Dear Jerry ,

I want to bring your attention the documentary on Beethoven’s Ninth that I am working on (called Following The Ninth: In The Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony, and ask for your suggestions. I’ve shot close to 50 hours of tape, but the film is really just beginning, thus I am looking for more stories about the Ninth. You can read about the project at http://www.followingtheninth.com/. What I’m hoping to find here in this discussion forum are new stories that I might follow, develop, as the film proceeds. As of today, I will be filming in Japan, where the Ninth (Daiku) is performed by hundreds of variously sized orchestras, sometimes with choruses of 5000 people or more. I will also be going to Chile and other countries in South America, where a version of the “Ode to Joy” was sung as a song of resistance and hope by those living under military dictatorships.

I would also like to have some of your filmed stories and reflections on the Ninth on my website. That could be arranged in various ways, to be determined if you have an interest. I’m trying to bring the power and passion of one of the greatest works of art ever done to a broader public, and the best way to do that, I think, is through people’s stories, stories from those who are deeply in love with Beethoven’s music. Please write if you have any questions.

Kerry Candaele
Venice, CA
kcandaele@gmail.com

 

10 Responses to “Anybody Got Any Good Beethoven 9 Stories?”
  1. Graham Rieper says:

    Well, there’s the one about Bernstein getting drunk with some of the guys in the chorus before the concert at Tanglewood and then, when a storm came up during the slow movement it got so windy in the music shed that stagehands had to use string to keep the soloists parts on the music stands.
    So, in the last of the ninth, the basses are loaded and the scores tied.

  2. There’s a famous story, I’ve always liked of the Zen Master Suzuki (I’m pretty sure the famous one) sitting in Carnegie Hall and listening to the 9th. During the scherzo he evidently got up and started dancing around the hall! I just tried to google the story, but had no luck…

    The experience of the 9th has been foundational/pivotal for me and Elsie throughout our lives. There’s just nothing else like it in the arts and I think that says more about humanity then it does even LvB. The mixture of pop and classical, the ringing ecstasy throughout the piece, the driving rhythms. It seems to come from a world where the gods and man lived in harmony. And it makes our art music seem pathetic; as if it had been composed by accountants.

  3. corey dargel says:

    I’m trying to bring the power and passion of one of the greatest works of art ever done to a broader public…

    Can you say “imperialism?”

  4. No. Well, at least not here.

    If somebody was doing a film to bring the power and passion of India’s Bharata Natyam dance (one of the greatest forms of classical dance) would the same charge be leveled? How about if I made a film about the power and passion of Corey Dargel?

    I do a number of in-school children’s programs and the Ode to Joy is the one thing that they all seem to have heard. There’s something quite touching (even to a jaded freelance musician) about having an entire classroom of fourth graders humming along as I play the melody (which we then represent on a graph to help them with their mathematics skills.)

  5. Tom Myron says:

    When I was a kid NBC’s The Huntley-Brinkley Report used the opening bars of the Scherzo as its theme. Before I new anything about music, around age 9, I used to wait every night just to here that little snippet of music. My father noticed this and produced from his record cabinet the boxed LP set of all nine symphonies played by Toscanini & the NBC Symphony. To this day my favorite instrumental combination is strings & timpani. I’m certain that just that little bit of music put me on the path to becoming the composer, percussionist, & (now former) network news cameraman that I am.

  6. Chris Frigon says:

    The world had to wait almost ten years after the Eighth Symphony to hear Beethoven’s only great work in his third manner—the “Choral” Symphony. To discuss the Ninth Symphony at all, in view of the welter of conflicting opinions—ranging from truly worshipful ardor of a Pal Bekker through the palaverings of heavy snobs to the cold dislike of any number of sincere people who have their reasons—requires a vast courage. Briefly, the idolaters conceive of the Ninth as a constant and ineffable soaring into the musical empyrean until, at the height of the choral finale, to quote Bekker, “A giddines of spiritual intoxication seems to seize the mind, and this greatest of all instrumental songs of life closes with dithyrambic outcry, to echo forever in the hearts of mankind.” Sir W.H. Hadow, usually so restrained in his enthusiasm, goes Bekker one better: “When the chorus enters it is as though all the forces of humanity were gathered together: number by number the thought grows and widens until the very means of its expression are shattered and we seem no more to be listening to music but to be standing face to face with the living world.” It is not possible to question the sincerity of great students who consummate their listening expereience in rhapsodies of this sort, but all too many of us have failed, after anxious listening , to find that “echo” in our hearts. Further, having gone to a concert hall to listen to music, and having heard for three movements some of the best ever written, it is reasonable to complain of having this pleasure suspended, and of “no more. . .listening to music . . . .” Finally, it is impossible to not to allow the suspicion to creep across our minds that the reason we are not listening to music is simply that Beethoven, here as little at ease with voices as in the Missa Solemnis, did not succeed in translating his conception into musical terms. This is all the more lamentable because the theme he wasted on the pompous claptrap of Schiller is of a Bachian severity and magnificence. Some conductors have solved the difficulties of performing the choral movement by omitting it! The Ninth Symphony rouses and fulfills our highest expectations for three movements and part of a fourth, and ends in a cataclysmic anticlimax.

