Beethoven 9 "Non Choral"
The 4th movement of Beethoven's iconic 9th. Reorchestrated for a fully instrumental standard orchestral ensemble.
Beethoven's 9th is a herculean feat of music that shaped the future of music making just as much as, if not more so than, it shaped the present. It represents a composer at the height of his powers, while also at the height of his debilitating hearing and health. It employs Beethoven's latest inclinations in musical compositon: something he had been innovating for his entire life. Just before this piece he had finished the marvelous Diabelli variations, where composers in Vienna were asked to do a variation or two on a theme by the composer, with proceeds going to aid the homeless. While most did only a handful, Beethoven did 33. This, in addition to the late piano sonatas and everything after the Eroica symphony, were core parts that laid groundwork to the structure of the 9th. The introduction of new materials mid movement, the continually innovative use of fugue and fugato as an added compositional portion, and the brilliant genus of themes that all seem to predict the enivitablity of the Ode to Joy theme, but without ever saying so literally, are just some ways that made the 9th stand out. The final of course was the use of the choir in the orchestra, which created its name: the choral symphony/
Composers were split after the 9th's inception on how to move the idiom forward: does it lead to a world where the voice reigns supreme, and is the central affair for music making--an obvious conclusion reached by Beethoven himself after a life of searching? To Wagner, that seemed to be the case. To Brahms, that was not the case.
What's fascinating is Wagner later would attempt to update the 9th and reorchestrate it himself. With the advent of things like what we now refer to as Wagner tuba, and many broader updates to the brass section in general and how it can be thought of, (Wagner also played with moving horns above the bassoons in the orchestral score) one can glean how this may come to be. And after that, Mahler also in his"larger than life" orchestral mantras, would attempt to update the 9th with a similar flavor of gigantic forces. Both of these composers' renditions reflect an effort to elevate the 9th to a more massive and epic orchestral sound. To them, the contents of the 9th demanded it. It's a herculean symphony with thunderous moments of epic and triumph.
Neither of these were inspiration for my work on Beethoven's 9th, and were in fact things I discovered after beginning to work on it. My thesis in this was relatively straight forward: how would this movement sound if there were no voices, and instead a little help from the updated brass department. I wanted to study from the master himself, so I basically orchestrated the piece twice: first by hand, second on computer. It was a fascinating experience, because my thinking at points led me to the same exact decisions regardless of the format.
It is my hope that this piece only helps to spread the message and musical triumph of the 9th more.