Beethoven's Ninth Program Notes cover

Beethoven's Ninth Program Notes


Tonight's program - with a full orchestra, thrilling chorus and stirring vocal quartet — is the crown jewel of our final Summer Festival season in the meadows. Beethoven's “Ode to Joy” shares the composer’s dreams for a better world and shines a hope of united brotherhood. Seeing is believing, and this masterpiece must be heard live to be fully experienced.
Pacific Symphony turns turquoise to raise awareness for the American Lung Association's LUNG FORCE Walk and the fight against lung cancer and for lung health. Join us before the concert for an interactive festival including education areas, fun games, musical instruments, prizes and more!
This is Part 1 of the Program Notes for Beethoven's Ninth. You'll be automatically linked to the next NoteStream at the end.
To learn more about tonight's Guest Artists, please click here
To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here.
Aaron Copland (1900-1990) Fanfare for the Common Man
Samuel Barber (1910-1981) Adagio for Strings
John Williams (b. 1932) Liberty Fanfare
Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan
Pacific Chorale
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125, Choral
Allegro ma non troppo; un poco maestoso Molto vivace
Adagio molto e cantabile
Presto - Allegro assai - Allegro assai vivace
Tonight's performance is dedicated to the memory of James Emmi (June 1916 – May 2016).

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Beethoven's Ninth Program Notes

Tonight's Program

Aaron Copland (1900-1990), Fanfare for the Common Man

Samuel Barber (1910-1981), Adagio for Strings

John Williams (b. 1932), Liberty Fanfare

Hymn to the Fallen (from Saving Private Ryan), Pacific Chorale


Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125, Choral

Allegro ma non troppo; un poco maestoso Molto vivace

Adagio molto e cantabile

Presto - Allegro assai - Allegro assai vivace

Fanfare for the Common Man

Aaron Copland as subject of a Young People's Concert, 1970

Fanfare for the Common Man

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

Instrumentation: 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, 2 percussion; Performance time: 3 minutes


In England and America during World War II, cultural forces mobilized on the home front. Entertainers honored the armed forces and reminded the rest of us what they were fighting for.

It was in this tradition that the conductor Eugene Goossens, a native of England who was conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony, invited various composers to submit fanfares to be performed at subscription concerts during the 1942–43 season.

In total, there were 18 fanfares, but only Aaron Copland’s iconic Fanfare for the Common Man became standard repertoire.

For The Common Man

“It seemed to me that if the fighting French got a fanfare,” wrote Copland, “so should the common man, since, after all, it was he who was doing the dirty work in the war.”

Copland’s concerns were also in the spirit of the Pulitzer Prize-winners Ernie Pyle, who wrote about the “dogface” infantry soldiers as a roving correspondent throughout World War II, and Bill Mauldin, whose cartoons about his composite infantry archetypes “Willie and Joe” showed the dangers and difficulties faced by GIs.


But if his subject is down-to-earth, Copland’s treatment of it is exalted. While many fanfares have a quick tempo and a martial air, if not an outright march rhythm, Fanfare for the Common Man elevates its subject with a slower pace that suggests gravitas—“a certain nobility of tone, which suggested slow rather than fast music,” as Copland described it. (The marking calls for it to be played “very deliberately.”)

In it we hear the familiar, wide-open intervals of fifths and fourths that make Copland’s music sound so characteristically American. But from the opening bars, it is the distinctive and majestic use of percussion—timpani, bass drum and tam tam—that give the fanfare its sense of importance.

Fanfare for the Common Man

---BBC Proms 2012 from the Royal Albert Hall, London. Marin Alsop leads the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra in the opening section of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man.

Of the 18 original fanfares that Goossens commissioned, Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man was one of only 10 that Goossens included when he anthologized them. Of those, only Copland’s survived to find a life in the concert hall after World War II.


Adagio for Strings

Samuel Barber, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1944

Adagio for Strings

Samuel Barber (1910-1981)

Instrumentation: strings; Performance time: 8 minutes

Adagio For Strings

Samuel Barber’s moving Adagio for Strings is one of the most popular, frequently programmed and hauntingly melodic American compositions in the standard repertory. Elemental and beautiful, the Adagio has qualities that are rarely found together: a spacious, quintessentially American sound, but also a melancholy, ruminative mood that offers both insight and solace to the listener.

Barber originally composed this work in 1936 as the second movement of his String Quartet Op. 11. It seems likely that his life partner Gian Carlo Menotti, the phenomenally successful Italian-born opera composer with a sure sense of drama and popular appeal, was instrumental in its success.

Arturo Toscanini

Knowing that Barber had a potential hit on his hands, Menotti ensured that its manuscript would be seen and programmed by Arturo Toscanini when the reticent Barber was less sure of its appropriateness.

It was premiered by the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Toscanini’s baton in 1938. Today it is more than just a staple of the orchestral repertory; it is almost always turned to when American orchestras seek a work to provide beauty, solace and inspiration.


The Adagio’s long, flowing, deeply voiced melodic line remains a constant presence that is both elegiac and hopeful as it passes from one string choir to another—first the violins and then, a fifth lower, the violas.

As the violas continue with their heartfelt voicing of the theme, it is taken up by the cellos and further developed, eventually building to a climax in which the basses underline it, adding a sense of depth and timelessness with their unique, rumbling resonance.

