A socially-distanced orchestral version of “An die Freude”

March 23, 2020 • 2:30 pm

The ladies of the Salt Lake City morning running club (SLAM) kindly sent me this new video. It’s performed by members of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra remotely playing “An die Freude” from the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. Presumably this was all done in real time, though the chorus at the end must have been pre-recorded.

This beautiful performance shows that even in isolation people can still play well with others. And it’s a testimony to the human drive to connect, and to help others in time of trouble.

(To see a live flashmob version, complete with chorus, and from happier times, watch this video.)

27 thoughts on “A socially-distanced orchestral version of “An die Freude”

  1. It’s Beethoven’s 250th this year. Alma Deutscher released something and says numerous other musicians are celebrating Beethoven’s 250th as well.

    Birthday – 250th birthday.

  2. “Presumably this was all done in real time…”

    Not necessarily. I’m the principal violist in a community orchestra, the Santa Barbara City College Symphony. We had a program scheduled for April, which included Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.”

    Of course, it’s now off-calendar, but our intrepid conductor, James Mooy, sent us all instructions to set flash (silent) metronomes at 104, and record ourselves playing from measure 354 to the end of the 1st movement. (He also included a play-along track if we preferred, which might explain the headphones worn by all of the Rotterdam players.)

    He’ll assemble the individual tracks, and I assume add some tempo changes with the computer, before we hear the final track.

    It ain’t as good as our Tuesday evening rehearsals (and a pint or two of Hoppy Poppy afterward at the Eureka pub downtown). My time with my Orcs–that pretty much IS my social life. But it will have to do for now. Love in the Time of Coronavirus…

        1. Apologies for the embed. Also this wasn’t meant to be a reply to a comment but a new comment in its own right. Failure all round!

  3. Damn, I couldn’t sleep last night and chanced upon a documentary about the controversial Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, in which Žižek engaged in a lengthy discussion regarding “Ode to Joy” and the multitudinous cultural and cinematic uses to which it’s been put, from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange to the Third Reich to Stalin’s Soviet Union to Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

  4. I hate to be the downer about this, but I’m pretty sure we’re just listening to musicians miming to an existing recording. To start with, there’s not a single visible microphone. Recording symphonic instruments with webcam microphones would sound terrible, and this recording sounds beautiful.

    I would indeed be possible to have everyone play with something recorded (such as a click track), and record it, but it seems unlikely that every one of these musicians would have the equipment needed to get a quality recording at home.

    1. No, I don’t think you hate to be a downer, because you were eager to say that this was in some sense a fake recording without bothering to check online..

      This article in the Times, however, suggests you are wrong:

      https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2020/03/23/rotterdam-philharmonic-musicians-collaborate-stream-beethovens/

      Also from Classic FM:

      In true collective spirit, 19 self-isolating musicians from the Netherlands’ Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra came together to perform a virtual rendition of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’.

      Each soundtrack, recorded in time to a click track in the musicians’ bedrooms, was brought together to form the final, glorious section of the ‘Choral’ Symphony No. 9.

      1. Exactly, as I guessed. But while perhaps a bit less difficult in terms of the technology, the musicianship it reveals is staggering.

        The fact that they can’t hear EACH OTHER playing as they record means that their tempi–ALL of them–have to be rigorously metronomic. To be able to do that and yet convey the flow of the music…I’m just in awe.

    2. There’s lots of examples of musicians making high quality YouTube videos with readily available but possibly expensive equipment. Pickups and transducers for acoustic instruments could easily be (though I don’t know) Bluetooth or otherwise wireless, or wired discreetly.

      But from a listening perspective I am convinced the performers are genuinely playing their instruments. The tracks might be put together with a program like logic – Jacob Collier is a whiz at this. And from another view, sure it could be as real as Beyoncé at the Super Bowl but I think in that case, for these musicians, it’d actually be more difficult and stupid and they wouldn’t even bother. I mean, they are evidently at their homes. If it was a complete conspiracy, I’d expect a rag tag collection and peculiarities to foil the illusion.

      That said, I still don’t understand the chorus- I suppose they said “meh – oh well – it sounds good” – perhaps it is their own chorus? But none of this is on par with Beyoncé at the Super Bowl.

    3. Oh also – the sound could suggest it is not a video call – it definitely does tell me it is not the raw microphone signals. For one thing there’s be so much feedback and echo and noise it’d be awful. Just considering my own video calls with annoying noise cancellation interfering with talking “what? What did you — oh I —“

      But that only proves that raw signal is not being used here.

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