Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125

For his Ninth and final symphony, Beethoven wove the themes of the Enlightenment into his work. He finally saw a chance to use Friedrich Schiller's "Ode to Joy" -- Beethoven had long wanted to set the poem to music for its themes of freedom and brotherhood. The Ninth, dedicated to Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, influenced composers that followed, including Schubert, Brahms and Mahler. It not only affected them stylistically, but also left them to ponder whether to write more than nine symphonies. However, many critics rejected the work's encompassing message of unity, calling it "naïve." Nevertheless, the piece has been used on several occasions throughout history, and more recently at Olympic ceremonies, during the fall of the Berlin Wall, and as the anthem of the European Union. Today's performance by The Philadelphia Orchestra contains the second half of the Ninth; because of the symphony's length, it has been spread out over the course of two days.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit