the nine symphonies of Beethoven

John Oswald
John Oswald
Composition Date: 2012
Duration: 00:30:00
Genre: Orchestra / Large Ensembles, Full Orchestra (20 or more)


Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Piccolo
  • 2 x Flute
  • 2 x Oboe
  • 2 x Clarinet
  • 3 x Bassoon
  • 4 x Horn
  • 2 x Trumpet
  • 1 x Timpani
  • 1 x Unspecified bowed strings
Instrumentation Set Number 2:
  • 1 x Full orchestra
Programme Note:
Beethoven composed new music. He specified repetitions in his scores, so that his contemporary audiences could become familiar with themes and motifs. A single performance of one of his works may have been the only chance in a lifetime to hear this music. Nowadays, we hear Beethoven's music almost everywhere, around the clock. His music has become so accessible and familiar that we no longer need the repeats; they impede the dramatic momentum inherent in the work. b9 is a condensation into 30 minutes of the six to seven hours of music that comprise the nine completed symphonies. It follows an approximately chronological sequence, from the beginning of the 1st, through all 38 movements, to the chorales of the 9th. This is accomplished by relinquishing the repetitions and redundancies of the original scores; and then further distilling and transforming the results to provoke a vertiginous bewilderment approaching what audiences at Beethoven's premieres undoubtedly experienced. This composition is part of a group of pieces begun in 1992 with preLieu, my second commission from the Kronos Quartet, which was exclusively derived from the Danza alla Tedesca movement of Beethoven's Quartet in B-flat Major. I've subsequently 'recomposed', for various forces, from solo to orchestra, works by Bach, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Debussy, Stravinsky and others. These are classified as Rascali Klepitoire (a loose anagram of 'classical repertoire'), as distinct from my transformations, begun in 1969, of well-known recorded music, which eventually came to be identified as the genre Plunderphonics. b9 was originally commissioned in 2012 for the more compact forces of the Ensemble Modern Frankfurt. I've since made a multitude of revisions in reconfiguring it back to full orchestra form. In both versions there are no combinations of notes other than those written by Beethoven; there are no deviations from early 19th century instrumentation and techniques. The result always sounds, from moment to moment, like his music; but it is perhaps heard as if in a dream, or as it can and should be heard in the 21st century.


  • Call Number:
  • MI 1100 O86b9
  • Genre:
  • Orchestra / Large Ensembles, Full Orchestra (20 or more)
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • September 17, 2014
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (46 p.) ;
    46 Pages
    Height: 43 cm
    Width: 28 cm
    Parts page count: 258
    22 parts ([258] p.) ;
    Height: 30 cm
    Width: 23 cm
  • Additional Information:
  • This piece has 2 movements:
    1 to 5
    5 to 9

    There is also a Chamber Ensemble version of this piece, which is called "b9: after Ludwig van Beethoven."
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