In five days, I will be singing Beethoven's 9th Symphony with Mendelssohn Club. I will be singing this work for the first time. But I will also be hearing it for the first time, because I have never ever heard the final movement of Beethoven's 9th!
How is it possible, you may ask, for a composer who grew up listening to classical music, to have never heard one of the classical music "war horses"? My first answer to "Who's your favorite composer?" was even Beethoven. But through the combined avoidance of my parents, teachers, and professors, I have never heard the work in full. I am very, overly, exhaustively familiar with the 20 seconds used by films, advertisements, and moments of epic everywhere. The rest, however, will be completely new.
I am approaching the 9th with the same freshness that I approached Julia Wolfe's Anthracite Fields (link) earlier this spring. I will be hearing it for the first time live, with the Philadelphia Sinfonia, as a performer. With a grand total of three rehearsals before the performance, I will probably still be sight reading. Sure, the balance will sound a little funny from the balcony above the stage. But I look forward to the experiencing some of the surprise Beethoven's first audience experienced at the premier of the work 190 years ago.