May 7

1824 Premiere of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

The last, and perhaps greatest, of the symphonies of Ludwig Beethoven (1770-1827) is his Ninth, completed and debuted in Vienna in 1834. It was the first ever choral symphony, combining voice and instruments. Its reception by the 1,000 attendees was rapturous with many standing ovations and waving of handkerchiefs and hats so that the deaf composer could see the approval of the crowd. A critic proclaimed that “inexhaustible genius revealed a new world to us.”

The most memorable part of the symphony was the choral section, “Ode to Joy”, based on a poem by Friedrich Schiller. Its optimism and jubilation have inspired millions and it has become the European anthem.

Whoever has been lucky enough
to become a friend to a friend,
Whoever has found a beloved wife,
let him join our songs of praise!
Yes, and anyone who can call one soul
his own on this earth!
Any who cannot, let them slink away
from this gathering in tears!

***

Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss is for the whole world!
Brothers, above the canopy of stars
must dwell a loving father.

Do you bow down before Him, you millions?
Do you sense your Creator, O world?
Seek Him above the canopy of stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.

Recently, Baltimore-based rapper and musician [interesting how those are two separate categories] Wordsmith created an original adaptation of “Ode to Joy” for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Wordsmith was hoping to encourage “gender equality, cultural acceptance, and living a purpose-driven life”. Here is his chorus:

Live and love with open mind let our cultures intertwine.
Dig deep down, show what you’re made of, set the tone, it’s time to shine.
We must fight for equal rights and share some common courtesy.
While pursuing all your dreams spread your joy from sea to sea.
We must fight for equal rights and share some common courtesy.
While pursuing all your dreams spread your joy from sea to sea.

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