Ludwig van Beethoven performing with the Razumovsky Quartet, as depicted by artist August Borckmann.  Rischgitz / Getty Images
Ludwig van Beethoven performing with the Razumovsky Quartet, as depicted by artist August Borckmann. Rischgitz / Getty Images

Why Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is more than an Ode to Joy



In 1824 a rather elderly and dishevelled Beethoven took to the stage at the Theater am Kärntnertor to conduct the premiere of his Ninth symphony.

It is the same piece that audiences will hear performed at the Royal Opera House Muscat on December 8 – but the circumstances could not have been more different.

Firstly, Beethoven was profoundly deaf. The “real” conducting duties were left to Michael Umlauf – the theatre’s Kapellmeister – who stood next to him beating time for the orchestra, or so the story goes.

Then there was the composition itself. Today, all the world knows the Ode to Joy, the sublime song that appears in the final movement to drive the symphony to its rousing conclusion.

But in 1824, that first Viennese audience was in uncharted territory. Here was a symphony in which the orchestra had ballooned to include four operatic soloists and a full choir. Its character was by turns stormy, triumphant and playful – sometimes to the point of being menacing. There were several discordant moments.

And then there was the length – with more than 60 minutes of music, it was a mountain of a symphony, a titan that dwarfed everything that had gone before.

All the ingredients were there for an unmitigated failure of ­immense, embarrassing proportions. And yet, it was not.

The audience loved it. They jumped to their feet and cheered with rapturous delight. So deaf was the composer, he failed to hear the thunderous applause and had to be tapped on the shoulder by Caroline Unger, the contralto soloist, to face the adoring crowd.

It is a suitably powerful story for such a life-affirming symphony. Yet in some ways, the composer’s genius idea to round off his symphony with such a deceptively simple, catchy tune has perhaps also been the work’s great undoing. It has, to a great extent, gone on to eclipse the ­symphony as a whole. And when divorced from it, the Ode to Joy has mutated into something dangerously close to muzak.

It was adopted as the anthem of the European Union, to be rattled off during official occasions. Countries as diverse as Japan and Germany have adopted it as the traditional song to usher in the new year.

It made an appearance in The Beatles' 1965 movie Help (sung by Ringo, no less), Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971) and the Bruce Willis action movie Die Hard (1988). It even became the ­tinny theme tune to 1990s ­computer game Civilisation.

Is this detached usage what Beethoven had in mind? Probably not. In his ­symphony, the Ode to Joy arrives at the end of an amazingly ­complex journey. The symphony’s first movement emerges from the strangest whisperings – which some liken to the primordial soup – and ­follows a path that encompasses everything it took some of ­Beethoven’s earlier symphonies four movements to get through.

Next follows a jittery scherzo – normally the third movement – followed by an Adagio that swells and tugs at the heart for nearly 16 minutes. As a listener you are already overwhelmed when the fourth movement crashes open with a series of quotes from the previous three that are soon swept aside with the Ode to Joy.

At first it is simple – an unadorned melody in the cellos and double bass. It is taken up by the rest of the orchestra and rises to a crescendo, bit by bit, before the bass soloist dramatically steps in and ushers in the choir to sing the theme.

The mood continues to ­develop, echoing the grand rise and fall of an oratorio as the quartet of operatic soloists play against the power of the full choir.

Naturally, when the conclusion arrives, it is rousing, triumphant and enormous.

But what does it all mean? And how does the Ode to Joy fit into the giant jigsaw puzzle?

Is it a celebration of the brotherhood of man? Or was it written as a two-fingered salute to the repressive political environment of Europe after the Congress of Vienna, as Harvey Sachs suggested in his book The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824?

Perhaps this is the ultimate genius of the work. On its own, the Ode to Joy plays the part of a heroic foot soldier. But taken as a whole, the symphony is far more complex and confusing. Like a rainbow, it appears before us, bold, bright and real – yet we can never truly find its source.

Nicholas Cook puts it well: “Of all the works in the mainstream repertory of western music, the Ninth Symphony seems the most like a construction of mirrors, reflecting and refracting the values, hopes and fears of those who seek to understand and explain it.”

It is for this reason that this symphony arguably remains the greatest ever written.

It still has the power and ­theatricality to stun audiences, confound them and leave them shaking.

