DW Transtel | 684922
2 x 45 mins

Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is one of the most popular pieces of classical music in the world. Countless people are familiar with its Ode to Joy.

Beethoven composed it during a time of personal and political crisis. He was struggling financially and as his deafness worsened, his social isolation became yet more acute. He also suffered from worsening ill-health, partly caused by his consumption of wine apparently contaminated with lead. Beethoven completed the 9th Symphony in 1824.

Thirty five years after the French Revolution ushered in liberty, equality and fraternity, there was little left of these aspirations in Europe. Instead, life was marked by war and oppression.

Despite the grim context in which it arose, the 9th Symphony leaves us fascinated, moved and elated by its creativity, its power and its culmination in the Ode to Joy. More than 160 years after it was written, Beethoven’s hymn to brotherhood was adopted by the European Union as its official anthem. But Beethoven’s Ninth is also met with enthusiasm far beyond the borders of Europe. What’s the explanation for its enduring success? What is it about this work that fascinates people all over the world?

To mark the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony for the World travels around the globe from Europe to South America, Asia and Africa. We meet extraordinary musicians who interpret Beethoven’s Ninth in new and different ways, sometimes forging ties to the musical tradition of their home countries. These musical encounters are profound and personal, yet they always draw us back to Beethoven himself and the turbulent times he lived in.

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