Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, by Otto Klemperer
Suggested by Bryan Connolly
Album Four Hundred!
Album 100? Groove Family Cyco, by Infectious Grooves. 5/10.
Album 200? Super Slimey, by Future & Young Thug. 4/10.
Album 300? 7, by S Club 7. 4/10.
Album 400? Beethoven’s 9th Symphony… I mean, really?
Four hundred a milestone, there’s no doubt about that. And as usual, I was hoping for something classic, well-known. Something exciting, something fresh and funky and cool, something with which I could celebrate passing the marker post.
I suppose Beethoven’s Ninth well known, although I admit I didn’t realise the four-movement hour-long choral symphony concludes with the iconic Ode to Joy. As for the rest of my milestone requirements? It’s hardly exciting, fresh, funky, or cool. Your mileage may vary, but as I’ve stated in previous reviews of Classical Music, the whole genre leaves me stone cold and snoring.
First performed in Vienna in 1824, the symphony is widely accepted as Beethoven’s greatest works, and one of the supreme achievements in the history of music. Strong words indeed, but clearly made by someone who’s never heard Psyche, the debut album from PJ and Duncan.
So, why was this symphony so ground-breaking? First, the symphony is considerably longer than others of its ilk. It seems length is of particular importance in music, as it is in many aspects of modern life. It’s also the first symphony to use vocals, making Beethoven a bonafide trendsetter. I can get behind this innovation, as I’m generally bored wigless by instrumentals.
Anything else to say? Not especially. It’s seventy minutes of calming, unobtrusive froth that is massively wasted on a philistine like myself. It’s beautiful boredom, a sound that has minimal effect on my emotion and makes no discernible impression on my intellect. It starts, it continues, it ends.
I used to consider my inability to embrace Classical Music as a character flaw, and if I’m honest I’m not entirely convinced that it’s not. Afficionados of the form are likely shaking their heads in disbelief, appalled that I’m given scope to spout my ill-conceived opinion. It comes from my unfamiliarity with the wider genre. Even when presented with the basics I flounder, like a cinephile presented with Avengers Endgame having never seen a Marvel film before.
When this was randomised, there was subversive talk in the comments, sedition involving the suggester’s instruction that “any version” would suffice for my listen. There was talk of hunting down the Kazoo version, or a Death Metal growling Ode to Joy, or the entire symphony performed on Theramin and Paper Shredder by the Mick Hucknall Spunky Flapjack Society. All fun stuff, but I went with Otto Klemperer’s de facto “best ever” version, as judged by some fandom internet folks. With hindsight, I wish I’d been braver, as at least I’d feel passion for what I’m reviewing now.
Ah well. They can’t all be zingers. Beethoven’s 9th gets 4/10, as I knew it would before I listened.
Here’s hoping Album 500 is a blinder.