Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is one of the defining symbols of Western art, like King Lear or the Sistine Chapel frescoes. People around the world who have never heard a whole symphony can still hum the main theme of the work’s finale, the Ode to Joy.But the Ninth is a weird hybrid of a symphony. The defining sound of Western classical music is the sound of an orchestra, and symphonies are traditionally works for orchestra.The word symphony in fact came into use to describe the parts of an opera, like the overture, that had no singing, just instruments playing.But the Ninth Symphony is a symphony with singing. In fact, the part of the Ninth that makes it so central to Western culture—the part that has been adopted for instance by the European Union as the Anthem of Europe—is the sung theme, the Ode to Joy.

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Text for Ode to Joy

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O Freunde, nicht diese Töne
Sondern lasst uns angenehmere anstimmen

und freudenvollere.

Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium
wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!

Deine Zauber binden wieder,
was die Mode streng geteilt;
alle Menschen werden Brüder
wo dein sanfter Flugel weilt.

Wem der grosse Wurf gelungen,
eines Freundes Freund zu sein,

wer ein holdes Weib errungen, mische seinen Jubel ein!

Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!

Und wer’s nie gekonnt, der stehle
weinend sich aus diesem Bund!

Freude trinken alle Wesen
an den Brüsten der Natur,
alle Guten, alle Bösen
folgen ihrer Rosenspur.

Küsse gab sie uns und Reben,
einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,

und der Cherub steht for Gott!

Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
durch des Himmels prächt’gen Plan,
laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn
freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen!

Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!

Brüder! Überm Sternenzelt
muss ein lieber Vater wohnen!

Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such’ ihn über’m Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muss er wohnen!

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O friends, not these sounds!
Rather let us turn to sounds more pleasant
and more joyful.

Joy, brilliant spark of the gods,
daughter of Elysium,
heavenly being, we enter your sanctuary
intoxicated with fire.

Your spells reunite
that which was strictly divided by convention,
all men become brothers
where your gentle wing rests.

He who has had the good fortune
to fi nd a true friend,
he who has won a loving wife,
let him join in our rejoicing!

Yes, if there is but one other soul
he can call his on the whole earth!
And he who could never accomplish this,
let him steal away weeping from this company!

All creatures drink joy
at Nature’s breasts;
good and evil alike
follow in her trail of roses.

She gave us kisses, and the vine,
and a friend faithful to death;
even the worm was given desire,
and the Cherub stans before God!

Joyfully, as his suns speed
through the glorious expanse of heaven,

brothers, run your course,
joyously, like a hero towards victory!
Receive this embrace, you millions
This kiss is for the whole world!
Brothers, above the starry vault
a loving father must surely dwell!

Do you fall prostrate, you millions?
World, do you sense your Creator?
Seek him above the starry vault,
he must surely dwell above the stars!