Symphony will impart 'Joy' of Beethovens swan song


POSTED: Tuesday, December 23, 2008

You probably have heard many times that Beethoven made history in 1824 when the voice of a baritone cried out in song, “;O Freunde, nicht diese Toene”; for the first time in a symphony: his ninth.






        Andreas Delfs conducts the Honolulu Symphony and Chorus, with vocalists Lea Woods Friedman, Gigi Mitchell-Velasco, Noel Espiritu Velasco and Quinn Kelsey:


» In concert: 8 p.m. Saturday


» Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall


» Tickets: $20 to $82; available at Ticketmaster outlets; (877) 750-4400


» Call: 792-2000 or visit



Yes, with this opening utterance in the fourth movement and continuing into massive proportions with soloists and chorus, the human voice became an “;instrument”; that found its place in the symphony. You can experience it all as the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and Chorus present this landmark masterpiece this weekend.

So much is written about this work that I will keep things simple. Let's count down the top five reasons this masterpiece should be heard every year in Honolulu:

5. If you have never heard this work, you must bear witness to Beethoven's final, revolutionary symphonic journey. This mammoth work premiered in May 1824 and continues to be performed hundreds of times a year around the world. The music has not changed, but every performance is magical, leading the listener through an array of emotions. There is struggle, tension, utmost beauty, harsh outcry—a little of everything. With this work, you may even become a new subscriber to the symphony.

4. If you are already a classical nut, marvel once again at the compositional giant who transformed the Classical symphonic structure—who was always “;pushing the envelope.”; As with all Beethoven's late works, this one takes surprising turns in form and content. The first movement sonata form is turned inside out. The second movement is not the usual slow movement but a dizzying scherzo. Hence, the gorgeous third movement is the time-stopping Adagio, stately and beautiful. It is also Beethoven's last great Adagio. The monumental last movement is its own symphony within a symphony. Connoisseurs who come to hear maestro Andreas Delfs conduct this work will surely discover new secrets!

3. A stellar lineup of soloists, including Hawaii's own Lea Woods Friedman and Quinn Kelsey, as well as the symphony chorus, will also push the envelope with vocal acrobatics. There is nothing comfortable for the singers—in fact it is of great strain, the music often awkward to sing and relying heavily in the upper tessitura. Oh, but how great is the full effect that Beethoven achieves! Certainly an “;Ode to Joy”; should be so ecstatic.

2. As the final lines of text relate, “;Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!”; (”;This kiss for all the world”;), this work is Beethoven's final symphonic commentary. You have to believe that in the final presto, when all is in an outcry and all instruments and voices are taxed to the maximum, this was Beethoven's expression of unrestrained joy in music. He was nearing death and profoundly deaf. This work was his farewell kiss.

1. Finally, Beethoven's Ninth not only was his last symphony, but also firmly marked new beginnings and directions in the course of music history, a fitting piece as we forge new paths and make new resolutions to move us into 2009. Happy New Year!