Welcome to our guide to our guide to Beethoven's nine symphonies – nine of today's leading conductors offer their unique insights into Beethoven's symphony cycle.
Symphony No 1
By Sir Roger Norrington
'Harmonically, it’s a bit more stable than Haydn, a bit more Romantic, and in some ways more mischievous even, but it’s still a lot "safer" than what Mahler or Elgar did in their first symphonies.'
Symphony No 2
By David Zinman
'This is a fabulous, Classical symphony and, I think, a brilliant, virtuoso piece – the kind of piece he had to write in order to move on. The use of development is quite extraordinary.'
Symphony No 3
By Mariss Jansons
'Although you can already hear the special Beethoven spirit in the Second, it was the Third that brought a revolutionary change. It marked a complete change of direction for the symphonic repertoire.'
Symphony No 4
By Osmo Vänskä
'This is a great piece of music, and even if it had not been written by Beethoven as part of the cycle, I am sure it would have its place in programmes – without help from the other symphonies.'
Symphony No 5
By Sir John Eliot Gardiner
'The challenge is to make sure that those three notes sound off the beat, so there’s quite a technique involved in establishing the motto of the symphony.'
Symphony No 6
By Iván Fischer
'I have had the opportunity to perform full cycles of the Beethoven symphonies several times and it’s the Sixth Symphony that stands out as an exception'
Symphony No 7
By Michael Tilson Thomas
'Beethoven is not programmatic, but his music is always distinctive and recognisable; and always, somehow, he succeeds in examining some different part of us and our nature.'
Symphony No 8
By Paavo Järvi
'It is completely wrong to try and play this piece in the style of the Ninth. I have realised that to apologise in any way for the sudden change of character and quirkiness of this piece would diminish it.'
Symphony No 9
By Riccardo Chailly
'I still remember like it was yesterday the feeling almost of being guilty, to have had the courage to get close to such a piece as the Ninth Symphony'