Classic FM’s Graham Abbott explores Beethoven, Mahler and Schoenberg as illuminated in a new exhibition.

Gustav Klimt’s most substantial and opulent decorative undertaking was inspired by another great work of art: Beethoven’s Ninth. The painter’s lavish, sprawling Beethoven frieze features prominently in the National Gallery of Victoria’s major survey of turn-of-the-century Viennese art, which opened on Saturday as the crowning glory of the gallery’s 150th birthday celebrations.

ABC Classic FM’s Graham Abbott narrates the exhibition’s recorded audio guide, a comprehensive introduction to Viennese society and the glittering, intimate milieu that saw artists and composers of the day draw inspiration from one another.

Klimt’s vivid wall feature, a richly imagined “symphony” in itself, stands today as his monument to the human spirit: its struggles and its ultimate triumph as he heard it in Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.It was completed in 1902 for the 14th Vienna Secession exhibition, dedicated entirely to Beethoven with tributes from 21 artists on the 75th anniversary of the composer’s death. The event culminated in a performance of the Ninth Symphony conducted by Gustav Mahler.

The subject gave rise to one of Klimt’s grandest designs and one of the earliest in his oeuvre to use the lustrous gold-leaf...