Buvette Masthead

Hear what Beethoven never could, with the CSO

Jolene Laverty

The audience that attended the premiere of Beethoven’s ninth symphony in 1824 were the very first to witness what has since been described as the national anthem for all of humanity.

Ah, if only smart-phones were around to capture it all! Instead, we rely on historical accounts of that evening to imagine what happened.

It took Beethoven over thirty years to compose Symphony No. 9, and by the time it premiered, he was completely deaf. When the ‘Ode to Joy’ played, the audience was blown away by the sheer scale of the symphony, and their rapturous applause filled the Theater am Kärntnertor in Vienna. They were cheering and stomping, but Beethoven heard none of it. The story then goes that while the audience was roaring, Beethoven was still facing the orchestra, and had no idea what was going on behind him. It took a tap on the shoulder to turn him around so he could see the emotion he had elicited with his work.

For the ActewAGL Llewellyn Series on May 11 & 12, the Canberra Symphony Orchestra is bringing Beethoven’s masterpiece to the national capital, complete with soloists from Opera Australia, and 160 choristers from the CSO Community Choir which is made up with singers from the Canberra Choral Society, Canberra Girls’ Grammar, and Radford College.

Stephen Mould is conducting this ActewAGL Llewellyn Series concert. Stephen lectures on operatic studies and is Chair of Opera Production at the University of Sydney, so it’s fair to say his knows a bit about opera. Mould will be working with the 160 choristers to bring ‘Ode to Joy’ to life; a task that is probably easier than it sounds, particularly as the different choirs don’t usually work together, and the majority of singers are teenagers.

Rather than being daunted by the task, Mould is excited by the challenge.

“It is particularly appropriate to have such disparate groups involved in ‘the Ninth’ – Beethoven is dealing with a text that explores the ideal of the brotherhood of mankind, and the symphony often incorporates a chorus of children in performance – not indicated by Beethoven, but nonetheless a potent symbol in our times,” says Mould.

While ‘Ode to Joy’ is among the most famous symphonic movements in the world, the rest of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 should not be overlooked. Mould describes the opening of the symphony as unforgettable: “Never before had a symphony attempted to embrace the entire world.  It portrays the gathering of elements which symbolises the act of creation of the universe.”

Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Nicholas Milton revealed that while he was programming this ActewAGL Llewellyn Series, he had to think very carefully about what to feature alongside such a grand symphony. After many hours of consideration, he selected Schubert’s Unfinished, which he describes as the perfect pairing for Symphony No. 9: “The optimism, and joy of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 will contrast exquisitely with the ethereal harmonies of Schubert’s Unfinished.”

The Canberra Symphony Orchestra ActewAGL Llewellyn Series/02 will be on stage on Wednesday May 11, and Thursday May 12, at the ANU’s Llewellyn Hall.

the essentials

What: Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s ActewAGL Llewellyn Series – Beethoven
When: May 11 and 12 at 7.30pm
Where: Llewellyn Hall at the ANU,
More information: Visit www.cso.org.au


Jolene Laverty

Jolene Laverty was born and raised in Darwin, but has lived in Canberra for most of her adult life. She spent close to twenty years in radio, which took her to the copper outback of Port Augusta to the sparkling aquamarine waves of the Whitsundays. Today she is a member of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra*, ANU student, wife of a high-school teacher/rock-musician, and mother to three children who were each born in a different decade. *not allowed on stage. More about the Author