A new film is out which explores the legacy of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Following the Ninth: In the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony, directed by Kerry Candaele, highlights the timelessness of the music and its political and social significance. From Pinochet’s Chile to Tiananmen Square to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the final movement’s Ode to Joy has emerged as a universal response to oppression. Its themes encompass freedom, liberation, and the universal brotherhood of man. Here is the trailer to the film:
Read about the film in this New York Times piece and watch this clip with Bill Moyers. Here are a few excerpts from reviews:
[quote]Thrilling…….smartly assembled and gracefully paced. -The New York Times[/quote]
[quote]The reach of Beethoven’s final great work extends way beyond the concert hall, as this stirring documentary attests.-Film Journal[/quote]
[quote] A captivating portrait of how art can serve as an inspiration for struggle for freedom….around the world.-Santa Cruz Sentinel[/quote]
Premiering in 1824, Beethoven’s Ninth, with chorus and elements of opera, was the most expansive symphony ever written. Composers who followed Beethoven would struggle to come to terms with this mysterious and daunting work.
The symphony emerges out of silence. We have the sense that the piece began sometime before the volume was turned up. In the last movement, Beethoven quotes the first three movements, musically negating each in favor of the Ode to Joy. In this way, the final movement moves to a higher plane, transcending everything which came before.
We’ll give Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony the full Listeners’ Club treatment at some point in the future. For now, enjoy this performance by Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Also check out Leonard Bernstein’s historic performance celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall. Keep an eye out for the movie and consider the ways in which the Ninth Symphony’s powerful universal themes still have meaning today.