    On a lighter note, I suppose all have heard this joke:

    A number of years ago, the Seattle Symphony was doing Beethoven’s Ninth under the baton of Milton Katims…

    At this point, you must understand two things:

    (1) There’s a long segment in this symphony where the bass violins don’t have a thing to do. Not a single note for page after page.

    (2) There used to be a tavern called Dez’s 400 right across the street from the Seattle Opera House, rather favored by local musicians.

    It had been decided that during this performance, after the bass players had played their parts in the opening of the Ninth, they were to quietly lay down their instruments and leave the stage rather than sit on their stools looking and feeling dumb for twenty minutes.

    Well, once they got backstage, someone suggested that they trot across the street and quaff a few brews. After they had downed the first couple rounds, one said, “Shouldn’t we be getting back? It’d be awfully embarrassing if we were late.”

    Another, presumably the one who suggested this excursion in the first place, replied, “Oh, I anticipated we could use a little more time, so I tied a string around the last pages of the conductor’s score. When he gets down to there, Milton’s going to have to slow the tempo way down while he waves the baton with one hand and fumbles with the string with the other.”

    So they had another round and finally returned to the Opera House, a little tipsy by now. However, as they came back on stage, one look at their conductor’s face told them they were in serious trouble.

    Katims was furious! And why not? After all…

    It was the bottom of the Ninth, the score was tied, and the basses were loaded.
    :-)

  7. us2 says:

    haven’t we heard that somewhere before?

  8. Stephen. says:

    Don’t listen to Chris Fragon about the finale – he does not know what he is talking about. The real heart of the work is the profoundly moving Andante maestoso section.

  9. Chris Sahar says:

    I do have one story I recall from a book or documentary. But please check this as I am unsure. I believe a diplomat gathered several European heads of state and played a recording of Ode to Joy as a way to encourage the leaders to seek peace rather than a World War. I know the story dates from the 20th century.

    Actually, it would be great to highlight the struggle he had in his choral writing as Beethoven could write very well for solo or group of soloists (think of one of the best parts of Missa Solemnis — the violin solo interacting with the soloists; another is his songs). Is it just temperament or a historical trend?

  10. Thanks for all the comments, and I’m sorry I didn’t get back to this sooner. I assumed that I would be notified when someone posted to my request, but of course that has not happend. One comment above struck me as odd, and a bit sectarian. To wit, trying to bring the power of the ninth to a broader public is somehow seen as “imperialism.” Hmm. I know a bit about imperialism, as it happens to be a focus of some historical work I’m doing on contemporary U.S. foreign policy, but I’m at a loss as how to see my project as imperialistic. Could Corey please elaborate?
    I’ve never heard that some (one? two?) simply “solve” the problem of the fourth movement by not playing it. I would love to hear who those conductors are. I do agree, however, that some writers loose their sense of proportion when describing the fourth movement, although I willing to grant each their own feelings–to a point–when allowing the music to take them to whereever that fast-moving train called the fourth s headed.
    People who read the website often have a misconception about what I am actually doing. I’m less interested in presenting minutae about Beethoven, than I am in following stories about how the Ninth has been taken up by various people across the globe. For example, I’m about to travel to Chile where many who lived and suffered under Pintochet’s dictatorship used a folk-song version of the “ode” as a source of resistance and hope during dark times. Prisoners who suffered torture in the many prisons set up for dissidents around the country, remember hearing the song whie sitting in their jail cells wating for the next round. People down the hall, or over the wall, were sending a message of hope and resilience. Members of the oppostion within the Catholic Church also made La Himo de la Alegria a constant at services.
    In Japan, from where I just returned, there is another kind of story, and in China another. I’m looking at human beings, their struggles, their hopes, their melancholy and despair, love, longing, joy–all human emotions that found their way into the Ninth–and trying to make a film about this experience.
    I thank you for your comments, and look forward to more as the film progresses.

    best,
    kerry candaele
    http://www.followingtheninth.com

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