The Last Symphony

By Minah Yeo

“Who could do anything more after Beethoven?” Schubert once asked. Of King Ludwig’s Ninth Symphony in particular, Wagner said that the last symphony had already been written.

Beethoven’s Ninth is the adapted anthem of the European Union, and is forever embedded in our minds as it relates to the student protests at Tiananmen Square. It is as synonymous to the fall of the Berlin wall as Mstislav Rostropovich playing Bach’s Cello Suites among its rubbles.

From “A Clockwork Orange” to “Dead Poets Society,” the Ninth’s references in pop culture are plentiful. It is also rumored to be responsible for determining the running time of the standard compact disc.

On July 31st Beethoven’s Ninth returns to the Hollywood Bowl, accompanied by music from “King Stephen” and “Bundeslied” in an all-Beethoven program. At the podium is Michael Tilson Thomas leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Master Chorale, with Jessica Rivera, Kelly O’Connor, Philippe Castagner and Eric Owens as soloists.

Maestro Thomas once said, “You can’t have Bach, Mozart and Beethoven as your favorite
composers: They simply define what music is.” Beethoven’s Ninth may simply “define music,” but what a high definition it is.

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