And yet nothing in those two movements can prepare one for the deep solemnity of the seemingly interminable Adagio, a creation that’s almost unbearably moving in its troubled tranquility. But Beethoven’s instructions: Adagio molto e cantabile marked ♩=60 (by Beethoven) through several tempi changes, make for its unequalled and songful beauty at the hands of Zander and the Philharmonia. The finale’s clamorous introduction leads to a review of all of this great symphony’s themes. Delving into each one the music settles in favour off Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” theme, an amazingly simple melody that employs a mere five notes. But genius that he is, Beethoven introduces it gently at first, and then allows it to grow in boldness. A repetition of the opening is halted by the poem’s opening lines, delivered like a clarion by the baritone Derek Welton:
“O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen,
The chorus and other soloists respond to the call magnificently. Beethoven’s melody then transforms into a jaunty march reaching ♩=84, but only after Beethoven challenged his performers with a staggering array of tempi: from Presto 𝅗𝅥=88 through Allegro assai 𝅗𝅥=80, Presto (“O Freunde”), Allegro assai (“Freude, schöner Götterfunken”), then Alla marcia; Allegro assai vivace 𝅗𝅥.=84 (“Froh, wie seine Sonnen”), Andante maestoso 𝅗𝅥=72 (“Seid umschlungen, Millionen!”), Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato 𝅗𝅥=84 (“Freude, schöner Götterfunken” – “Seid umschlungen, Millionen!”), followed by Allegro ma non tanto 𝅗𝅥=120 (“Freude, Tochter aus Elysium!”), and finally Prestissimo 𝅗𝅥=132 (“Seid umschlungen, Millionen!”)
The “jaunty march” is led by the choir, conducted by Stefan Bevier (who passed away suddenly after the release of this recording). This is followed by a long orchestral interlude which leads to the core of the movement – a religious invocation to universal brotherhood:
“Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel Weilt.
Freude, schöner, Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Freude, schöner Götterfunken!”