Last weekend I took in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Hilbert Circle Theatre. The Ninth is, arguably, the most famous piece of classical music ever written. As such, I was surprised (and also delighted) to observe the following:
In the fourth movement, when the famous “Ode to Joy” theme began, something special happened. I noticed that everybody in the audience was completely still. There were no coughs or sneezes 0r throat-clearings to interrupt that moment. No fidgeting or repositioning. It was as though the music was so delicate that to breath or move would shatter the effect. Gradually the theme was passed from the low strings to the woodwinds to the upper strings and finally to the entire orchestra. It was at that moment that you could feel a collective sigh of relief from the audience; the music had arrived, as simple and yet sublime as every other performance we’ve heard. But for that moment, when the theme emerges from the preceding harsh tones, there was an anxious anticipation.
It gave me goosebumps.