Inspired by two German legends, Wagner made the medieval singer and poet, Tannhäuser, the hero of his 1845 opera, a deep meditation on the sacred and the profane and love’s redemptive power. Its grand overture provides a fitting prelude to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in which song becomes a unifying force for humanity.

One of the most heart-warming stories of Beethoven’s ground-breaking masterpiece is that one of the soloists at its premiere in 1824 had to turn the deaf composer around so that he could witness the tumultuous applause. Few there could have doubted the significance of the event. Visionary in scope, extreme in its gestures and technically daunting (French horn players still have nightmares about one notorious solo), it tears at the boundaries of the classical symphony, nowhere more so than in the choral finale that proclaims the words of Schiller’s Ode to Joy. One of the most ecstatic moments in musical history, it’s an emphatic conclusion to our season.