Beethoven's Symphony No. 9
with Thomas Kelly
On this edition of Milestones of the Millennium, we look back to the very first performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on Friday, May 7, 1824. Today, this masterpiece is recognized as one of the all-time greatest achievements, not just in music, but for humanity as a whole. Admired around the world, the symphony has been used countless times to underscore momentous occasions such as the fall of the Berlin Wall.
According to author and commentator Thomas Kelly, the symphony's premiere was also a grand event, but on a much different scale. It was the performance of the newest work by a composer acknowledged at the time to be the greatest in Vienna. But however exuberant the applause, no one at this concert could have foreseen the symphony's importance or regarded it in the same light as we do now. Kelly walks us through the actual events surrounding the concert. His own research has yielded fascinating details about the evening's performers and logistical matters: rehearsing such a complex piece, hiring out a venue, what to wear--concerns we regard as beneath the dignity of a genius such as Beethoven.
But Beethoven understood how to carry off a successful performance and saw no other way to showcase his work. Since that night, countless great performances of this symphony have reinforced his genius, and no single performance defines the greatness of his achievement. Today, if we can't make it to an impeccably rehearsed concert, we can simply pop in a CD. Incidentally, the standard capacity of a CD is approximately 74 minutes long. As Kelly notes, this standard was chosen because it was long enough for an entire performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
Hear Thomas Kelly set the scene for the premiere of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on Friday, May 7, 1824. This marks the sixth installment of PT's Milestones of the Millenium series.
In conjunction with Performance Today's Milestones of the Millennium series, a companion CD series is available from Sony Classical.
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