Adagio For Strings

A fortissimo climax, like a cry from the heart, is followed by silence, leading to the restatement of the original, with an inversion of its second statement offering perhaps the possibility of healing and hope.


John Williams (b. 1932 )

Liberty Fanfare

Instrumentation: 3 flutes (third doubling on piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, 3 percussion, harp, piano, strings; Performance time: 4 minutes

Hymn to the Fallen

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets (third also on bass clarinet and E-flat clarinet), 3 bassoons (third on contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, 2 percussion, harp, strings

Performance time: 6 minutes

John Williams

Editorial Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

John Williams

Though he is best known as the dean of American composers of film scores, John Williams is one of the few American composers who have achieved equal success in the movie theater and the concert hall.

Liberty Fanfare

As a composer of signature scores for dozens of hit movies (over 80 at last count), Williams has become a major figure in American culture and one of the most listened-to composers of all time.

In his Liberty Fanfare and Hymn to the Fallen, we have examples of both John Williams the movie composer and the composer of concert works.

His Liberty Fanfare, commissioned to mark the centennial of the Statue of Liberty in 1986, actually premiered a month before the anniversary celebrations, with the composer leading the orchestra he is most closely associated with: The Boston Pops.

Statue Of Liberty Centennial

---A live performance by the Boston Pops conducted by John Williams for the Statue of Liberty Centennial.

The Fanfare is jubilant, uplifting and celebratory, with the ring of patriotism always in our ears as we listen. Williams offered the following comment in advance of the premiere: “[I] tried to create a group of American airs and tunes of my own invention that I hope will give some sense of the event and the occasion.” It did, and still does.


Hymn To The Fallen

---Orchestra: Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Conductor: Ulf Schirmer

Williams composed his Hymn to the Fallen for the 1988 feature film Saving Private Ryan. Here the brass, strings and horns we heard in the Fanfare create a markedly different effect—evoking strength and hope, but also a sense of sacrifice and the nobility of endurance.

Of the many pieces composed for the film, this has proved the most memorable—a hymn of thanks and praise to “the greatest generation” in their finest hour. Like the Liberty Fanfare—but in a very different way—the Hymn evokes the spirit of American patriotism.


Symphony No. 9, “Choral”

Editorial Credit: Nicku / Shutterstock

Symphony No. 9, “Choral”

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827 )

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, timpani, 3 percussion, strings, soprano, alto, bass, tenor, chorus; Performance time: 65 minutes

Kindred Spirit

In a nation forged on the frontier, we recognize Beethoven as a kindred spirit. He may have been dark, brooding and Germanic, but he is also the most prominent classical composer to “go rogue,” reinventing a familiar form in a heroic new way with the Symphony No. 9.

Most of all we cherish and celebrate the philosophical statement itself: a hymn to freedom and brotherhood, values we claim as American. The breakthrough fourth movement takes a form that no composer had ever before imagined, a symphonic chorale with full chorus and soloists, that sets Friedrich Schiller’s ecstatic “Ode to Joy“; but this movement is the culmination of a meditation on human freedom that spans the entire symphony.

Early Influence

Beethoven was influenced by the poetry of Schiller from a young age, and as early as 1793, when he was only 22, he began to consider the idea of basing a major composition on the poet’s “Ode to Joy“; it also seems likely that some piano sonatas of his early period, including the beloved Pathètique (dating from 1799), were inspired by Schiller essays.

Beethoven’s idea of including the voice in a symphony also dates from this period, but may not originally have been attached to the Ninth. In a sketchbook dated 1811 he envisions a cantata combining choral and instrumental movements based on the “Ode.“


The Beethoven biographer Alexander Thayer describes how, in 1822, while visiting a music critic in Leipzig, the composer described plans for a 10th symphony that would include vocal elements that would “enter gradually — in the text of the Adagio Greek Myth, Cantique Ecclesiastique—in Allegro, the feast of Bacchus.”

During these years Beethoven was working on the first three movements of the Symphony No. 9, drawing on ideas in his sketchbooks, and his plans for the symphony were purely instrumental.

In 1823 he finally integrated the three critical elements that became Beethoven’s Ninth: a primarily instrumental symphony, the introduction of vocal elements and a fourth movement incorporating Schiller’s “Ode to Joy.“

Fourth Movement

But how could a fourth movement with chorus and vocal soloists fit naturally into a symphony whose first three movements were purely instrumental? The Beethoven scholar Leon Plantinga describes the dramatic moment in October of 1823 when Beethoven solved this problem, recounted by the composer’s friend Anton Schindler:

One day he burst into the room and shouted at me: “I got it! I have it!” He held his sketchbook out to me so that I could read: “Let us sing the song of the immortal Schiller”; then a solo voice began the hymn of joy.

The Ninth Symphony

---The Berlin Celebration Concert - Beethoven, Symphony No 9, Bernstein 1989

The Ninth Symphony has become a universal symbol of humanity’s longing for freedom and human dignity, and was famously Leonard Bernstein’s choice to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall as a symbol of hope and human aspiration.

Michael Clive is a cultural reporter living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He is program annotator for Pacific Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic, and editor-in- chief for The Santa Fe Opera.

To continue with tonight's guest artists, please click here.

To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here.