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Ludwig van Beethoven’s “The Ninth Symphony” Essay (Review)

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Updated: Jun 10th, 2022

Ludwig van Beethoven, the Classical German artist, best defined by his music, was born in 1770 and his musical compositions surpassed every existing note in the music world. In an attempt to connect the compositions with the life of the composer, it would be significant to note that the compositions, on the basis of the illustrious Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, were very much related to the personal life of the composer.

It is of great significance to note that the composition style of Beethoven has been evolving through the different stages of his development and this style has never been affected by struggles and misfortunes of his personal life. From the composition of the third Symphony onward, we might notice a drastic transformation in the style of Beethoven’s composition which was free of the influence of his master. The time has tested its worth and it only proved that the art and style of the great composer is only strengthened by the time and the works of his later period, which were composed when he was affected by adversities, are of notable evidence to this assumption.

Completed in 1824, while he was deaf, the Ninth Symphony, the manuscript of which, in the words of Dr Stephen Roe, “is an incomparable manuscript of an incomparable work, one of the highest achievements of man, ranking alongside Shakespeare’s Hamlet and King Lear,” showed one of the most significant transformations in the style of Beethoven’s music. (Begg 2003).

The determination not to be ruined by the deafness or any other misfortunes assisted him grow greater and came greater works like “symphonies 2, 3 ‘Eroica’, 4, 5, 6 ‘Pastoral’, 7 and 8, Piano Concertos 4 and 5 ‘Emperor’, the Violin Concerto, piano sonatas, the three Rasumovsky String Quartets, the opera Fidelio… the Hammerklavier Sonata, the last three piano sonatas, the Diabelli Variations, the Missa Solemnis” and culminating in the greatest of all the Ninth Symphony. (Beethoven 1770 -1827). Thus, the Ninth Symphony is an example of his established pieces that were developed through life experience and matured by the test of time.

Generally considered as one of the greatest music pieces ever composed, the Ninth Symphony told the story of Beethoven’s strenuous period of life which was illustrated by his loud banging of the piano, during its composition, in order to listen to the notes. Several of his most celebrated musical pieces, culminating in the Ninth Symphony, were the products of a period which made him deaf. It would be fundamental to remark at this point that the Ninth Symphony, as opposed to the common belief, was the result of three separate ideas by Beethoven over different periods between 1793 and 1823, and “we can find elements of style from his earlier periods juxtaposed against elements from his late period of composition.” (Beethoven 1997).

Therefore, it was notable that the Symphony was very much related to the life and experience of the great music composer apart from being the result of the varied style of Beethoven’s composition over the different periods of his life. The essential analysis of the composition style of the piece would convey it all.

The Ninth Symphony by Beethoven, first of all, should be recognized as the result of a long cherished wish to give music for the “Ode to Joy” by distinguished Revolutionary champion Friedrich Schiller and the composition reflected the spirit of a great nation, Germany, which was earnestly trying to find an end to the unrest it had been feeling. “The bigness, the idealism, the thrill of massed forces proclaiming the glory of the human spirit to a war-weary international audience–these were not grafted on by mythmakers but were very much Beethoven’s own reaction to the times he lived in.” (Feldman 2005).

Therefore, the life and experience of the composer, his personal feelings, characteristic features of his personality over a period of time etc, apart from the transformation in the style of composition, became most conspicuous in the musical notation.

In this analysis of the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, it would be very reasonable to make the note that aside from preaching freedom and the unity of peoples and attempting to promote them, the late Beethoven pieces, most obviously the Ninth Symphony, tood surprising courses. Whereas his earlier works tended to have a tone, termed by him as “Pathetique” and “Eroica,” which caused a dramatic unfolding, allowing us to listen to what happened to the pathos and the heroism, the late works of Beethoven, the Ninth Symphony being the best example, “turned away from such clear dramatic curves to more elusive and evocative trains of ideas whose effect he and his time called poetic. And in keeping with the turn from drama to poetry, he left the heroics behind.” (Swafford 2003).

To analyze the Ninth Symphony in relation to the change in style that had taken place over the course of Beethoven’s career, it would be important to remark that the piece surfaced from a whispering mist to towering, fateful proclamations. The Joy theme of the final note was considered as “almost constructed before our ears, hummed through, then composed and recomposed and decomposed. The Ninth is music about music, about its own emerging, about its composer composing… “This kiss for all the world!” runs the telling line in the finale, in which Beethoven erected a movement of epic scope on a humble little tune that anybody, can sing.” (Swafford 2003).

The real “kiss” of the composer for the entire universe was the piece itself, in its beauty and terror and simplicity and complexity, ending with a cry of jubilation. The effect of the composition was that, every human being was greeted and invited to the spirit of the work which culminated in the song of joy.

The ultimate value of this analysis relived in the finding that “Symphony No. 9 in D minor, op. 125 represents the apotheosis of Beethoven’s symphonies.” (Beethoven 9th Symphony. 2004-2006). The upshot of a great idea and transformation in the style over a long period of time, as aforementioned, the symphony had a general tone of happiness that was captured in manifold instances, which was the main reason for being titled “The Symphony of Joy”.

Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso, the first part of the Symphony represented an eternal moment in the creation of the composer and became the proof of his creative genius; Allegro vivace, the second part, “is a joyful scherzo with a theme coined by Beethoven in 1815 initially meant for a fugato;” the next, Adagio molto e cantabile “is marked by a different atmosphere than the previous parts;” and the final part, Allegro assai “represents the synthesis of the whole symphony, a memorable page in the book of universal culture.” (Beethoven 9th Symphony. 2004-2006).

In the ultimate conclusion of the paper, it would be interesting to remark that the Ninth Symphony formulated Beethoven’s experience and the conclusions of the life as well as it represented the transformation in the style of composition which had taken place over a period of time. Thus, the composition connected to the life and experience of the composer who had, by the time of the composition, became deaf.

Besides, it also reflected a drastic change in the composer’s style through the course of his career. Nobody will doubt the fact that Beethoven is the most influential symphonist in history who was ready to shake the conventions and traditions with the sheer strength of his musical quality. The musical elements that were apparent in the composition pointed to the same factor. “His music always contains passages of nobility and warmth, and an underlying belief in the human spirit that found such powerful expression in his Ninth Symphony’s ‘Ode to Joy’.” (Beethoven 1770 -1827).

Therefore, the Ninth Symphony would become very important to the understanding of its composer, his life and experience as well as the transformation in his style.

Works Cited

Begg, Duncan. ‘Ninth Symphony’ Manuscript Sells for Record £2.1m. The Independent. Music. 2003. Web.

Beethoven, Ludwig van. ” Classical Net. Bonnie Koo. 1997. Web.

Feldman, Henry. Symphony No. 9 Op. 125 (Choral). William Lane. 2005. Web.

Swafford, Jan. The Beethoven Mystery. Why Haven’t We Figured Out His Ninth Symphony Yet? Slate. 2003. Web.

. All About Beethoven. 2004-2006. Web.

Beethoven, Ludwig van. Final Days. 1770 – 1827. 2008. Web.

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