Best Goodbye

Classic 99 going out on Beethoven's Ninth

On the evening of July 6, 2010, a mighty voice was stilled. The sale and transfer of KFUO (99.1 FM) — Classic 99 to friends — was a done deal, and in the morning the airwaves would be the provenance of contemporary Christian pop and the new Joy FM. But that was in the offing; here in the gloaming, Classic 99 had one last piece of music to broadcast. Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 "Choral," would be the highest of high notes on which to go out, in more ways than one. Colloquially known as the "Ode to Joy," this final bit of business could be perceived as a sardonic dig at the new station, but Classic 99 was never so louche. The majestic and uplifting Ninth is the point at which classicism meets romanticism, where the rigors of intellectual formalism collide with all the unfettered passion of the soul — it is nothing less than the soundtrack for the human spirit, exuberant, reverent and wild. We've always been partial to Wilhelm Furtwängler's 1951 recording at Bayreuth, but Herbert von Karajan's 1962 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic was the anointed rendition (Deutsche Grammophon 447 401-2, if you're keeping score), and it more than served the purpose of celebrating six decades of glorious music. Keen observers will also note a sly bit of numerical synchronicity with this selection; Classic 99 ceased 62 years of broadcasting classical music with a recording made in 1962. One last jest to go with one last evening spent with some very old friends. It was lovely while it lasted.

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