Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra will perform “Ode to Joy,” the last concert of its 2018-19 season, Saturday, April 13, at Methodist University. The inspiration for the concert title is Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” which is embedded in the final movement of his last symphony, Symphony No. 9. This symphony, which FSO will perform in its entirety, is considered by many to be one of the greatest works in Western music. Beethoven was the first major composer to include human voice within a symphony. For that reason, this work is sometimes referred to as the “Choral Symphony.”
Beethoven composed “Ode to Joy” in 1824. The premiere for this work took place in Vienna May 7, 1824. In an article titled “Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ Lyrics, Translation, and History” at www.thoughtco. com, Aaron M. Green, an expert on classical music and music history, said, “despite its unpracticed and under-rehearsed presentation, the audience was ecstatic. It was the first time Beethoven had appeared onstage in 12 years.”
Green continued, “At the end of the performance (though some sources say it could have been after the second movement), it was said that Beethoven continued conducting even though the music had ended. One of the soloists stopped him and turned him around to accept his applause.
“The audience was well aware of Beethoven’s health and hearing loss, so in addition to clapping, they threw their hats and scarves in the air so that he could see their overwhelming approval.”
Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” lyrics are a slightly modified version of a poem by the same name written by Christoph Freidrich von Schiller in 1785. It is a poem celebrating the unity of mankind.
According to Christine Kastner, president and CEO of FSO, “‘Ode to Joy’ is a magnificent choral work, and it’s a great way to end a season. It’s one of those very special experiences.” It was previously performed by FSO in March 2012.
Kastner said the vocal parts will be performed by a choir that will include members from several local singing groups. Michael Martin, the choral music director at Methodist University, coordinated the participation of the choirs, including the Cumberland Oratorio Singers and choirs from Campbell University, Fayetteville State University and Fayetteville Technical Community College.
There are vocal soloists who will perform along with the choir. Soloists include Erin Murdock, Angela Burns, Melvin Ezzell and Jeffrey Jones.
The concert will last approximately two hours, with Symphony No. 9 lasting a little more than 45 minutes. The first half of the concert will introduce other pieces that led Beethoven to develop the Ninth Symphony.
According to FSO Music Nerd Joshua Busman, for composers who came after Beethoven, it was not a question of whether or not they would follow in his footsteps but simply how they would do so. He went on to say that the “legacy of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is so long that it extends well into the 20th century.”
As one example, he explained that the reason CDs needed to be 120 millimeters across was to allow them to hold approximately 80 minutes of music — which satisfied a mandate to Sony engineers that new audio technology be able to contain the entirety of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on a single disc.
FSO will perform “Ode to Joy” Saturday, April 13, at 7:30 p.m., at Methodist University’s Huff Concert Hall. A Pre-Concert Talk with Busman will begin at 6:45 p.m. To purchase tickets, which range from $10-$26, visit www.fayettevillesymphony.org.