Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony no. 9 in D minor, opus 125, Fourth movement 23:22

Text: portions of "Ode to Joy" by Friedrich Schiller


I wrote this analysis of the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to aid my students in following along as the music played. The timings are based on the classic 1952 recording conducted by Arturo Toscanini (RCA Victor Gold Seal), but the timings could be adjusted to fit any other recording. Please keep in mind that this was written by a non-musician for non-musicians in a general humanities class and does not pretend to be a technical analysis--just a way of helping beginning listeners to classical music appreciate what is going on.

Elapsed time

0:00 The movement opens agitatedly as the orchestra picks up fragments of one theme after another from the previous three movements, as if seeking a satisfactory vehicle for its expression; but each is discarded in turn.

1:15 The first seven notes of the main theme to come are tentatively uttered, but it too is abandoned as the search continues.

2:17 Once again the theme begins, this time in the woodwinds, but it soon breaks off.

2:46 Finally, the theme emerges decisively in the basses for a subdued first statement.

3:24 The second statement is calm, tranquil, confident, and the theme continues onward in the various voices of the orchestra, broad and flowing.

4:38 The winds make a strong statement of the theme.

5:49 The flow of the music abruptly halts--there are rapid shifts--great agitation, until

6:02 the orchestra introduces the baritone singing the first three lines of the poem, rejecting the feverish discords of the previous passage, calling for a different music, whose nature is suggested by the strings beneath his voice:

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne,
O friends, not these notes!
sondern lasst uns angenehmere
Rather let us take up something more
anstimmen, und freudenvollere.
pleasant, and more joyful.

6:43 The chorus echoes his "Freude!" and he is off through the first part of the ode on the main theme:

Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Joy, lovely divine light,
Tochter aus Elysium
Daughter of Elysium
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
We march, drunk with fire,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.
Holy One, to thy holy kingdom.
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Thy magic binds together
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
What tradition has strongly parted,
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
All men will be brothers
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Dwelling under the safety of your wings.

7:12 The chorus recapitulates the last four lines of this section.

7:30 The theme is now presented by a vocal quartet, which continues the ode:

Wem der grosse Wurf gelungen,
He who has had the great pleasure
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein
To be a true friend to a friend,
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,
He who has a noble wife
Mische seinen Jubel ein!
Let him join our mighty song of rejoicing!
Ja--wer auch nur eine Seele
Yes--if there is a solitary soul
Sein nennt auf' dem Erdenrund!
In the entire world which claims him--
Und wer's nie gekonnt, der stehle
If he rejects it, then let him steal away
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund.
Weeping out of this comradeship.

alternating with the chorus, which repeats the last four lines, and the quartet then sings:

Freude trinken alle Wesen
All beings drink in joy
An den Brüsten der Natur;
From nature's breasts.
Alle Guten, alle Bösen
All good and evil things
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Follow her rose-strewn path.
Küsse gab sie uns und Reben
She gave us kisses and grapes,
Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;
A friend, tested unto death,
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
Pleasure is given even to the worm
Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.
And the cherubim stand before God.

with the chorus repeating the last four lines of this section. Each time through the theme is treated to ever more elaborate variations.

9:10 There is a dramatic pause at the climax of the word "God", and the theme emerges rhythmically transformed in the winds as a military march, matching the martial words of the tenor in these lines:

Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Happy, like thy Sun which flies
Durch des Himmels prächt'gen Plan,
Through the splendid Heavens,
Wandelt, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Wander, Brothers, on your road
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.
Joyful, like a hero going to victory.

10:53 An orchestral interlude.

12:30 The chorus re-enters, repeating these lines :

Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Joy, lovely divine light,
Tochter aus Elysium
Daughter of Elysium
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
We march, drunk with fire,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.
Holy One, to thy holy kingdom.
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Thy magic binds together
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
What tradition has strongly parted,
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
All men will be brothers
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Dwelling under the safety of your wings.

13:16 There is a dramatic shift, and the poem continues:

Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Be embraced, you multitudes,
Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!
In this kiss of the entire world.
Brüder--überm Sternenzelt
Brothers--over the canopy of stars
Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen!
A loving Father must live.

and these lines are then repeated.

15:14 The religious section of the ode begins as the chorus intones in an awed manner: Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?
Millions, do you fall upon your knees?

15:30 The music rises hopefully toward God and the heavens as the final lines of verse are sung:

Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Such' ihn überm Sternenzelt!
Seek Him above the canopy of stars!
Über Sternen muss er wohnen.
Surely He lives above the stars.

16:58 The last section, from "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!" is repeated triumphantly in counterpoint.

18:36 A dramatic hush, the music rises steadily.

19:23 The quartet then re-enters with the following lines from the beginning of the poem:
Tochter aus Elysium
Daughter of Elysium
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Thy magic binds together
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
What tradition has strongly parted,

20:06 The chorus underlines "Alle Menschen werden Brüder," "All mankind will be brothers."

20:50 The same line is repeated ecstatically by the quartet, which soars upward to

21:30 its peak.

21:41 The orchestra and chorus re-enter at a rapid tempo to bring the movement to its

23:22 conclusion.


Original German text, public domain; Translation by Paul Brians

First mounted June 16, 1995.

Last revised, February 9, 2010.

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