Category: Music

200 years of the 9th Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven

All People Become Brothers
1824 – 2024: 200th anniversary of the first performance of
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Uruguay 27.10.2020: Kärntnertortheater in Vienna
and excerpt from the autograph for the 4th movement.

On May 7, 2024 we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna.
As early as mid-1792, shortly before his departure for Vienna, Beethoven confided to the Bonn university professor Fistenich that he wanted to set Schiller’s poem “An die Freude” to music. But it was not until 1815/1816 that the first sketches of the 9th Symphony were created. During the summer months of 1821, 1822 and 1823, Beethoven worked on the composition in the health resort of Baden near Vienna. Although the intention of setting Schiller’s hymn to music accompanied Beethoven throughout most of his life, it was not until 1822 that he decided to use the verses in the
finale of the 9th Symphony. In the late summer and autumn of 1823, the composer worked on the draft of the fourth and final movement of the symphony, the “Ode to Joy”. Beethoven completed the composition of the symphony in the winter of 1823/1824 in his apartment on Ungargasse in Vienna.
The premiere of the 9th Symphony took place on May 7, 1824 at a concert that Beethoven organized in the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna. The conductor Michael Runde conducts with the deaf Beethoven. The soloists are Henriette Sontag (soprano), Caroline Unger (alto), Anton Haizinger (tenor) and Joseph Seipelt (baritone).

Jersey 26.3.2020: Score from the first movement

Monaco 15.10.1970: “Ode to Joy” Baritone voice notes

That evening, Beethoven experienced one of the greatest triumphs of his career. After the second movement, the Scherzo, a storm of applause broke out. The composer, who is extremely focused and of course has his back to the audience, doesn’t notice anything because of his deafness until Caroline Unger makes him turn around. The concert continues, and the third movement and the exceptionally long finale also impress the listeners. The big final crescendo sends both performers and listeners into ecstasy. Then the room seems to explode. The audience goes wild with enthusiasm. Because they know, of course, that Beethoven is insensitive to even very loud statements, people wave hats and white handkerchiefs. Beethoven, who is called forward five times – even the imperial family is usually only called three times – stoically accepts the frenetic applause.
On January 19, 1972, the Council of Europe adopted the melody of “Ode to Joy” as its own anthem and commissioned the conductor Herbert von Karajan to arrange three versions: for piano, for wind instruments and for orchestra. In 1985, the instrumental version was adopted by the heads of state and government of the European Communities as the official anthem of the European Union. 
Didier Lachnitt (Quellen: Jan Caeyer „Beethoven, Der einsame Revolutionär“; Internet Recherche

9th Symphony performed by the Vienna Philharmonic under the direction of Leonard Bernstein.

“Ode to Joy” (European anthem) performed by the Saarland State Orchestra under General Music Director Sébastien Rouland.

Stamp of the Month: April 2024

Duke Ellington

The American pianist and influential jazz musician Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was born on April 29, 1899 in Washington, D.C., he died on May 24, 1974 in New York City. April 2014 marks the 125th anniversary of his birthday.
The seven-year-old didn’t enjoy lessons from his mother, who wanted to teach him to play the piano. It wasn’t until he was fourteen that his interest in music awoke. At the age of 17 he began his career as a professional musician and soon made a name for himself as a piano accompanist and bandleader for his band “The Washingtonians”. When the famous King Oliver left the famous Cotton Club in New York City in 1927, Ellington was offered the job as house band in New York’s most renowned nightclub at the time. Gradually, the “Washingtonians” became the Duke Ellington

USA 29.4.1986

USA 16.7.2008
Orchestra, which achieved national fame through regular radio broadcasts from the Cotton Club.
With his role as bandleader, Ellington contributed significantly to the development of swing as a big band style. After leaving the Cotton Club in 1931, he worked for several record companies and film studios and went on numerous tours throughout the United States and Western Europe from 1933 to the 1960s.
Ellington experimented with his orchestra throughout his life. When he began composing and arranging specifically for the different voices of his orchestra in the 1940s, the band reached its creative peak. Ellington worked with several modern jazz musicians. Duke Ellington wrote almost 2,000 compositions, around a hundred of which are now considered jazz standards. As the popularity of swing declined, he composed longer pieces based on classical music.

The video features live performances by Duke Ellington & His Orchestra with some
of his most famous compositions.

Stamp of the Month: March 2024

Bedřich Smetana

The Czech composer Bedřich Smetana was born on March 2, 1824 in Litomyšl and died on May 12, 1884 in Prague. March 2024 will be the 200th anniversary of his birthday.
Smetana began taking violin and piano lessons at the age of four. After attending high school, he studied piano and composition in Prague from 1843 to 1847 and also worked as a music teacher. In 1848 he opened his own private music school with the help of his friend Franz Liszt.

