Ode to joy! A Chicago Symphony Orchestra recording of Beethoven’s Ninth will be featured in a History Channel podcast next week about the landmark work’s premiere.
Part of the cable channel’s “History This Week” series, the podcast will focus on the debut May 7, 1824, of the composer’s monumental Ninth Symphony and his evolution as an artist despite his many physical challenges. The free podcast, which will go live on May 4 and will be available on all streaming platforms, also coincides with the worldwide celebration of the composer’s birth 250 years ago.
The CSO’s Beethoven recording comes from a performance conducted by Music Director Riccardo Muti in September 2014 and then was streamed online beginning May 7, 2015. (To date, that version has been viewed more than 21.5 million times on YouTube.) Earlier this month, the 2015 stream was resurrected as a Facebook Premiere event.
Hosted by NPR veteran Sally Heim, the podcast series revisits historic events that occurred “this week” in time. The May 4 episode features commentary by composer-author Jan Swafford, regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities on Beethoven.
Of the Ninth Symphony, Swafford has observed: “[The work] reached out of the concert hall. The whole piece was outsized and very much related to the large ceremonial works of the French Revolution that [Beethoven] had known from his youth. These are great ceremonial pieces raising big ideas. Everybody knew that the Schiller poem [Ode to Joy, heard in the work’s fourth movement] was a revolutionary poem from the 1780s. Beethoven wrote the Ninth in part as an anthem for humanity to keep the idea of freedom alive, and for the ideal society, in a time of terrible repression.”
Like many of Beethoven’s pioneering works, the Ninth Symphony stands not only as a monument of its own time, but also as a gateway to the music of the future. Of this masterpiece, Muti has remarked: “Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is such a sublime work that I only dared to conduct it for the first time after being on the podium for almost 20 years. … To try to understand what is behind this sometimes metaphysical language is not easy, but we realize in the end that the message is universal.”
Recorded live at Orchestra Hall, the Ninth also features the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by Chorus Director Duain Wolfe), and vocal soloists soprano Camilla Nylund, mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova, tenor Matthew Polenzani and bass-baritone Eric Owens. The complete performance, which opened the CSO’s 2014-2015 season, is available on YouTube.
TOP: Riccardo Muti conducts the CSO and Chorus in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, with vocal soloists Camilla Nylund, Ekaterina Gubanova, Matthew Polenzani and Eric Owens. | © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2014