‘The first German to sing Rule, Britannia…’

‘The first German to sing Rule, Britannia…’


norman lebrecht

August 21, 2015

Stephen Moss in the Guardian has a splendid interview with Jonas Kaufmann, who lets it be known that he’ll be the one singing ‘Rule, Britannia’ at the Last Night of the Proms. Stephen suggests he should try one verse in German.

Jonas is still thinking about that one.

Read here.

bbc proms


  • Milka says:

    Not a wise move …

  • Furzwängler says:

    Good for the Proms organizers, the BBC – and good for Kaufmann for agreeing to do it.

  • Holger H. says:

    I hope he really sings it with such intense pathos, that everybody can sere how ridiculous this nationalistic deadly nonsense is.
    The only music that makes sense in this context is Beethoven’s 9th, set to Schiller’s words “Alle Menschen werden Brüder…” ( all men become brothers…)

    • Furzwängler says:

      Nonsense. What does “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” from Beethoven’s 9th have to do with it (overrated as it is, especially in its current form of ghastly “national anthem” of the European Union. From your comment anyone would think that poor Kaufmann was being asked to sing the Horst Wessel-Lied.

      • Holger H. says:

        Well, then I explain it to you. Schiller understood that mankind must overcome their hatred and division by understanding their “brotherhood” as the human species.
        Patriotic songs like Rule Britannia or Horst-Wessel-Lied are intended to divide mankind into nationalities and brainwash people into believing that one nation – their nation – shall be superior over others. They are hate speech set to music.

      • Mike Schachter says:

        The last movement ruins a wonderful symphony. Despite being exhumed at all manner of symbolic events its actual impact has ben close to zero. And to compare Rule Britannia to the Horst Wessel Lied is frankly bonkers. British patriotism came in quite handy in defeating Nazism.

  • Rob Maynard says:

    Check the words of Rule Britannia (below) and you will find that it glorifies British control of the seas not as a means to project aggressive power but as a means to defend the British Isles from invasion by foreign – or foreign-backed Jacobite – tyrants. The song merely celebrates the security from foreign aggression offered by control of the sea. It is thus diametrically opposed to the aggressive intentions promoted by, among others, the Horst Wessel Lied.

    When Britain first, at Heaven’s command
    Arose from out the azure main;
    This was the charter of the land,
    And guardian angels sang this strain:
    “Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    “Britons never will be slaves.”

    The nations, not so blest as thee,
    Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall;
    While thou shalt flourish great and free,
    The dread and envy of them all.
    “Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    “Britons never will be slaves.”

    Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
    More dreadful, from each foreign stroke;
    As the loud blast that tears the skies,
    Serves but to root thy native oak.
    “Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    “Britons never will be slaves.”

    Thee haughty tyrants ne’er shall tame:
    All their attempts to bend thee down,
    Will but arouse thy generous flame;
    But work their woe, and thy renown.
    “Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    “Britons never will be slaves.”

    To thee belongs the rural reign;
    Thy cities shall with commerce shine:
    All thine shall be the subject main,
    And every shore it circles thine.
    “Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    “Britons never will be slaves.”

    The Muses, still with freedom found,
    Shall to thy happy coast repair;
    Blest Isle! With matchless beauty crown’d,
    And manly hearts to guard the fair.
    “Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    “Britons never will be slaves.”

    • Furzwängler says:

      Thank you, very well put. However, much as I deplore its sentiments, I have to confess that the Horst-Wessel-Lied (“DieFahne Hoch”…etc) is a damn good military march, which gets one almost stomping. Not the Beethoven of “Wellington’s Sieg” perhaps, but definitely a tune to be enjoyed on rare occasions (when the neighbours can’t hear it, of course).