Czechoslovakia 4.6.1949

Czech Republic 14.2.2024
Allegorical illustrations for the cycle “My Fatherland”

In 1856 Smetana left his homeland for political reasons and headed the Philharmonic Society in Gothenburg for five years. After his return he supported the Czech national movement and led the Hlahol patriotic singing society from 1863 to 1865. From 1865 to 1869 he conducted the Czech Philharmonic concerts, worked as a music critic for the newspaper Národní listy in 1864/1865 and was first conductor of the Czech interim theater České Prozatimní Divadlo from 1866 to 1874. When he fell ill in 1874, he retreated to the countryside to compose.
Bedřich Smetana composed eight operas, of which “The Bartered Bride” (1866) and the Czech national opera “Libussa” (1869–1872) are the most famous. In addition to the six-part cycle “My Fatherland,” he composed four other orchestral works, chamber music, piano music and three works for organ.

The video shows the symphony orchestra of the Kranj High School (Slovenia) under the direction of Nejc Avbelj with the symphonic poem “The Moldau” (Czech: Vltava) from the cycle “My Fatherland” (Má vlast) by Bedřich Smetana.

Stamp of the Month: February 2024

Oskar Merikanto

Finland 5.8.1968

The Finnish composer Frans Oskar Merikanto was born on August 5, 1868 in Helsinki and died on February 17, 1924 in Hausjärvi-Oitti. February 2024 will mark the 100th anniversary of his death.
After publishing his first organ and piano concerto in 1887, Oskar Merikanto studied organ, piano, music theory and composition in Leipzig and Berlin. In 1892 he became organist at what is now St. John’s Church in Helsinki, a position he held until his death.From 1911 to 1922 he was opera conductor at what is now the Finnish
National Opera. He also worked as an organ teacher at the Church Music School and the Helsinki Music Institute and was considered Finland’s leading organ expert throughout the country for many years.
Oskar Merikanto composed three operas, violin, piano and organ pieces, choral works and songs. His musical play “Pohjan neiti” from 1898 (“Miss of the North”) is considered the first opera in the Finnish language. His melodic and folk songs, which he composed to Finnish, Swedish and German texts, are also well known.


The video shows, among other dancers, the later French professional dancer Julien Conti with his partner Cassandra Cauvemberg at a junior dance competition in 2014/2015 with “Valse Lente” op. 33 by Oskar Merikanto.

Stamp of the Month: January 2024

Josef Suk

Czechoslovakia 12.5.1957
The Czech composer and violinist Josef Suk was born on January 4, 1874 in Křečovice near Prague and died on May 29, 1935 in Benešov near Prague. January 2024 will be the 150th anniversary of his birthday.
Being the son of a teacher and church musician, Josef Suk received lessons in violin, piano and organ from his father. From 1885 he studied violin, piano and composition at the Prague Conservatory, the latter with his future father-in-law Antonín Dvořák. In 1891, Suk took over as second violin in the new founded violin quartett of the Prague Conservatory. With this so-called “Czech Quartet”, one of the most important ensembles of his time, Josef Suk gave over 4,000 concerts throughout Europe in around 40 years. From 1922 he taught as a professor of violin and composition at the Prague Conservatory, of which he was also rector from 1930.
As a composer, Josef Suk created two symphonies, 16 other orchestral works, 30 piano works, chamber music, songs and choral works and two incidental music.
The video shows the Collegium Instrumentale Saarbrücken under the direction of Vilmantas Kaliunas with the 1st movement (Andante con moto) from the Serenade for String Orchestra in E flat major by Josef Suk. The recording was made in March 2013 at the spring concert at the University of Music in Saarbrücken.

Stamp of the Month: December 2023

Maria Callas

Griechenland 12.10.2023
The Greek soprano Maria Callas (real name Maria Anna Cecilia Sofia Kalogeropoulou) was born on December 2, 1923 in New York. She died on September 16, 1977 in Paris.
December 2023 will be the 100th anniversary of her birthday.
Read an article from our bulletin “Der Musikus”
Maria Callas – There can only be one
And listen to a historical recording with Maria Callas as Violetta and Enrico Caruso as Alfredo singing the aria “Libiam ne’ lieti calici” from the first act of the opera “La Traviata” by Giuseppe Verdi.


Stamp of the Month: November 2023

Lou Koster

Luxembourg 18.2.2003
The Luxembourgish composer Marie Louise “Lou” Koster was born on May 7, 1889 in Luxembourg and died on November 17, 1973 in her hometown. November 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of her death.
Lou Koster received music lessons from her grandfather Franz Ferdinand Hoebich (1813–1900), the very first bandmaster of the Luxembourg military band. During the last years of the silent film era, Lou played piano and violin with
her sisters Lina and Laure in Luxembourg cinemas to accompany the films. In 1906, Lou Koster became one of the first students at the newly founded conservatory in Luxembourg. In 1908, just 19 years old, she became a lecturer in violin and piano at this university.
Lou Koster created an extensive oeuvre of 322 compositions. At first she mainly composed waltzes and marches, which were played by the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra from 1933 and broadcast on the radio. Chamber music, piano and orchestral works, works for children’s choir, fairy tale plays, as well as operas and operettas followed later. After her retirement, from 1954 onwards, she devoted herself primarily to composing songs in the three languages spoken in the country. Her greatest success was the choral ballad “Der Geiger von Echternach” (The violinist from Echternach), which she worked on until shortly before her death.

