The descriptive title stems from the finale, in which soloists and chorus sing portions of Frederich Schiller's poem (Ode to Joy"). Written in 1785, Schiller's Ode reflected the doctrine of Enlightenment, the late 18th century philosophy that reason would lead to perfect harmony and pure social justice for all mankind. Disillusioned over the abuses of power of the French Revolution, Schiller himself soon came to disavow his Ode. Yet Beethoven clung to its idealism and may have tried to set it to music in the 1790s and again in 1812. After years of sketches, in 1817 he began the first two movements of a new symphony, and devoted an entire year to completing it only after creating his massive and in 1823, supreme masterpieces that culminated his piano and vocal writing. As late as a few months before the premiere of the , Beethoven himself had doubts about a choral finale and prepared an entirely different purely instrumental alternative (later used in his Op. 132 ).


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