Ludwig van Beethoven created Europe's hymn
Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/dpa) The jubilation of the audience on the night of the premiere was something which Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) could not even hear. The composer was completely deaf when he watched the world premiere of his Symphony No. 9 in D-minor, Opus 125, on May 7, 1824 in Vienna. He saw the orchestra playing, the soloists walking onto the stage and then the finale with the chorus singing for the first time the uplifting "Joy, thou glorious spark of heaven." Beethoven read the singers' lips while they performed. Barely three years later, on March 26, 1827, the great composer died.
Today, "Beethoven's Ninth" belongs not only to the classic works in the concert business. The famous choral part in the final movement, with the text from poet Friedrich Schiller's "An die Freude" (Ode to Joy), has also been the European Union's official hymn since 1985. Schiller's line "all people become brothers" only gained immortality thanks to Beethoven's music. On the eve of May 1, 2004 when the Eastern European countries joined the EU, it was the "Ninth" with its "Ode to Joy" which resounded in many of festivities.
The "Ninth" is regarded as the key work in the symphonic music form and as the zenith of Beethoven's creations. With the great choral finale, it was the first time that the human voice had been employed in a symphony. No other work in symphonic literature has had such a resonance. The "Ninth" also had major influence on the works of such later composers as Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler.
Beethoven had carried the idea around with him for many years of putting music to the 1785-created "Ode to Joy" poem. But after the completion of his Eighth Symphony in 1812 it took him nearly 12 years before the "Ninth" was completed. Illness, loneliness and increasing deafness put their stamp on Beethoven's life in these years.