The video shows the Luxembourgish soprano Noémie Sunnen (*1978), who suffers from ALS, accompanied by Annie Kraus, with the song “Akaziebléi” (Acacia Blossom) by Lou Koster. The recording was made on July 5, 2017 at a benefit concert at the Luxembourg Conservatory for patients with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).

Stamp of the Month: October 2023

Pablo Casals

Spain 29.12.1976
The Spanish cellist Pablo Casals was born on December 29, 1876 in El Vendrell. He died on October 22, 1973 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. October 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of his death.
As a child, Casals was taught singing, piano, organ and composition by his father, and his mother recognized his talent for the cello. He attended the conservatory in Barcelona and in 1895 planned to study with François-Auguste Gevaert in Brussels on a scholarship from the Queen of Spain.
However, Gevaert refused to accept new students. After a brief stint as a cellist in a theater orchestra in Paris, Casals returned to Barcelona and began teaching. In 1897 he received a professorship in cello at the Barcelona Conservatory and became principal cellist in the orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu. His concert performances were celebrated by the press and audience. From 1901 he undertook numerous concert tours, especially to the United States and Russia, where he got to know all the well-known Russian composers. His career as a conductor began with the founding of the “Orquesta Pau Casals” in 1919. With the start of the Spanish Civil War, Casals went into exile in Prades, France, in 1936, where he founded a chamber music festival in 1950. In 1956, Casals moved to Puerto Rico, where he also started a festival. In 1958 he helped to found the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and he is a co-founder of the San Juan Conservatory.
As a composer, Pablo Casals created sacred music and orchestral works. His best-known work is the oratorio “El Pessebre”. As a cellist, Casals received particular attention with his interpretation of the suites for solo cello by Johann Sebastian Bach, which until then had been virtually unknown to the audience. At the age of 93, Casals was still practicing the cello for four to five hours every day. When asked “Why?” he once replied: “I feel like I’m making progress.”

Mexico 29.12.1976

The video shows Pablo Casals with the Bourrées from Suite No. 3
by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 1009).

Stamp of the Month: September 2023

Hank Williams

USA 9.6.1993
American country musician and songwriter Hiram “Hank” King Williams Sr. was born on September 17, 1923 in Mount Olive, Alabama. He died on January 1, 1953 in Oak Hill, West Virginia. September 2023 will be his 100th birthday.
Hank Williams performed with the band The Drifting Cowboys as a teenager. In 1939 he began working for the local radio
station WSFA and soon had his own show there. The influential songwriter and producer Fred Rose enabled Williams to record a first single in 1946, the success of which earned him a record deal with MGM Records. In the same year he became a permanent member of the radio show Louisiana Hayride, which was broadcast throughout the southern United States. In 1949, Hank Williams made his debut on the most famous country show, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. He was the first artist to give six encores during his appearance on this live broadcast.
However, as early as the early 1940s, Hank Williams showed the first signs of alcohol addiction. The expulsion from the broadcaster WSFA was followed in 1952 by the exclusion from the Grand Ole Opry.
Despite these problems, Hank Williams is still considered one of the finest singer-songwriters and one of the most influential figures in country music history. A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame recognize his work.

Antigua & Barbuda 18.8.1994

The video shows Hank Williams performing one of his most famous songs “Cold, cold Heart” from 1951 on a television show in 1952.

Stamp of the Month: August 2023

Oscar Lorenzo Fernández

Brazil 7.10.1997
The Brazilian composer Oscar Lorenzo Fernández was born in Rio de Janeiro on 4 November 1897. He died in his hometown on 27 August 1948. August 2023 will be the 75th anniversary of his death.
The Spanish-born composer entered the
National Music Institute at the age of 20 years old and soon won numerous composition prizes. He became an active member of the Society for Musical Culture and founded the Brazilian Conservatory of Music in 1936 with five other professors. Lorenzo Fernández’s works are rooted in musical nationalism. Most of his songs are based on native music and his opera “Malazarte” is considered the first successful Brazilian national opera. Oscar Lorenzo Fernández composed important chamber and piano music and some of his orchestral works are now an integral part of the Brazilian orchestral repertoire. The stamp shows the opening notes of his last piano piece, “Sonata Breve” from 1947.

The video shows the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra (OSB) conducted by Roberto Minczuk performing the piece “Batuque – Dança de Negros” by Oscar Lorenzo Fernández, recorded on 17 March 2014 at the Cidade das Artes in Rio de Janeiro. “Batuque”, based on an Afro-Brazilian folk dance, is the last movement from the suite “Reisado do Pastoreio”, composed in 1930.