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Vienna, Paris, Milan celebrate the 200th anniversary of Beethoven's 9th Symphony

Europe is celebrating on Tuesday the 200th anniversary of Beethoven's Symphony No.

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Vienna, Paris, Milan celebrate the 200th anniversary of Beethoven's 9th Symphony

Europe is celebrating on Tuesday the 200th anniversary of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, a legendary work which was resounded for the first time in Vienna after having seen the light of day in the tranquility of thermal cures near the Austrian capital. Transformed into a museum, “the house of the Ninth” is showing an exhibition for the occasion, while Beethoven's masterpiece, which has become a universal symbol of humanist celebrations, will resound in the evening during anniversary concerts in Vienna, Paris or still in Milan.

“It was here that he worked a lot on his choral symphony,” explains Ulrike Scholda, the director of the Baden building rented three summers in a row by the famous composer. In Ludwig van Beethoven's modest holiday home, you can see a piano on which he played for neighbors, Baden then being a green setting for aristocracy accompanied by artists. He came there “at least 15 times”, surrounded by admirers and generous patrons.

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There he treated his numerous ailments and drew inspiration from the serenity of the resort's waters, also recharging his batteries during long walks in the forests of the horizons. A letter sent in 1823 demonstrates the intense stress that consumed him in delivering this monumental work to the sponsor, the London Philharmonic Society, in the last creative period of his life.

Although he was born in Germany in 1770, it was in Mozart's homeland that the prodigy spent most of his life. And it was in Vienna that he reserved the premiere of the 9th symphony, on May 7, 1824. The day before, he had rushed in a carriage from door to door to “invite personalities to honor his concert with their presence”, music historian Birgit Lodes tells AFP. “He had found a hairdresser for the big night,” she laughs, Beethoven having gone down in history with an uncluttered style and a big mop of gray hair. Lasting around 70 minutes - almost twice as long as comparable scores - the work immediately won over the packed house, which gave the master a triumphant welcome.

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The latter was present on stage, with his back to the audience, to set the tempo for the orchestra. Suffering from deafness, he did not notice the enthusiasm of the audience... before a musician gestured for him to turn around. Although sounding familiar from the first listen, Symphony No. 9 broke the norms of what was then a “only orchestral” genre, by “integrating the voice and therefore the text,” analyzes musicologist Angelika Kraus.

His idea of ​​introducing a final chorus to the poet Friedrich von Schiller's Ode to Joy paradoxically made his music more susceptible to political exploitation, notably by the Nazis and Communists. The verses are “relatively open in terms of ideological interpretation”, emphasizes Angelika Kraus, even if they “above all convey a feeling of unity”. Moreover, an extract from the last movement, rearranged by Herbert von Karajan, became the anthem of the Council of Europe from 1972. In 1985, the European Community adopted it in turn.

Gustav Klimt was inspired by the symphony for his frieze of the Palace of the Secession, Maurice Béjart dedicated a ballet to it and A Clockwork Orange at the Casa del Papel, it is popular on the screens. “We never tire of listening to it because it is full of surprises and twists and turns, while remaining pleasant to the ear,” comments Ulrike Scholda.

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In front of Beethoven's house in Baden, Jochen Hallof, 67, believes that his encounter with the 9th Symphony as a child led him on the “path to humanism”. “We particularly need global humanism at the moment. We should listen more to Beethoven instead of waging war,” he says.

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