Beethoven looked outside of himself. Profoundly deaf when he composed the Ninth, he wrote a work that starts in lonely darkness and ends up embracing the world, the brotherhood of mankind.
The “Ode to Joy” finale is the first time a symphony included voices. “Oh friends,” it begins, the soloist addressing the audience directly, the orchestra parting the waters for his entrance. The joy of life is what chorus and soloists sing about (in Schiller’s words) and that joy comes from friendship, “a gracious wife,” community. “Be embraced, you millions!” everyone sings. “This kiss for the entire world!”