Beethoven’s IX Symphony in the Arena is the Verona’s embrace to the world
11 August 2017 Share

Beethoven’s IX Symphony in the Arena is the Verona’s embrace to the world

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The characteristics of universality borne by the symphony resound like a manifesto in the final chorus, exhorting men and women throughout the world to embrace each other in a brotherly manner. Daniel Oren: «The Ninth Symphony is one of the compositions closest to modern man and the condition of crisis afflicting him» –

On Tuesday 15th August at 10 pm there will be the third special evening of the 2017 Opera Festival: the Verona amphitheatre will resound to the world-famous notes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 conducted by Daniel Oren, with the solo voices of  Erika Grimaldi (soprano), Daniela Barcellona (contralto), Saimir Pirgu (tenor, interview) and Ugo Guagliardo (bass). Lighting is designed by Paolo Mazzon; Orchestra and Chorus of the Arena di Verona.

Symphony No. 9 in D minor for soloists, chorus and orchestra, Op. 125 is the last symphony completed by Ludwig van Beethoven, and was commissioned by the London Philharmonic Society in 1817. The main composition work was done between 1822 and 1824, the date of the autograph’s completion; Beethoven had conceived the idea of writing two symphonies of an unusual dimension and nature, one purely instrumental, the other with the inclusion of vocal parts. These two projects were joined by a third, which gave the work unity and fulfilment: the idea of setting the Ode to Joy by Friedrich Schiller to music, that became the finale of the unique new symphony, where the first three movements are exclusively symphonic, while the voices of the four soloists (soprano, contralto, tenor and baritone) and the chorus were only included by Beethoven in the finale.

Symphony No. 9 was performed for the first time on 7th May 1824 at Vienna’s Theater am Kärntnertor, in a program of Beethoven compositions that included three parts of the Missa Solemnis and the ouverture Die Weihe des Hauses. This first performance met with enormous success: even if Symphony No. 9 was very hard to understand, it is said that audience gave Beethoven a standing ovation. The composer did not realize this, due to the serious deafness he suffered from, until contralto Carolina Unger took him by the hand and showed him the crowd waving hats and handkerchiefs.

This is without doubt one of the most famous scores of the entire symphonic repertoire, and definitely one of Beethoven’s greatest masterpieces. The melody of the finale, re-arranged by Herbert von Karajan, was adopted as the European Anthem in 1972. In 2001 the composition became part of UNESCO’s official Cultural Heritage treasures, with its inclusion as the 69th document in the “Memory of the World Register”, established in 1992: the characteristics of universality borne by the symphony resound like a manifesto in the final chorus, exhorting men and women throughout the world to embrace each other in a brotherly manner.

Symphony No. 9 was performed for the first time at the Arena in 1927, while the last performance on the Verona stage dates back to 1981. On the rostrum for this unique evening is Daniel Oren, one of Arena audiences’ most popular conductors who, describing his approach to Beethoven’s music, said that «the Ninth Symphony is one of the compositions closest to modern man and the condition of crisis afflicting him. This is a thing we players are the first to notice and undertake to express with the greatest possible clarity in its entire consequential construction, from the first notes to the final explosion of the Ode to Joy. On the other hand, this is what Wagner realized perfectly: ‘Beethoven’s last symphony redeems music, for its intimate virtues and takes it towards the universal art of the future.’ We and those who come after us are the future».

Top photo: 2015-25-08, Arena, Carmina Burana (Photo Ennevi, Fondazione Arena)

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