So do not let that dodgy ­rendition of Ode to Joy on New Year’s Eve last year make you think otherwise.

Beethoven’s Ninth ­Symphony will be performed by RAI National ­Symphony Orchestra and the Swedish Radio Choir at the Royal Opera House Muscat on December 8. Tickets from 5 Omani Rials (Dh47) from www.rohmuscat.org.om

artslife@thenational.ae

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

The Little Things

Directed by: John Lee Hancock

Starring: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto

Four stars

Famous left-handers

- Marie Curie

- Jimi Hendrix

- Leonardo Di Vinci

- David Bowie

- Paul McCartney

- Albert Einstein

- Jack the Ripper

- Barack Obama

- Helen Keller

- Joan of Arc

The specs

Engine: 6.2-litre supercharged V8

Power: 712hp at 6,100rpm

Torque: 881Nm at 4,800rpm

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 19.6 l/100km

Price: Dh380,000

On sale: now

Results

5.30pm: Maiden (TB) Dh82,500 (Turf) 1,400m; Winner: Mcmanaman, Sam Hitchcock (jockey), Doug Watson (trainer)

6.05pm: Handicap (TB) Dh87,500 (T) 1,400m; Winner: Bawaasil, Sam Hitchcott, Doug Watson

6.40pm: Handicap (TB) Dh105,000 (Dirt) 1,400m; Winner: Bochart, Fabrice Veron, Satish Seemar

7.15pm: Handicap (TB) Dh105,000 (T) 1,200m; Winner: Mutaraffa, Antonio Fresu, Musabah Al Muhairi

7.50pm: Longines Stakes – Conditions (TB) Dh120,00 (D) 1,900m; Winner: Rare Ninja, Royston Ffrench, Salem bin Ghadayer

8.25pm: Zabeel Trophy – Rated Conditions (TB) Dh120,000 (T) 1,600m; Winner: Alfareeq, Antonio Fresu, Musabah Al Muhairi

9pm: Handicap (TB) Dh105,000 (T) 2,410m; Winner: Good Tidings, Antonio Fresu, Musabah Al Muhairi

9.35pm: Handicap (TB) Dh92,500 (T) 2,000m; Winner: Zorion, Abdul Aziz Al Balushi, Helal Al Alawi

 

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

How to play the stock market recovery in 2021?

If you are looking to build your long-term wealth in 2021 and beyond, the stock market is still the best place to do it as equities powered on despite the pandemic.

Investing in individual stocks is not for everyone and most private investors should stick to mutual funds and ETFs, but there are some thrilling opportunities for those who understand the risks.

Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank, says the 20 best-performing US and European stocks have delivered an average return year-to-date of 148 per cent, measured in local currency terms.

Online marketplace Etsy was the best performer with a return of 330.6 per cent, followed by communications software company Sinch (315.4 per cent), online supermarket HelloFresh (232.8 per cent) and fuel cells specialist NEL (191.7 per cent).

Mr Garnry says digital companies benefited from the lockdown, while green energy firms flew as efforts to combat climate change were ramped up, helped in part by the European Union’s green deal. 

Electric car company Tesla would be on the list if it had been part of the S&P 500 Index, but it only joined on December 21. “Tesla has become one of the most valuable companies in the world this year as demand for electric vehicles has grown dramatically,” Mr Garnry says.

By contrast, the 20 worst-performing European stocks fell 54 per cent on average, with European banks hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic, while cruise liners and airline stocks suffered due to travel restrictions.

As demand for energy fell, the oil and gas industry had a tough year, too.

Mr Garnry says the biggest story this year was the “absolute crunch” in so-called value stocks, companies that trade at low valuations compared to their earnings and growth potential.

He says they are “heavily tilted towards financials, miners, energy, utilities and industrials, which have all been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic”. “The last year saw these cheap stocks become cheaper and expensive stocks have become more expensive.” 

This has triggered excited talk about the “great value rotation” but Mr Garnry remains sceptical. “We need to see a breakout of interest rates combined with higher inflation before we join the crowd.”

Always remember that past performance is not a guarantee of future returns. Last year’s winners often turn out to be this year’s losers, and vice-versa.

