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Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: Concert Review

Introduction

Concerts of classical music performed by contemporary orchestras tend to target a specific audience. However, some of the performances are outstanding and not limited to individual viewers due to musicians’ high professionalism and world recognition. As a concert for review, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony will be considered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,1 one of the greatest ensembles of modern time with a long history. Under the direction of Riccardo Muti, the world-renowned conductor, the orchestra presented a powerful performance filled with energy mixed with brooding and solemn transitions.

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Performance Description

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is one of the most famous works of the great German composer. His aesthetics is a combination of different means of influencing the listener, including sharp tonal transitions and the use of major and minor harmonies. According to Rehding,2 in the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven embodied his talent and resorted to the themes of Christian history revealed in other works, for instance, “The Requiem.” The harmony of the symphony is filled with triumph and sorrow as integral elements of human life. As one of the most famous representatives of the classical school, Beethoven has retained the status of one of the most listened to composers. Many millions of online views of this concert prove this statement and allow asserting the relevance of this music.

The concert is built in a traditional form: the conductor’s greeting, almost an hour and a half performance, and farewell to the audience. The orchestra’s performance is mesmerizing from the first minutes not only due to the great music but also to the professionalism of the musicians and Riccardo Muti, the Italian conductor. As Shiflett3 remarks, The Ninth Symphony is often interpreted as a piece in which the theme of violence is traced through harsh and even aggressive passages. Therefore, even today, this work of Beethoven does not lose its popularity and awakens feelings that people experienced a hundred and two hundred years ago. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which is included in the top list of world ensembles, demonstrates the composer’s genius and his ability to create tension that is discharged by the end.

Performance Style and Instruments Used

Any work of Beethoven is a mixture of moods, which is realized through a wave structure. In the Ninth Symphony, the main emphasis is on bowed (violins and cellos) and wind (flutes and clarinets) instruments. However, to create tension, the use of timpani and double basses is an integral part of most of Beethoven’s works, including the Ninth Symphony. According to Rehding,4 combining different instruments allows maintaining the ascending and descending structure that forms the basis of this piece and contributes to the impact on the feelings of the audience by creating mixed emotions. As a result, the orchestra transitions into solemn parts from quiet and melodic fragments of the symphony quickly, thereby creating tension.

The conductor’s expression heightens the tension in particularly moving parts of the concert and grabs attention. A special role is assigned to the orchestra choir that enters in individual parts of the symphony and ends the performance with a solemn hymn. Due to a large occupied space, the sound spreads evenly by filling the entire room and allowing the audience to feel the power of Beethoven’s symphony.

All musicians and singers are on the stage throughout the entire concert since this piece of music is not an operatic work and is built in a canonical form reminiscent of a church service. The stage is separated from the audience, which indicates a clear intention to demarcate listeners and musicians and create an additional sensation of observation. This decision is intentional since the 130-year-old Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a renowned ensemble, and the culture of spectacle typical of American society is reflected in this concert. As a result, professional performance complemented by vivid show creates a sense of involvement and, at the same time, separates the contemporary audience from the canonical form of the classical piece of music.

Intended Audience and Public Reaction

Both before and after the concert, the audience welcomes the orchestra and the conductor with long ovations, which speaks of recognition and fame. The adaptation of the Ninth Symphony to a modern performance manner allows assuming that the target audience can be different, although, for a child’s perception, such music can be difficult. Shiflett5 notes that Beethoven is possibly conveying his own emotions through this music, and the audience understands and hears this. The kinetic energy of the orchestra flows into the public, and at the end of the concert, all spectators give a standing ovation. This suggests that classical music has no time frame or cultural constraints, and the audience’s reaction confirms the continued relevance of the Ninth Symphony as an outstanding object of the world’s musical heritage.

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Conclusion

The viewed concert of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony leaves behind mixed feelings, which is due to the wave structure of this work. The impact on the audience through different emotions and the combination of bright major and quiet minor harmonies creates the effect of immersion in a dynamic environment. The professionalism of the conductor and the musicians convey the genius of the composer and the energy that the public feels and appreciates.

Bibliography

Beethoven 9 – Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Riccardo Muti.” YouTube video. Posted by Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 2015. Web.

Rehding, Alexander. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Shiflett, Campbell. “The Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, Its Rich History.” Current Musicology 107 (2020): 6-28.

Footnotes

  1. “Beethoven 9 – Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Riccardo Muti,” YouTube video, posted by Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 2015. Web.
  2. Alexander Rehding, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 45.
  3. Campbell Shiflett, “The Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, Its Rich History,” Current Musicology 107 (2020): 15.
  4. Alexander Rehding, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 76.
  5. Campbell Shiflett, “The Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, Its Rich History,” Current Musicology 107 (2020): 14.

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StudyCorgi. "Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: Concert Review." January 13, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/beethovens-ninth-symphony-concert-review/.

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StudyCorgi. 2023. "Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: Concert Review." January 13, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/beethovens-ninth-symphony-concert-review/.

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StudyCorgi. (2023) 'Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: Concert Review'. 13 January.

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