Ninth Symphonies

Jul 17, 2017

Ludwig van Beethoven, famously, wrote nine symphonies. But, so did many other well-known composers – some, like Alan Hovhaness and Joseph Haydn, wrote over 100!

Below, we’ve put together a short list of excerpts from famous – and not-so-famous – 9th symphonies… Enjoy!

Undoubtedly the best-known 9th symphony yet written, here’s the finale (the 4th movement) from Beethoven’s 9th symphony, with Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, chorus, and soloists:

English composer Malcolm Arnold passed away only a few years ago, in 2006. He was an Oscar-winning film composer as well as an established figure in 20th century British concert music. Written in 1986, this is the opening movement from Arnold’s 9th symphony:

Although the “proper” numbering of Franz Schubert’s symphonies is still a discussion among Schubert scholars, it IS agreed that the symphony known today as his 9th was, in fact, the final symphony he completed. It was later given the nickname “The Great C-Major Symphony” to distinguish it from an earlier, smaller-scale symphony, known today as his 6th. Complete with a scrolling score for reference, here’s a video of Schubert’s Symphony #9, his “Great” C-Major symphony:

The iconic American composer Philip Glass celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this year. Premiered on January 1st, 2012, this is the opening movement from his Symphony No. 9:

In the mid-1950s, composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams began to conceive of a symphony that would be based on Thomas Hardy’s story “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”. As the writing progressed, though, the work became less about Hardy’s book, and more of a traditional four-movement symphony. This is Vaughan-Williams’ Symphony No. 9, with Vernon Handley leading the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic:

And, finally… In the 1940s, there was great expectation surrounding Dmitri Shostakovich’s upcoming 9th Symphony. After large, profound, and somewhat bombastic 7th and 8th symphonies, the composer himself had promised a fitting completion to his three-symphony wartime trilogy, with a 9th symphony for large orchestra, chorus, and soloists. Well… what Shostakovich actually delivered was something altogether different – a light, pared-down, almost chamber-sized symphony, with comic elements some critics compared to circus music! Here it is, with Kirill Kondrashin leading the Moscow Philharmonic, the Ninth Symphony, by Shostakovich:

Thanks for reading, and, remember – there’s terrific classical music twenty-four hours a day here in New Orleans, on Classical 104.9 FM, and at WWNO HD 2!

James Arey

Classical 104.9 FM Host and Producer