RESULTS

Welterweight

Tohir Zhuraev (TJK) beat Mostafa Radi (PAL)

(Unanimous points decision)

Catchweight 75kg

Anas Siraj Mounir (MAR) beat Leandro Martins (BRA)

(Second round knockout)

Flyweight (female)

Manon Fiorot (FRA) beat Corinne Laframboise (CAN)

(RSC in third round)

Featherweight

Bogdan Kirilenko (UZB) beat Ahmed Al Darmaki

(Disqualification)

Lightweight

Izzedine Al Derabani (JOR) beat Rey Nacionales (PHI)

(Unanimous points)

Featherweight

Yousef Al Housani (UAE) beat Mohamed Fargan (IND)

(TKO first round)

Catchweight 69kg

Jung Han-gook (KOR) beat Max Lima (BRA)

(First round submission by foot-lock)

Catchweight 71kg

Usman Nurmogamedov (RUS) beat Jerry Kvarnstrom (FIN)

(TKO round 1).

Featherweight title (5 rounds)

Lee Do-gyeom (KOR) v Alexandru Chitoran (ROU)

(TKO round 1).

Lightweight title (5 rounds)

Bruno Machado (BRA) beat Mike Santiago (USA)

(RSC round 2).

Inside Out 2

Director: Kelsey Mann

Starring: Amy Poehler, Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri

Rating: 4.5/5

The biog

Profession: Senior sports presenter and producer

Marital status: Single

Favourite book: Al Nabi by Jibran Khalil Jibran

Favourite food: Italian and Lebanese food

Favourite football player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Languages: Arabic, French, English, Portuguese and some Spanish

Website: www.liliane-tannoury.com

Cinco in numbers

Dh3.7 million

The estimated cost of Victoria Swarovski’s gem-encrusted Michael Cinco wedding gown

46

The number, in kilograms, that Swarovski’s wedding gown weighed.

1,000

The hours it took to create Cinco’s vermillion petal gown, as seen in his atelier [note, is the one he’s playing with in the corner of a room]

50

How many looks Cinco has created in a new collection to celebrate Ballet Philippines’ 50th birthday

3,000

The hours needed to create the butterfly gown worn by Aishwarya Rai to the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

1.1 million

The number of followers that Michael Cinco’s Instagram account has garnered.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

The winners

Fiction

  • ‘Amreekiya’  by Lena Mahmoud
  •  ‘As Good As True’ by Cheryl Reid

The Evelyn Shakir Non-Fiction Award

  • ‘Syrian and Lebanese Patricios in Sao Paulo’ by Oswaldo Truzzi;  translated by Ramon J Stern
  • ‘The Sound of Listening’ by Philip Metres

The George Ellenbogen Poetry Award

  • ‘Footnotes in the Order  of Disappearance’ by Fady Joudah

Children/Young Adult

  •  ‘I’ve Loved You Since Forever’ by Hoda Kotb 
RESULTS

Bantamweight

Victor Nunes (BRA) beat Siyovush Gulmamadov (TJK)

(Split decision)

Featherweight

Hussein Salim (IRQ) beat Shakhriyor Juraev (UZB)

(Round 1 submission, armbar)

Catchweight 80kg

Rashed Dawood (UAE) beat Otabek Kadirov (UZB)

(Round-1 submission, rear naked choke)

Lightweight

Ho Taek-oh (KOR) beat Ronald Girones (CUB)

(Round 3 submission, triangle choke)

Lightweight

Arthur Zaynukov (RUS) beat Damien Lapilus (FRA)

(Unanimous points)

Bantamweight

Vinicius de Oliveira (BRA) beat Furkatbek Yokubov (RUS)

(Round 1 TKO)

Featherweight

Movlid Khaybulaev (RUS) v Zaka Fatullazade (AZE)

(Round 1 rear naked choke)

Flyweight

Shannon Ross (TUR) beat Donovon Freelow (USA)

(Unanimous decision)

Lightweight

Dan Collins (GBR) beat Mohammad Yahya (UAE)

(Round 2 submission D’arce choke)

Catchweight 73kg

Martun Mezhulmyan (ARM) beat Islam Mamedov (RUS)

(Round 3 submission, kneebar)

Bantamweight world title

Xavier Alaoui (MAR) beat Jaures Dea (CAM)

(Unanimous points 48-46, 49-45, 49-45)

Flyweight world title

Manon Fiorot (FRA) v Gabriela Campo (ARG)

(Round 1 RSC)

Children who witnessed blood bath want to help others

Aged just 11, Khulood Al Najjar’s daughter, Nora, bravely attempted to fight off Philip Spence. Her finger was injured when she put her hand in between the claw hammer and her mother’s head.

