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Happy Birthday, Beethoven!

December 17, 2013

You were born on this day, December 16, in the year 1770 in Bonn, Germany.  Your name has become synomous with excellency in musical achievement.  And no acheivement more excellent than your Ninth Symphony.

The symphony was first presented on the evening of May 7, 1824 in the city of Vienna, Austria. It had been a much anticipated production. Beethoven was a senior citizen by 19th century standards and had not performed an orchestral academy in 10 years. Though he was widely regarded as the greatest composer in the known world, Beethoven was anxious about the performance and wondered if it would be received well enough to pay the overhead cost. Yet, from that night forward, the world of music would never be the same.

As Beethoven co-lead the orchestra and set the tempo, the audience frequently broke forth in rapturous applause. One eyewitness wrote: “Never in my life did I hear such frenetic and yet cordial applause.” In fact, the symphony was interrupted no less than four times by the audience’s exuberance.

And yet for all of the thunderous applauding, Beethoven was unmoved. You see, by this time in his life he was completely deaf. In fact one of the young soloist had to gently grab him by the arm and point him around to the audience, that he might see them applauding so voraciously, “Well done!, Maestro. Well done!” Completely deaf, Beethoven composed and conducted what I believe is the greatest music composition ever conceived by human mind and heart.

Beethoven’s Ninth has served as the inspiration and backdrop to much in popular history. It has been the inspiration of music and musicians from classical to rap, from country to jazz. Its influence has almost been unparalleled, including serving as the score for countless movies, television shows and commercials. Besides, if you have heard the hymn, Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee, you have heard part of the 4th Movement of the Ninth symphony. Once you hear it played rightly, you never forget it.

Lastly, the length of the modern CD was initially developed at 75 minutes because those who invented the CD wanted to make sure Beethoven’s 9th could fit on it. I can think of some great music that has found its way onto compact disc, but none greater than Beethoven’s ninth. Apparently those who created the CD in the first place, echo my sentiments.  Enjoy!

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