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Beethoven's Masterpiece: A Symphonic Swan Song

Bass-baritone Shenyang

This Sunday on WRTI, the new season of the Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts launches with  one of music's most iconic works. As WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, Beethoven’s final symphony, completed almost two centuries ago, is still one of the most well-regarded and often-performed works.

Beethoven’s choral symphony changed everything. It redefined the symphony form and raised the bar for all of the composer's contemporaries, and for those who would follow. It also expanded the parameters of how music spoke to people’s emotions says Shenyang, bass-baritone in this latest Philadelphia Orchestra performance of the work.

Throughout his life, Beethoven’s music reflected his engagement with social and political issues.  The text for the fourth movement of his Symphony No. 9 was based on a then almost 50-year-old work by the poet Friedrich Schiller, which the composer modified and added to. German Tenor Christian Elsner says the original poem could have been an ode to freedom or joy, but in this performance conducted by the Orchestra’s Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin, both interpretations are valid.

The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI, Sunday, November 10, 1 to 3 pm.

Listen to Jim's interview with tenor Christian Elsner and bass-baritone Shenyang.