Symphony No. 9, L. van Beethoven
Beethoven's final symphonic work, Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, has been performed all over the world since it premiered in May 1824 in Vienna. However, few venues offer the same evocative atmosphere as the Arena di Verona, the city's tremendously well-preserved Roman amphitheatre. An ancient monument that is still used for numerous live performances of both classical music and operatic productions, the arena lies in the heart of the old part of Verona overlooking a piazza from where a little train tour, or trenino, embarks. The chance to enjoy a rendition of Beethoven's only choral symphony with a trenino covering many of Verona's most historic sites is something all lovers of culture will want to seize.
Beethoven was commissioned to write a new symphony in 1817. Although some sketches were made at that time based on ideas he had earlier in his career, it wasn't until a few years later that the German maestro began composing Opus 125 in earnest. Beethoven wanted to break with musical convention for this work. In an unusual move for the time, he placed the scherzo before the symphony's slow movement, for instance. What made the Ninth Symphony truly ground-breaking, however, was his use of vocalists in the dramatic final movement. Not only did Beethoven elect to use four vocal soloists at the finale of his work but he also decided to back them with an entire chorus of singers. No composer of such renown had ever conceived of a symphony this way before.
For many musicologists, the unique style of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony means that it bridges the gap between the classical music era of Haydn, Mozart and others with the Romantic era that was to come. Certainly, the revolutionary nature of the symphony reflected the turbulent times that Beethoven was living through. In addition, the great composer was going deaf at the time of this composition, so Beethoven was also going through a great deal of personal change. Despite the tumultuous era, the final movement remains utterly optimistic. Its main theme, in D major, is sung with adapted lyrics which were drawn from 'Ode to Joy', a poem written by Friedrich von Schiller in 1785. Beethoven's tune was subsequently taken on as the anthem of the European Union.
This concert experience's included trenino tour sets off every half an hour and it can be taken on the day of the concert, one day before it or one day after it. Highlights of the 25-minute tour include Porta Borsari, Castelvecchio and the 12th-century Church of San Fermo, among others. Commentary is offered in several languages. Note that the tour finishes at Piazza Brà which offers immediate access to the concert arena.