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Beethoven's Ninth: A Political History Paperback – May 1, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0226078243 ISBN-10: 0226078248

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226078248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226078243
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,146,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Buch . . . attempts nothing less than a cultural history of the 'Ode to Joy.' -- The Economist, April 24, 2003 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Beethoven's Ninth: A Political History is a rare book in considering both the sources of political myths and their expressions . . . from the perspective of one part of the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, that work of classic genius, The Ode to Joy.
Everyone has their own associations for Beethoven's Ninth. For most people, these associations are positive . . . such as remembering a wonderful concert. For others, the connections are more sinister . . . such as those who remember The Ode to Joy as Rhodesia's anthem, Hitler's use of the music for the Third Reich (including encouragement of playing the music in concentration camps), and the disturbing scene in "A Clockwork Orange."
Unless you know German, however, the music is mostly sound. What do those words say? Did you know that they are based on Schiller's poem in which the ideal is expressed that "All men will become brothers"? In that context, the work takes on a whole new dimension. Also, its use by tyrants and those who do not favor brotherhood becomes much more egregious as an inappropriate thing to do.
Basically, the work is so appealing to people that they want to use it . . . without necessarily honoring its meaning.
For many decades, many people have falsely claimed that Schiller meant the work to be an Ode to Freedom rather than Joy. Although there's no basis for that claim, the desire to turn this work to that theme caused Leonard Bernstein to change the wording in that way in his concerts to celebrate the demolition of the Berlin Wall. So even the nontyrants are tempted to misappropriate the message.
This book does more than recount those appropriations and misappropriations.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Much of the theme of this book is illustrated by its cover, a garish portraint of a blue-faced Beethoven painted by Andy Warhol in 1987 to inform the viewer, according to the author of this study, Esteban Buch, (p. 7), that the "composer had more to do with Marilyn Monroe rather than John Cage. This illustrated the banalization of the Beethoven mythos..."
Buch's study of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony has little to do with Beethoven's music. Rather it is a study giving some backround on the creation of the work and a study of the way it has been received, interpreted, and politicized by some over the years following Beethoven's death in 1827. There are two interrelated themes in the book: 1. The Ninth Symphony has been used by groups as diverse as socialists, communists, American democrats, pan-Europeanists, fascists, nazis, racists, and many others to support their ideologies and 2. With the passage of time and the dramatic changes that societies have underwent since the composition of the Ninth, Beethoven's music, and its sense of heroism and universality, become ever more difficult for the modern listener to understand and appreciate.
Neither of these claims are particularly new or surprising. Of the two, Buch devotes most of his attention to the first, although I find the second rather broader and more interesting.
The first part of this book discusses the development of what Buch terms "modern political music". He discusses the reception of Handel in England, the use of "La Marsellaise" as an anthem for the French Revolution, Haydn's composition of an anthem for the German Emperor,Franz Joseph II, "God Save the Emperor" and other sources as predecessors to Beethoven.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
One of the world's most famous pieces of music, and arguably the finest work of all symphonies, is Beethoven's Ninth. The theme, the "Ode to Joy," is a tune everyone knows, consisting of only six tones spread over twenty-four bars; you can probably pick it out at the piano even if you don't know piano. If music is, as is often claimed, a universal language, then this is as universal as it gets. And so it is disturbing that no other musical work has been so used as a political tool. _Beethoven's Ninth: A Political History_ (University of Chicago Press) by Esteban Buch gives a history of the often contradictory appropriations of the work during two centuries of wildly differing political times. An intellectual, scholarly look at what people have done with an emotive composition, the book will make readers wonder about how music comes to convey anything to us, and whether there is a moral value to art.
The words of the more agreeable song consist of very rich appeals such as that all men will be brothers under the wing of joy, and that the millions should embrace in a kiss for all the world. (I cannot help feeling that the joy conveyed in the music is more likely to be received by those who don't know German.) At least the lyrics are not a simple manifesto; because of this, though, and because of the universality of the appeal to joy and of the tune itself, the Ninth has become distinctly political music. The German nationalists adopted it in the nineteenth century at the same time the French detected that it was the soul of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Communists hear a call to classless brotherhood. Catholics have found the literally divine in it. Hitler liked to have it played on his birthdays. It was played in his concentration camps.
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