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a supranational anthem: music into the political realm

  • Loftet 22 Skippergata Oslo, Oslo, 0154 Norway (map)


 Beethoven´s Ode To Joy has been the anthem of:

a) Rhodesia

b) The European Union

c) The UEFA European Football Championship

The answer: all of the above – and more. Beethoven´s Ode To Joy is currently the anthem of the European Union, it has been in the 70s the national anthem of the apartheid State of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), it has been used many times in international sport tournaments as ceremonial music. Why? What is it about the final movement of Beethoven´s Symphony No 9 that makes it so universally appealing? Where does it get its symbolic force? The Ninth symphony was composed at the height of the European Restoration, but Beethoven adopted Schiller´s poem in order to convey a truly revolutionary experience: a community of free people sharing common dreams, united in brotherhood. How has it come to mean so different, even contradictory, things, since its first performance in 1824?

Esteban Buch, author of the acclaimed Beethoven’s Ninth: A Political History (2003), tells the controversial story of a work that became a political symbol in spite of itself, and discusses the incorporation of music into the political realm.


About Esteban Buch

Esteban Buch (Buenos Aires, 1963) is directeur d’études (full professor) at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, France. A specialist of the relationships between music and politics in the twentieth century, he is the author of several books including Le Cas Schönberg (Gallimard), Betthoven´s Ninth: A Political History (Chicago Univ. Press) and O juremos con gloria morir (Eterna Cadencia). He has  co-edited Du politique en analyse musicale (Vrin, 2014), Tangos cultos (Gourmet Musical, Réévaluer l’art moderne et les avant-gardes (Editions de l’EHESS). He is the author of opera librettos, namely of Mario Lorenzo’s Richter. Una ópera documental de cámara (2003), and Sebastian Rivas’s Aliados. Un opéra du temps réel (2013).


Beethoven performances at Ultima Festival:

19 September 19h30 :  Third Symphony Eroica, Oslo Konserthus

More coming soon!