I once heard that in the original handwritten score of the first movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony there are references to the creation myth as annotations. However, these were not replicated in later copies and can only be found in the original manuscripts in the Beethoven Haus in Bonn.

This would fit the tone of the music (starting of very light and then suddenly exploding etc.). However, I can't find any reference to back this story up, so I might remember it incorrectly or it was just a myth. Can somebody conclusively confirm or deny this story? If this is true, it would be great if there were some reference anywhere, which parts of the first movement correspond to which parts of the creation myth.

  • An interesting point. I haven't heard about it before.As you say this seems to be a common interpretation. I can't tell you the original source but I've found an interpretation that is quoting your assumption. So your memory is quite correct. (s. my answer below.) – Albrecht Hügli Jul 5 at 13:02
  • Does anyone have access to the (expensive) facsimile edition? – Camille Goudeseune Jul 5 at 17:33
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    @CamilleGoudeseune Yoa can find the scans here imslp.org/wiki/… – PiedPiper Jul 5 at 23:45

The public domain scan of the manuscript found by @PiedPiper, IMSLP19389-PMLP01607-Beethoven-Op125mss.pdf, has no extramusical annotations that I could find in the first 50 of its 425 pages. Despite this scan's low resolution, low contrast, and strong noise, it's still clear enough to reveal any textual phrase long enough to refer to a creation myth, or a grocery list, or anything else. I find only the usual Italian musical directions: Allo ma non troppo, a tempo, in 8va, loco, etc. (And there's no black-rectangle redactions for the conspiracy theorists!)

Any program music explanation of the first three movements must then depend on something outside the score. Unlike, say, the Sixth.

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    Did composers often write their grocery lists on scores, – badjohn Jul 6 at 22:59
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    Just as often as creation myths, apparently. – Camille Goudeseune Jul 7 at 15:03
  • Yes, I have noticed the same number of each. – badjohn Jul 7 at 16:39

There seem to be several sources that confirm your question. Here is an analysis or better a text with information round the 9th symphony

The opening of the first movement (Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso) grows out of a void. Against the murmur of the deep strings falling fifths appear in the violins, which develop into a loud and imposing first theme; everything was compared to the creation of the world, and certainly no symphony had ever sounded like that before. Beethoven changed the expected order of the movements (another feature that the composers would later imitate) by placing the Scherzo (Molto vivace) next. From the beginning a favorite of the audience (especially the outstanding role of the timpani), it exudes both humor and strength. The lyrical slow movement (Adagio molto e cantabile) explores more personal, even more spiritual realms.

translation of Eine genauere Betrachtung in the following article:


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    Although written by an eminent professor, this is still just a 21st century program note that claims, without substantiation, that the first movement has "been likened to the creation of the world." Wikipedians would complain: [citation needed]. – Camille Goudeseune Jul 6 at 19:43

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