Beethoven: Choral Symphony
Brahms: Tragic Overture / Song of Destiny
Beethoven's 'Choral' symphony is arguably the greatest symphony ever composed: the summit of his achievements, a masterful musical celebration of the human race and a massive work that makes all who hear it feel better about life. And yet, Beethoven himself never actually heard it.
By the time the symphony, with its huge 'Ode to Joy' climax, was premiered on 7 May 1824, the composer was profoundly deaf; conducting its premiere, he was famously unaware of the rapturous response his ninth symphony received. It took one of the soloists to alert him to the cheering audience.
Symphony No. 9 is famous for its setting of Friedrich Schiller’s poem 'Ode to Joy' a text the composer had been fascinated with for over twenty years: "Mercy from the final judge! The dead shall live! Brothers, drink and chime in, all sinners shall be forgiven and hell shall be no more!" Triumphant words that perfectly match the power and scale of Beethoven’s immortal music.
The Tragic Overture is a concert overture for orchestra written by Johannes Brahms during the summer of 1880. It premiered on 26 December 1880 in Vienna.
The Tragic Overture comprises three main sections, all in the key of D minor.
Allegro ma non troppo
Molto più moderato
Tempo primo ma tranquillo
Brahms chose the title "Tragic" to emphasize the turbulent, tormented character of the piece, in essence a free-standing symphonic movement. Brahms was not very interested in musical storytelling and was more concerned with conveying and eliciting emotional impressions.
Brahms wrote the Song of Destiny in 1871. It is a musical setting of 'Schicksalslied' or 'song of destiny', a poem by German lyric poet Friedrich Hölderlin. Inspired by classical antiquity, the poem contrasts the lives of the "blessed ones" in Elysium with the plight of mere mortals on earth, caught in a perpetual and unavailing struggle against Fate and Destiny.
Whereas Hölderlin contrasts the everlasting bliss of souls in heaven with the pain and suffering of human existence, ending on a note of bleak resignation, Brahms concludes the work with a return to the heavenly radiance of the orchestral introduction. His message seems to be that hope and consolation for the living may be found here on earth.