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Beethoven Ninth Symphony

Beethoven wrote nine symphonies which influenced composers for the rest of time. The Ninth Symphony, also known as the "Choral Symphony", was the first time in history that a composer used a chorus in a symphony.

When Beethoven wrote the Ninth he was completely deaf, which is an amazing thing. The ability to hear music in his head, and write about joy when he was so sad about his hearing are some of the things that make Beethoven one of the greatest composers ever.

Ode to Joy

The fourth movement of the symphony is the most famous. It's a theme and variations (a musical idea that is changed when it's repeated) on a melody that is really really famous.

A lot of people know the melody but don't know that the way you just heard it is only one of the ways in which it's sung and played during the symphony.

Here are some of the variations (different ways in which the melody is heard):

  • First Three instrumental variations 

    • Lower Strings​

    • Higher Strings

    • Brass and Full Orchestra

  • Sung Variation by the Bass (low man's voice)

  • Sung Variation by the Full Chorus and Orchestra

  • March Variation

Every time we hear the melody it's a little different and Beethoven made sure that the music fit the words of the poem.

The Poem

The poem "Ode to Joy" was written by  a German poet and playwright named Friedrich Schiller in the summer of 1785. It talks about the emotion of joy, what causes us to be joyful and why. The idea of the poem is to create joy in the reader.


Let us sing more cheerful songs, more full of joy!

Your magic power re-unites all that custom has divided,
All men become brothers under the sway of your gentle wings.

Click here for a full downloadable translation.

You can watch and listen to the first verse in this video

Many people have written additional lyrics to this melody.

Click here for one of my favorite versions by Pete Seeger.

Ode to Joy and the Ninth Symphony have been performed all over the world and by lots of different people. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony has made people joyful since it was first premiered in 1824.

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