Chief conductor Susanna Mälkki conducts Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra’s chief conductor Susanna Mälkki conducts Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which traditionally concludes the orchestra’s autumn season. This year, the Ode to Joy has extra special meaning, as it marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of the master composer. The concert will be livestreamed on the orchestra’s HKO Screen website and mobile app.
A conductor born and bred in Helsinki, Susanna Mälkki grew up to the accompaniment of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2004 she received her first invitation to conduct the orchestra of which she would become Chief Conductor in autumn 2016. Her path to the conductor’s podium passed through the cello classes of the Sibelius Academy and the Edsberg Institute in Stockholm, however, and the position of principal cellist in the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. She made her conducting breakthrough in 1999, at the Helsinki Festival, and her first regular conducting appointment was as Artistic Director of the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. Her Music Directorship of the celebrated Ensemble Intercontemporain (2006–2013) established her as a profound interpreter of music of the present day.
Susanna Mälkki has conducted the world’s finest orchestras. In season 2017-18 she made her debut at the Vienna State Opera season and took over as Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Musical America voted her Conductor of the Year 2017.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 “Ode to Joy”
Of all the works by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), there is one that stands out above all others and makes him truly immortal: his Symphony No. 9. It marked a turning point in the history of music, the culmination of an era and an endless source of inspiration for future generations. The last movement breaks with tradition in being a setting for four soloists and large choir of a poem, the Ode to Joy by Friedrich Schiller extolling the virtues of universal brotherhood. Beethoven had been mulling over the idea of setting it to music for 30 years before incorporating it in his Symphony.
Because of the poem, the Symphony would in time acquire geopolitical dimensions. The Nazis appropriated it, as did the Soviet Communists and the joint Olympic team of divided Germany. The racist Rhodesian regime used its melody for its national anthem, and it was the only Western work permitted by the closed Chinese dictatorship. It was the favourite song of Presidente Gonzalo, leader of the terrorist, militant group in Peru, and it was even performed on the ruins of the Berlin Wall, but with the word Freude (Joy) being replaced by Freiheit (Freedom). The Ode to Joy is nowadays the unofficial anthem of the European Union.