Posts Tagged ‘Leonard Bernstein’

Ode to Joy – European National Anthem

Monday, March 27th, 2017


Two hundred years after inception, Ode to Joy is still as popular as ever. Throughout the world, it is seen as a song about resistance to war and repression. It is even speculated that Schiller originally entitled his lyric poem “Ode An die Freiheit” (Ode to Freedom) and later changed it to “Ode An die Freude” (Ode to Joy).

First written in 1785 by German poet Friedrich Schiller as a celebration of the brotherhood of man, Ode to Joy is best known as the 4th and final movement in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. When the poem was republished in 1808, Schiller made some minor revisions. This revised version forms the basis for Beethoven’s famous movement. The Ninth Symphony was completed in 1824.

Ludwig van Beethoven, photo courtesy of wikipedia. Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820.

Ludwig van Beethoven, photo courtesy of wikipedia. Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820.

Becoming the European National Anthem

In 1972, the Council of Europe adopted Beethoven’s famous movement as the European National Anthem. In 1985, it also became the anthem of the European Community and in 1993 that of the European Union. The European Anthem does not replace the national anthems of its member states. It celebrates their shared values and their unity in diversity. It symbolizes not only the European Union but also Europe in a wider sense. Just as Schiller’s lyric poem, the European Anthem symbolizes the human race as one of brothers.

Due to the large number of languages used in the European Union, the European National Anthem is purely instrumental. In the universal language of music, this anthem expresses the European ideals of freedom, peace and solidarity. It is played on official occasions, such as the opening of Parliament following elections and at formal sittings.

Ode to Joy has been heard around the World

In Chile, women sang Beethoven’s Ode to Joy in the streets and sometimes outside torture prisons during Pinochet’s dictatorship to raise the hope of inmates. In 1989, Chinese protesters sang the Ode to Joy during their march on Tiananmen Square. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, Leonard Bernstein conducted Beethoven’s Ninth on both sites of the Berlin Wall to celebrate freedom.

German and English Lyrics to the Ode to Joy

Ode an die Freude                                 Ode to Joy

Freude, schoener Goetterfunken             Joy, beautiful spark of divinity,

Tochter aus Elysium.                                 Daughter from Elysium.

Wir betreten feuertrunken                       We enter, burning with fervor,

Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!                   heavenly being, your sanctuary!


Deine Zauber binden wieder                    Your magic brings together

Was die Mode streng geteilt;                    what custom has sternly divided;

Alle Menschen werden Brueder,              All men shall become brothers,

wo dein sanfter Fluegel weilt.                  Wherever your gently wing hovers.


Wem der grosse Wurf gelungen             Whoever has been lucky enough

Eines Freundes Freund zu sein,              to become a friend to a friend,

Wer ein holdes Weib errungen                Whoever has found a beloved wife,

Mische seinen Jubel ein!                          let him join in the jubilation!


Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele                      Yes, and anyone who can call one soul

Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!              His own on this earth!

Und wer’s nie gekonnt, der steel             And who cannot, let them slink away

weinend sich aus diesem Bund.              from this gathering in tears.


Freude trinken alle Wesen                      Every creature drinks in joy

An den Bruesten der Natur;                    At nature’s breast;

Alle Guten, alle Boesen                            Good and Evil alike

Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.                          Follow her trail of roses.


Kuesse gab sie uns und Reben,               She gave us kisses and wine,

Einen Freund geprueft im Tod;               A true friend, even in death;

Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,         Even the worm was given desire,

und der Cherub steht vor Gott.                And the cherub stands before God.


Froh wie seine Sonnen fliegen                  Gladly, as his suns hurtle

Durch des Himmels praecht’gen Plan,    Through the glorious universe,

Laufet, Brueder, eure Bahn,                       So you, brothers, should run your course,

Freudig wie ein Held zu Siegen.                Joyfully like a conquering hero.


Seid umschlungen Millionen!                   Be embraced, you millions!

Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!                  This kiss is for the whole world!

Brueder ueber’m Sternenzelt                    Brothers, above the canopy of stars

Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen.                  Must dwell a loving Father.


Ihr stuerzt nieder, Millionen?                   Do you bow down before Him, millions?

Ahnest Du den Schoepfer, Welt?             Do you sense the Creator, world?

Such ihn ueber’m Sternenzelt.                  Seek him above the canopy of stars.

Ueber Sternen muss er wohnen.              He must dwell beyond the stars.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of