Analysis Of The Beethoven Symphony

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The Ninth Symphony: Beethoven’s Response to the Philosophical Revolutions of His Era

Ludwig van Beethoven was a master of the symphony. A pioneer in the genre, Beethoven used his symphonies to engage his audience and challenge both musical and political conventions (Marek 1969). Faced with the rapidly changing culture of the late 18th and early 19th century, Beethoven sought to push the boundaries of musical innovation (Marek 1969). One of his works in particular, the fourth movement of the Ninth Symphony (Ode to Joy), was crafted to incorporate underlying tones that Beethoven intended to serve as commentary in response to perceived political repression of the era (Carlson 2010). Therefore, the Ninth Symphony has greater implications beyond
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Beethoven used these elements to convey a sense of raw power and greatness, revolutionary ideas that lent themselves to the philosophical movements that were springing up throughout Europe at the time of the symphony’s composition (Buch 2003). These movements, which included the Enlightenment and the Restoration, were similar in their attempts to encourage free-thinking and throw off political repression (Buch 2003). Thus, the cultural values of magnanimity and greatness that the Ninth Symphony conveys could be regarded as Beethoven’s endeavors to challenge previously established conventions in response to these…show more content…
Symphonies were traditionally composed for orchestras and were structurally divided into several major sections that were each written to exhibit their own unique characteristics (Forney et al. 2015). A key feature of the classical-era symphony was that it brought music into the public sphere (Cuyler 1995). Whereas previous genres of music relied heavily on the church to provide performance space, the classical symphony allowed for the general public to attend concerts in open performance halls (Cuyler 1995). The fact that music became more accessible to the general public could possibly be an additional reflection of the emerging philosophical ideas of Beethoven’s time that promoted social change and emphasized freedom of thought. The symphony orchestra comprised the genre’s major performing force and united multiple groups of instruments that allowed the audience to experience bolder sounds with winder ranges of pitch and volume, all of which allowed symphony composers greater possibilities to convey ideas and emotions (Forney et al. 2015). Although subtle changes to the style of the genre were made from composer to composer, audience members experiencing a new classical symphony could typically expect a performance of grandiose instrumental music that often incorporated secular tones and an overall emphasis on harmony (Cuyler
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