As a vital witness, she was forced to relive the ordeal by police who needed to identify the attacker and ensure he was found guilty.

Now aged 16, Nora has decided she wants to dedicate her career to helping other victims of crime.

“It was very horrible for her. She saw her mum, dying, just next to her eyes. But now she just wants to go forward,” said Khulood, speaking about how her eldest daughter was dealing with the trauma of the incident five years ago. “She is saying, 'mama, I want to be a lawyer, I want to help people achieve justice'.”

Khulood’s youngest daughter, Fatima, was seven at the time of the attack and attempted to help paramedics responding to the incident.

“Now she wants to be a maxillofacial doctor,” Khulood said. “She said to me ‘it is because a maxillofacial doctor returned your face, mama’. Now she wants to help people see themselves in the mirror again.”

Khulood’s son, Saeed, was nine in 2014 and slept through the attack. While he did not witness the trauma, this made it more difficult for him to understand what had happened. He has ambitions to become an engineer.

360Vuz PROFILE

Date started: January 2017
Founder: Khaled Zaatarah 
Based: Dubai and Los Angeles
Sector: Technology 
Size: 21 employees
Funding: $7 million 
Investors: Shorooq Partners, KBW Ventures, Vision Ventures, Hala Ventures, 500Startups, Plug and Play, Magnus Olsson, Samih Toukan, Jonathan Labin

SCHEDULE

Saturday, April 20: 11am to 7pm - Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Festival and Para jiu-jitsu.

Sunday, April 21: 11am to 6pm - Abu Dhabi World Youth (female) Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Monday, April 22: 11am to 6pm - Abu Dhabi World Youth (male) Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Tuesday, April 23: 11am-6pm Abu Dhabi World Masters Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Wednesday, April 24: 11am-6pm Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Thursday, April 25: 11am-5pm Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Friday, April 26: 3pm to 6pm Finals of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Saturday, April 27: 4pm and 8pm awards ceremony.

Uefa Nations League: How it works

The Uefa Nations League, introduced last year, has reached its final stage, to be played over five days in northern Portugal. The format of its closing tournament is compact, spread over two semi-finals, with the first, Portugal versus Switzerland in Porto on Wednesday evening, and the second, England against the Netherlands, in Guimaraes, on Thursday.

The winners of each semi will then meet at Porto’s Dragao stadium on Sunday, with the losing semi-finalists contesting a third-place play-off in Guimaraes earlier that day.

Qualifying for the final stage was via League A of the inaugural Nations League, in which the top 12 European countries according to Uefa's co-efficient seeding system were divided into four groups, the teams playing each other twice between September and November. Portugal, who finished above Italy and Poland, successfully bid to host the finals.

Dr Amal Khalid Alias revealed a recent case of a woman with daughters, who specifically wanted a boy.

A semen analysis of the father showed abnormal sperm so the couple required IVF.

Out of 21 eggs collected, six were unused leaving 15 suitable for IVF.

A specific procedure was used, called intracytoplasmic sperm injection where a single sperm cell is inserted into the egg.

On day three of the process, 14 embryos were biopsied for gender selection.

The next day, a pre-implantation genetic report revealed four normal male embryos, three female and seven abnormal samples.

Day five of the treatment saw two male embryos transferred to the patient.

The woman recorded a positive pregnancy test two weeks later. 

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
Power: 261hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750-4,000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto
Fuel consumption: 10.5L/100km
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh129,999 (VX Luxury); from Dh149,999 (VX Black Gold)

TWISTERS

Director:+Lee+Isaac+Chung

Starring:+Glen+Powell,+Daisy+Edgar-Jones,+Anthony+Ramos

Rating:+2.5/5

Scoreline

Swansea 2

Grimes 20' (pen), Celina, 29'

Man City 3

Silva 69', Nordfeldt 78' (og), Aguero 88'