Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is uphill all the way. The hymn of glory is the panorama that can be enjoyed from the peak, but it is first necessary to pedal hard and this time it is up to Daniel Barenboim, conducting the Orchestra and Choir of the La Scala Theatre and high-ranking soloists. It will be their task to fill the “empty fifths” which, as Benedict XVI explained in a speech on 27 October 2007, at the beginning of the first movement overcome “the inner emptiness of someone whom deafness had forced into isolation”. A few notes suffice for Beethoven to describe his existential drama, he feels lonely, betrayed, misunderstood, and yet is not content with sorrow, he is not a Romantic. He finds temporary refuge in the eloquence of the first movement, evoking the absolute individualism experienced in the third and the fourth. However, that vision has now been superseded, heroes no longer exist. The leap in the fantasia of the Scherzo is a short-lived relief; the balm alleviates the pain but has no effect on the suffering. Finally, the Adagio leads the charge of the universal themes back to the context of personal confessions, a process of maturation which finds the sense of religion and Kantian moralism to be possible anchors of salvation. Here then is the finale, a choral appeal to human brotherhood: a hope that is born from the passage of the most desolate loneliness, the need for optimism directly deduced from despair.
However the leap is a difficult one and the man is alone. The revolutionary myth of Napoleon has already disintegrated into dictatorship, Vienna is idolizing Rossini and demanding disengagement. Beethoven, however, is continuing to ask questions. He does not always find answers. He gropes his way, using the sonatas for piano as a training-ground for writing. In his last work, opus 111, he lands at a sort of introduction without any continuation, which remains in the air. Suspended as at the beginning of the Ninth, suspended as a work nearing its conclusion which is forced to invoke the use of words.