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Ode to Joy: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony’s Austrian Influence

Nearly two centuries ago, on the night when Ludwig van Beethoven’s massive Ninth Symphony was heard for the first time in a Vienna music hall, the great German composer was hoping for a smooth performance.

He didn’t have to worry. During the concert, Beethoven was so hard of hearing that a musician had to turn him around to observe the spontaneous clapping from the audience.

Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770, but he lived in Vienna for the most of his life after relocating to the nation’s capital at the age of 22.

The renowned composer never left Vienna, even after being offered several times to move, because he had found his home away from home there, surrounded by kind supporters and generous sponsors.

“The city’s distinct culture and society were what drew him in so much,” said Ulrike Scholda, the director of the Beethoven House in the neighboring Baden.

Beethoven’s life and his final symphony were significantly influenced by the idyllic spa town located just outside of Vienna, the speaker claimed.

The imperial family, the aristocracy, and a who’s who of cultural life spent their summers in Baden, making it “the place to be” in the 1820s, according to Scholda.

Beyond his loss of hearing, Beethoven experienced a variety of medical issues, such as jaundice and stomachaches, and would frequently travel to Baden for treatment.

He recuperated well by taking lengthy excursions in the countryside and soaking in Baden’s healing springs, which also served as inspiration for his songs.
During the summers before his Ninth Symphony was first performed in public in 1824, Beethoven resided at what is now called Baden’s Beethoven House, a museum.

He also wrote significant portions of his last symphony there.

According to Scholda, Beethoven felt pressured to complete the symphony in order to appease the London Philharmonic Society, who had commissioned the work, as detailed in a letter he sent from Baden in September 1823.

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