Fifth, Beethoven instead creates a totally new formal design, one which can accommodate the increased performing forces (solo voices, chorus, "Turkish" wind band) and suggest a multi-movement shape of its own (the tenor solo "Froh, wie seine Sonnen" and the chorus "Seid umschlunge, Millionen" are in effect the scherzo and slow movement within this structure). Following the long series of varied statements of the "Freude" theme, the critical step is taken. A transitional passage towards the dominant appears to herald the second subject group, and the tempo shows down for a new, tender melody in the violins . This process is, however, interrupted by a timpani roll, followed by the same terrifying orchestral shriek which had begun the movement. When the baritone solo exclaims "O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!" ("O friends, no more these sounds!"), it is to announce that there will be no more sonata form, but enjoys singing instead. With these words, the doors to the Romantic era are thrust open.

Multimedia Beethoven Online Encyclopaedia provides completely explanation of Ludwig van Beethoven's greatest works - his nine symphonies. Please choose the number of the symphony below:

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