Beethoven’s Ninth: where does integration happen? 4
vis-à-vis the Schreckensfanfare, also to the three movements that have gone before. Not necessarily, indeed, a condemnation of those movements, but a putting behind one of the past, a choosing and a willing of the new.
Perhaps the most puzzling thing about all the analyses and discussions of the Ninth Symphony’s finale that I have come across is the lack of attention given to the harmonic nature and structural function of the Schreckensfanfare itself. The first thing to note is that if we read the Bb of the woodwinds as a horrendously dissonant appoggiatura, the fanfare begins with the first inversion of the tonic triad. Why first inversion? Because a triad in first inversion, with its inherent mobility, is a common starting point for an operatic recitative scene. So the fanfares belong to the recitatives and are not rejected by them, and, like the orchestral ritornelli before and between the vocal phrases of a recitativo accompagnato, set the scene and mood of the narration. The recitatives are not opposed to the fanfares that are their introductions, but at first they hint at and then, when the baritone makes their meaning explicit, explain the tension and disturbance expressed by the latter.
Together, the fanfare and the recitatives critique the states of being to which the earlier movements of the symphony belong. To suggest, as Mr Edgecombe does, that it is somehow lèse-majesté to say that anything in the finale critiques, ‘rejects’, those earlier movements, written as they were by Beethoven – that it implies a bungling on Beethoven’s part in composing them – is to fall into three fallacies at once: that of confusing the statement made by a work of art or a part of one with the personal character and beliefs of the artist, that of implying incompetence on the part of the creator if a work expresses dark or negative feelings, and above all that of confusing the parts with the whole. It is probable that Sophocles grew out of any desire that he might have harboured in early childhood of killing his father and marrying his mother at a young age, and did not wish to promote the general carrying out of such actions. Yet the earlier sections of Oedipus rex give powerful expression to the forces that impel Oedipus to them, whether it was the gods or his psychological drives, and when we experience the whole play, the final doom that befalls him would not make convincing sense without the power of the earlier parts. The drama of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony ends very differently, but the exhilarating and uplifting message of the finale is so powerful because the three different modes of human existence embodied in the earlier movements have been made convincing and coherent by a great artist.
Whether that uplifting message, as Mr Edgecombe states, celebrates freedom rather than joy – whether Schiller originally wrote ‘Freiheit ’ and replaced it with ‘Freude’ out of political expediency, and Beethoven knew about this – has been much discussed, and in Leonard Bernstein’s