Under the baton of the korean-American conductor and pianist Myung-Whun Chung, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Choeur de Radio France and the soloists Ricarda Merbeth (soprano), Sophie Koch (mezzo-soprano), Robert Dean Smith (tenor) and Samuel Youn (bass-baritone) perform Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No.9 in D minor, Op.125. Recorded at Roman Theatre of Orange, Vaucluse, France, on July 16, 2017.
On May 7, 1824, Ludwig van Beethoven experienced what must certainly have been the greatest public triumph of his career. The audience which gathered at the Hoftheater adjacent to the Vienna Kärtnertor heard not only the abridged local premiere of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis (the Kyrie, Credo, and Gloria were given) and Op.124 Overture, but also the first performance of the composer's "Choral" Symphony. The event was a rousing success; indeed, one of the most moving accounts of Beethoven's final years describes how the profoundly deaf composer, unable to hear the colossal response of his admirers, had to be turned around by one of the soloists so that he could see the hundreds of clapping hands!
Beethoven's Symphony No.9 started life as two separate works – a symphony with a choral finale, and a purely instrumental work in D minor. He labored on these sporadically for almost 10 years before finally deciding (in 1822) to combine the two ideas into one symphony, with Friedrich von Schiller's Ode an die freude (Ode to Joy) – a text he had contemplated setting for a number of years – as the finale.
The finished work is of visionary scope and proportions, and represents the apogee of technical difficulty in its day. There are passages, notably a horn solo in the slow movement, which would have been almost impossible to play on the transitional valveless brass instruments of Beethoven's time. As Dennis Matthews writes: "As with other late-period works, there are places where the medium quivers under the weight of thought and emotion, where the deaf composer seemed to fight against, or reach beyond, instrumental and vocal limitations".
The Ninth also personifies the musical duality that was to become the nineteenth century – the conflict between the Classic and Romantic, the old and new. The radically different styles of Brahms and Liszt, for instance, both had their precedents in this work. On one hand, there was the search for a broader vocabulary (especially in terms of harmony and rhythm) within the eighteenth century framework; on the other, true Romanticism, embracing the imperfect, the unattainable, the personal and the extreme – qualities that violate the very nature of Classicism. When viewed individually, the first three movements still have their roots distinctly in the eighteenth century, while the fourth – rhapsodic, and imbued with poetic meaning – seems to explode from that mold, drawing the entire work into the realm of program music, a defining concept of musical Romanticism.
Beethoven's Ninth represents a fitting culmination to the composer's symphonic ouvre – a body of work that is still unmatched in its scope and seminal ingenuity – and remains a pillar of the modern symphonic repertoire.
Source: Rovi Staff (allmusic.com)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
♪ Symphony No.9 in D minor "Choral", Op.125 (1822-1824)
i. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestroso
ii. Scherzo: Molto vivace
iii. Adagio molto e cantabile
iv. Presto – Allegro ma non troppo – Vivace – Adagio cantabile
Ricarda Merbeth, soprano
Sophie Koch, mezzo-soprano
Robert Dean Smith, tenor
Samuel Youn, bass-baritone
Choeur de Radio France
Choirmaster: Nicolas Fink
L'Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Conductor: Myung-Whun Chung
Film director: François Goetghebeur
Roman Theatre of Orange (Théâtre Antique d'Orange), Vaucluse, France, July 16, 2017
The korean-American conductor and pianist Myung-Whun Chung was born on January 22, 1953 in Seoul, South Korea. He is the brother of the violinist Kyung-Wha Chung and the cellist Myung-Wha Chung. He began his musical career as a pianist, making his debut with the Seoul Philharmonic at the age of seven. In 1974 he won the second prize at the Tchaikovsky piano competition in Moscow. After his musical studies at the Mannes School and at the Juilliard School in New York, he became Carlo Maria Giulini's assistant in 1979 at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and two years later he was named Associate Conductor.
Myung-Whun Chung was Music Director of the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1984 to 1990, Principal Guest Conductor of the Teatro Comunale of Florence from 1987 to 1992 and Music Director of the Opéra de Paris-Bastille from 1989 to 1994. The year 2000 marked his return to Paris as Music Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. His love for Italy has been at the basis of his extensive work in that country for many years, including, since 1997, his appointment as Principal Conductor of the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome. Outside Europe, he has been increasingly committed to musical and social causes in Asia through his role as Music Advisor of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Myung-Whun Chung has conducted virtually all the world's leading orchestras, including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Philharmoniker, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, all the major London and Paris Orchestras, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester, Dresden Staatskapelle, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra.
An exclusive recording artist for Deutsche Grammophon since 1990 many of his numerous recordings have won international prizes and awards. These include Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla Symphony and Eclairs sur l'Au-Delà, Verdi's Otello, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, Dmitri Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth with the Orchestre de l'Opéra Bastille; a series of Dvorák's symphonies and serenades with the Wiener Philharmoniker, a series dedicated to the great sacred music with the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, including the award-winning recording of Maurice Duruflé's and Gabriel Fauré's Requiems with Cecilia Bartoli and Bryn Terfel. Recent releases include Messiaen's La transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ and Des Canyons aux étoiles with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.
Myung-Whun Chung has been the recipient of many honours and prizes for his artistic work, including the Premio Abbiati and the Arturo Toscanini prize in Italy and the Légion d'Honneur (1992) in France; in 1991, the Association of French Theatres and Music Critics named him "Artist of the year" and in 1995 he won three times the prize "Victoire de la Musique".
Deeply sensitive to humanitarian and ecological problems of our age, Myung-Whun Chung has devoted an important part of his life to these causes. In 1994 he launched a series of musical and environmental projects in Korea for youth. He served as Ambassador for the Drug Control Program at the United Nations (UNDCP); in 1995, he was named "Man of the year" by UNESCO and also "Most Distinguished Personality" by the Korean press. In 1996, he received the "Kumkuan", the highest cultural award of the Korean government for his contribution to Korean musical life. Chung now serves as Honorary Cultural Ambassador for Korea, the first in the Korean government's history.
Beethoven's 9th Symphony at Chorégies d'Orange
Each season, Les Chorégies d'Orange perform a Symphonic concert at the core of the Antic theater of Orange. Dedicated to the 9th Symphony of Beethoven, this concert featured the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Choir of Radio France, directed by Myung Whun Chung.
We have transformed the wall of the Theater into a canvas where paintings and videomapping mix up in a representation of the "Beethoven Frieze" by Gustav Klimt. This piece created in 1902 is preserved in the Palace of the Secession of Vienna. Inspired by the 9th Symphony, it accords to its rhythm and is articulated in different panels in order to express the research for happiness and the fight of Man against the hostile forces.
The "Beethoven Frieze" was originally created to show the interaction between different artistic disciplines and to form a "total work of art". The video mapping offers a new dimension to this concept by integrating the components of the fresco to create an animated variant that accentuates its allegorical force.
To pay tribute to Klimt's work as well as to Beethoven's, our artistic team recreated the motifs of the fresco, recomposed the elements and animated them to unite the 9th Symphony to its most famous pictorial interpretation.