By the time Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, with its huge 'Ode to Joy' climax, was premiered on 7 May 1824, the composer was profoundly deaf.
Beethoven's 'Choral' 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.
The man who had done more than anyone before him to change the way we hear music had become one for whom sounds could no longer exist – and the bitter irony of this was not lost on him. Despite his deteriorating hearing, though, Beethoven persevered with writing this mammoth symphony. encouraged, no doubt, by his status as the composer of the moment, he penned a colossal work. But, when Beethoven conducted its premiere, he was famously unaware of the rapturous response his ninth symphony received. It took one of the musicians to alert him to the cheering audience – and that was only at the end of the second movement.
Beethoven’s 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.