03/31/14 Beethoven: Trailblazer, Hero, Legend… Curse?

Timeline of Beethoven’s Symphonies:
Opus 21: Symphony No. 1 in C major (composed 1799–1800, premièred 1800)
Opus 36: Symphony No. 2 in D major (composed 1801–02, premièred 1803)
Opus 55: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (“Eroica”) (composed 1803/04, premièred 1805)
Opus 60: Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major (composed 1806, premièred 1807)
Opus 67: Symphony No. 5 in C minor (composed 1804–08, premièred 1808)
Opus 68: Symphony No. 6 in F major (“Pastoral”) (composed 1804–08, premièred 1808)
Opus 92: Symphony No. 7 in A major (composed 1811–12, premièred 1813)
Opus 93: Symphony No. 8 in F major (composed 1812, premièred 1814)
Opus 125: Symphony No. 9 in D minor (“Choral”) (composed 1817–24, premièred 1824)
Beethoven is believed to have intended to write a Tenth Symphony in the last year of his life.

Haydn: Symphony no 94, 1st movement (1791)

Beethoven: Symphony 1, 1st movement (1800)

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Beethoven: Symphony 3, 1st movement (1805)

– Originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, but Beethoven removed the dedication when Napoleon declared himself Emperor of France.
Eroica_Beethoven_title

First reactions to Beethoven’s new style were not all positive!

Symphony 5, 1st movement

Symphony 5, 3rd movement

Symphony 5, 4th movement

Mahler Symphony 5, 1st Movement (1901)

Symphony 9, 4th movement (excerpt)

Joy, beautiful spark of the divinity,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter your sanctuary, burning with fervour,
o heavenly being!
Your magic brings together
what custom has sternly divided.
All men shall become brothers,
wherever your gentle wings hover.

The “Curse of the Ninth”

– A classical music superstition that demonstrates the lasting influence of Beethoven on composers who came after him

– Belief that a 9th symphony is destined to be a composer’s last — that they will die after writing it, or before completing a 10th. Therefore, to attempt a 10th symphony is to challenge fate!

– Beethoven completed his 9th symphony in 1824, 3 years before his death. He had begun work on a 10th symphony before he died, but only completed sketches (rough drafts) of the 1st movement. (In contrast: Haydn wrote 106 symphonies, and Mozart wrote 41.)

– Originated with Gustav Mahler, 1860-1911, Austrian conductor and composer. After completing 8 symphonies, he called his next orchestral work Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth). Then he wrote his 9th Symphony and thought he had beaten the curse, but died with his Tenth Symphony incomplete.

In an essay about Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg wrote: “It seems that the Ninth is a limit. He who wants to go beyond it must pass away. It seems as if something might be imparted to us in the Tenth which we ought not yet to know, for which we are not ready. Those who have written a Ninth stood too close to the hereafter.” (from Wikipedia)

“Victims” of the curse:
Curse of the 9th part1

The 75-year-old American composer Phillip Glass recently completed a ninth and tenth in quick succession presumably to dash any chance that the curse might deploy its mojo on the streets of New York City in 2012. Malcolm Arnold and Alexander Glazunov each worked on their ninth symphonies, then set down their symphony composing pens for the remainder of their careers which ran more than 20 years each. And the Russian composer, Alfred Schnittke barely managed to eke out a ninth, and final, symphony with his left hand due to paralysis following a stroke. (From CBC Classical)

But many composers have beaten the curse!
Curse of the 9th part2


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