Marin Alsop replaces Schiller with rapper in Beethoven’s 9th

Marin Alsop replaces Schiller with rapper in Beethoven’s 9th


norman lebrecht

April 06, 2022

From a new essay by Heather MacDonald:

On April 7, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, led by Marin Alsop, will take textual intervention one step further. A poem by Baltimore-based rapper Wordsmith will replace Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Wordsmith has explained his goals in the rewriting: to use “present-day social issues to highlight the need for positive reinforcement. Encouraging gender equality, cultural acceptance, and living a purpose-driven life are worldly topics I sought to shine a light on during the writing process.”

The result is a radical change of register. Instead of Schiller’s opening stanza:

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

[Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Drunk with fire we tread
Thy sanctuary!]

We get:

Live and love with open mind let our cultures intertwine.
Dig deep down, show what you’re made of, set the tone it’s time to shine.
We must fight for equal rights and share some common courtesy.
While pursuing all your dreams spread your joy from sea to sea.

Read on here.



  • Hq says:

    They should replace Alsop with a rapper.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Appalling, but not unexpected.

  • Clem says:

    What an utterly ridiculous rant of an article. As if opera wasn’t used for political goals long before the dawn of Regiethater. As if Beethoven 9 hasn’t been used for political purposes since the very beginning – there’s an entire book about it, “La Neuvième de Beethoven – Une histoire politique” by Estreban Buch (Gallimard 1999). The hymn even served as the national anthem of the Apartheid state Rhodesia.

    As if composers and authors haven’t adapted texts, or used existing music for their texts for centuries. Bach used Hassler’s “Haupt voll Blut und Wunden” again and again in the St. Matthew’s Passion. And I’m sure some Nibelungs are still pissed at Wagner for having rewritten their myth.

    This is how art works. Those who can’t stand the heat should get out of the kitchen and retire to their comfy couch, whining about the imaginary good old days.

    • V. Lind says:

      Plus which, it’s not that bad! I’ve read considerably poorer lyrics. And it scans! A rare talent in today’s young popular musicians.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Indeed, Wordsmith’s lines are beautifully evocative and musical and deserve to be set by a contemporary composer with a feeling for expression. But why bother Beethoven thereby?

        What is next? The Magic Flute’s Liberation Front? Tristan und the Plight of Suppressed Irish Princesses? Pelléas et Egalité, Pédé et Fraternité? Will this be a first signal of woking through the repertoire and change classical opera definitively, to no longer be hindered by the pastness of the past?

        • Jim says:

          Beautifully evocative?? It’s a string of clichés.
          “Dig deep down”
          “show what you’re made of”
          “set the tone”
          “it’s time to shine”

          • John Borstlap says:

            Read the average opera text for comparison.

            Libretti don’t need to be Rilke.

          • Jim says:

            You are quite correct but if you then call the average opera text “beautifully evocative” I will mock you.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          Honestly, I don’t care about the woke tendency to revise absolutely everything and reduce it to its lowest common denominator – tatts and all. Just as long as we get to keep our cash and assets!!

      • Greg Bottini says:

        I’m with you, Ms. Lind!

    • anmarie says:

      This is how art works.

      No, this is how woke works.

    • M McAlpine says:

      Exactly! When you know the fare served by a second rate conductor is liable to make you vomit, get out of the kitchen! Don’t offend your taste buds with these woke morons!

    • Rik says:

      It wasn’t a rant though, was it? No opinion was offered at all but if words are going to be replaced we’re entitled to ask for something literary, not doggerel as someone else puts it.

    • Jim C. says:

      Who’s ranting?

    • PGHK says:

      Why don’t the ” woke” write a new piece then instead of savaging Beethoven masterpiece?

    • Cornelia Beilke says:

      Excellent comment, thank you!

  • CA says:

    Give me a break. Can we not just enjoy pure Beethoven anymore without having to inject this wokeness into what seems like everything? I wonder how many concertgoers and donors will keep their money.

    • Max Raimi says:

      Yes, we can enjoy “pure Beethoven”, whatever that means (the historically informed movement has very different ideas of what this entails than you or I might). There will be thousands performances of the Ninth with its original poetry all over the world this year, as always. This is one version, that may well attract an audience that otherwise may never have experienced Beethoven’s masterpiece, which I for one consider all to the good. It isn’t like most non German speaking audiences can follow Schiller’s lyrics anyway; to much of the audience the music speaks for itself to a considerable degree. Outrage is the coin of the realm in our time, and regrettably this site stokes its share of it.

      • Jim C. says:

        No one’s outraged here.

        • Max Raimi says:

          Uh huh…Here is one representative comment from this thread:
          “When you know the fare served by a second rate conductor is liable to make you vomit, get out of the kitchen! Don’t offend your taste buds with these woke morons!”
          If that doesn’t constitute outrage, I hope never to encounter outrage.

    • John Borstlap says:

      In fact, Schiller’s text is already quite woke. No need to add more of it.

