Listen: Ode to Joy

Ludwig van Beethoven, by Friedrich August von Kloeber (1793 – 1864)

A dear friend of mine recently brought this recording to my attention (thanks Philip!), and I bring it to yours, not only because the piece is part of the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony,* but because I do love a good flash mob. I’m caught up in the way it builds, from the young girl playing a wooden recorder all the way up to the triumphant crescendo.

Though you can’t really saunter up to the edge of the crowd with a cello and expect no one to guess that you’re about to join the musicians, the chorus members can remain incognito. See if you can tell early on in the video which ones will be singing in rapid-fire German before the end.


We’ve probably all hear the music many times, but I realized that I was less familiar with what the words (by Friedrich Schiller) might mean. Here’s the translation that Wikipedia has to offer:


Ode to Joy (An die Freude)

Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly One, thy sanctuary!
Your magic binds again
What convention strictly divides;
All people become brothers,
Where your gentle wing abides.

Who has succeeded in the great attempt,
To be a friend’s friend,
Whoever has won a lovely woman,
Add his to the jubilation!
Indeed, who calls even one soul
Theirs upon this world!
And whoever never managed, shall steal himself
Weeping away from this union!

All creatures drink of joy
At nature’s breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift;
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
[Even] the worm has been granted sensuality,
And the cherub stands before God!

Gladly, as His heavenly bodies fly
On their courses through the heavens,
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
Joyful, like a hero going to conquest.

You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.
Do you fall in worship, you millions?
World, do you know your creator?
Seek him in the heavens
Above the stars must He dwell.


Have you ever witnessed a flash mob in person?


*In 2001 Beethoven’s original hand-written score for the 9th symphony became the first piece of music to be made part of the United Nations Memory of the World Programme Heritage list.


[Images: Wikpedia]


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