Best of Beethoven

Regula Mühlemann, soprano
Marianna Pizzolato, mezzosoprano
Maximilian Schmitt, tenor
Thomas E. Bauer, baritone

Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir
Kammerorchester Basel

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 9 D-minor op. 125


Recorded on 2nd September 2016 at the Festival Tent Gstaad

Giovanni Antonini conducts Beethoven’s 9th

Beethoven’s 9th symphony is undoubtedly one of the highpoints of western music culture. To Wagner it was “the last great symphony”, Wilhelm Furtwängler saw it as the embodiment of the European genius. The Ode to Joy, words written by Friedrich Schiller, is even nowadays synonymous to a wonderful hymn for freedom: freedom of thought and of existence.

Around 1793, Beethoven feels the symphony stirring in his thoughts. He gets the feeling that Schiller’s lyrics would work nicely with his music. But the road towards a great symphony is long. In 1795 the Ode theme first appears in a song called “Gegenliebe”. A couple of years later he uses it again in the Fantasie for piano, choir and orchestra.

But even when Beethoven works on the first three movements of the 9th the pieces are not yet set. For a long time Beethoven has been playing with the idea of composing a great symphony with a choir part. But at this point he is still unsure whether to put the choir part at the end of the 9thsymphony, or at the beginning of a tenth. In 1822 he makes a final decision.

Triumphant premiere

In 1824 Beethoven conducts the triumphant world premiere of his 9thsymphony in Vienna. Just how the composer was able to lead an orchestra, soloists and a choir at this point is a mystery. He had already gone completely deaf. According to one report he had to be turned towards the audience by a singer to at least see the audience’s jubilant cries and applause. Because of its universal message and its symbolism of freedom and unity, it is not surprising that the European Union chose Beethoven’s Ode to joy as its hymn.

Kammerorchester Basel led by Giovanni Antonini

Conductor and flutist Giovanni Antonini who is originally from Milano, is known for his interpretations of the baroque and early classical repertoire. Since the 2015/2016 Giovanni Antonini acts as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Kammerorchester Basel. This collaboration between orchestra and conductor is to date a very successful one, especially in regard to their Beethoven interpretations.

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