Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies


The premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna on May 7, 1824, is generally considered a milestone in music history. This article argues against the common characterization that Beethoven, in this, his (last) academy, programmed a monumental symphony and, perhaps with some embarrassment, a few filler pieces, but instead very consciously chose to highlight his three most recently composed orchestral works: the overture to the festival play Die Weihe des Hauses op. 124; Kyrie, Credo and Agnus Dei of the Missa solemnis op. 123; and the Ninth Symphony op. 125. Listening to these three works together opens up interesting perspectives on the expressive potential of Beethoven’s late orchestral works: despite the different occasions of composition and genre conventions, Beethoven implemented similar aesthetic ideas in them which manifest themselves, among other things, in numerous fugues, similar symbolic motifs, and interpolated war reminiscences.

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