THEM AND US: Mr. Trump’s Polish speech and Beethoven

After the Polish visit, Donald Trump found himself in unfamiliar circumstances, in the new concert hall in Hamburg which is said to have the best acoustic of any hall in the world. Donald is not famed for his love of music. In an autobiography he is said to claim to have hit his music teacher in the face. Some measure of the man, no doubt.

Mrs. Merkel particularly requested a performance of the 9th Symphony of Beethoven. This is a monumental work on many levels, even if Nigel Farage will be glad to see the back of it as the EU anthem. Well, he won’t actually, he just won’t be obliged to identify with it if Brexit takes place, which, many think and hope is in doubt.

Schiller wrote the words at a time when western civilisation was going through the sort of tumult that it is now. Most people are familiar with the words but what actually do they mean? At first sight they seem to be a bugle call to universal brotherhood which is probably what attracted Beethoven. But in the arena of the concert hall to whom are they speaking? The audience? Who is in this universal brotherhood? Many undemocratic states have used the symphony to unite their faithful, to impose an identity of us and them. Isn’t this the essence of Mr. Trump’s Polish speech? Who is us?

The symphony itself is full of musical influences which give it a universality or, at least, a pan-European identity which allow it to be interpreted by musician and listener on many different levels. The crowning glory of the symphony is the choral explosion in the Finale, a hymn of joy to universal brotherhood. It would have been very interesting to know how Mr.Trump interpreted this universal hymn in the hall in Hamburg.


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