Beethoven’s Ninth: The Story Behind The Masterpiece

Harvard University

Thomas Kelly is a Morton B. Knafel Research Professor of Music at Harvard University. He was named a Harvard College Professor in recognition of his teaching and won the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society for “The Beneventan Chant.” His books include First Nights: Five Performance PremieresFirst Nights at the Opera, and Capturing Music: The Story of Notation. Professor Kelly is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an Honorary Citizen of the city of Benevento, and a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres of the French Republic.



Professor Kelly will present a brief taste of his popular Harvard course, “First Nights.” We’ll begin in 1814 Vienna, using pictures and sound to recapture the first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – perhaps the best-known piece of classical music. This talk will let us in on some things that Beethoven’s audience knew about, and it may change the way we listen to a favorite (or a new) piece of music.



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A rich and detailed exploration of a favorite symphony!

I was a student in Professor Kelly’s course First Nights at Harvard years ago, and I was delighted to see this session listed here. This is a thoroughly enjoyable exploration of the social and historical context surrounding the premiere of the Ninth Symphony, with deep dives into parts of the music itself. Highly recommended for anyone who is a classical music fan!

2 years ago
Virginia Hart

Wonderful presentation. So informative and enjoyable.

2 years ago
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