  • Music fan says:

    “Mountain, meet molehill. Molehill, mountain.”

    Beethoven’s 9th has been performed tens of thousands of times with the original text in German, and quite a few times translated into other languages including English. Leonard Bernstein replaced “Freude” with “Freiheit” after the Berlin Wall fell. The work survived these reinterpretations and it will survive this. If people object, they are under no obligation to attend or listen.

    • msc says:

      There is a huge difference between changing one word (a change that I have no doubt Beethoven would have approved) with another that scans the same, and replacing the whole text with trite doggerel.

      • John Borstlap says:

        If you remove the entire Beethoven context, the context of the woke occasion, and the musical background of the author from the lines he wrote (derap the words), then one has to conclude the lines are very good and musical in themselves.

    • Wannaplayguitar says:

      Sounds an interesting and highly relevant rewrite for these morally troubled times. Culture does not exist in a stale vacuum, it borrows, bends and reinvents what has gone before

  • YY says:

    I don’t see anything thematic new in the rapper-text. We don’t need these kitsch verses, just “Alle Menschen werden Brueder” would be enough. Or does the conductor think that we can’t understand any poem without such a silly and flat explanation?

  • Greg says:

    We can only hope that one day soon African-Americans will grow weary of such pandering (and maybe many already are?). Bernstein’s substituting Freiheit for Freude notwithstanding they, and we, don’t need ‘special’ Beethoven Ninths.

  • Alank says:

    Maybe this is her audition for the Woke Board of the Chicago Symphony!

  • Adrienne says:

    Well this black person will not be going anywhere near it, in spite of having links with Baltimore.

    To me, rap is a crude, down-market embarrassment.

  • Leonīds Vigners says:


  • A.L. says:

    WTF. Get that sham of a conductor fired at once.

  • Michael B. says:

    I’m not terribly offended, but I don’t see the need for it. (The radical Black writer W.E.B. Du Bois, a serious classical music fan, must be spinning in his grave.)

  • Mick the Knife says:

    I guess the Resurrection – Rap last week was a big success and this is the encore. Let’s imagine though that language could be a hinderance in music appreciation just as Shakespeare (if that is all they got) would certainly turn off any high school student to reading literature. Maybe it will open a door. Perhaps we should view such excursions as an orchestra accompanying Rap or other types of expression rather than an infiltration of such music into the concert hall. If it provides jobs and money to musicians (who just played the complete Firebird the previous week), then maybe its not all bad.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Now is the winter of our BLM, bro,
      Made violent summer by this son of New York;
      And all the cops that lour’d upon our house
      In the deep bosom of the aggrieved buried.

  • Peter says:

    Number of new black people in the audience because of this:


  • japecake says:

    Beethoven’s and Schiller’s real message:”Common courtesy, y’all!”

  • J Barcelo says:

    Slouching Towards Gomorrha….we’re there. I thought Alsop had more integrity than this. Disgraceful. It’s like adding something to the Mona Lisa that the real genius missed. I don’t know who Wordsmith is, and don’t care, but he’s no Schiller.

    • Don Ciccio says:

      As somebody who used to subscribed to the Baltimore Symphony, I can tell you Alsop has zero integrity.

      In fact, in my subscriptions I tried to chose concerts with guest conductors to try to avoid inspirationally-disabled Alsop, only to discover that many of this guest conductors (Hannu Lintu a notable exception; there were a few others) were just as inspirationally-disabled as Alsop was. But hey, I supported the orchestra and the musicians.

      Not anymore. After the firing of Emily Skala (Skala was nuts, but even nutjobs need to be treated fairly) and the general wokeness I decided to part ways. I may still attend a spare concert here and there but that’s about it.

    • Hugo Preuß says:

      Ever heard of Marcel Duchamp and his version of Mona Lisa? And before Bernstein there was Hermann Scherchen changing the lyrics in order to please the East German authorities. Who knows, the new lyrics might be interesting; not for always, but for once. The excerpt above certainly sounds singable.

      • Don Ciccio says:

        Yes, I did hear about Duchamp, and his version of Mona Lisa is now mentioned only as a historical curiosity, while people from over the world still flock at the Louvre for the real thing.

        I did not know that Scherchen changing the lyrics to please the East German authorities. Huge disappointment since he was in a position to say no by leaving the country.

        But if yo want something really campy, and perhaps the closest thing to what Alsop is doing, listen to Golovanov’s version of the 1812 Overture. At least, unlike Scherchen, Golovanov had no choice.

  • japecake says:

    Let us never forget that musicologist Susan McClary helped kick off this kind of “intervention” decades ago by directly comparing one sonority in this work to rape (in a professional journal) before recanting under pressure. And later won a MacArthur Fellowship. So it’s time we made Beethoven more “relevant” (= less male, less white).

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      She’s a musicologist who started the trend of weaponizing masculinity, then attempting to control it, for cheap political purposes. Didn’t see through that!!!

      • Cornelia Beilke says:

        Very manly of her! Men do it all the time.

      • japecake says:

        Her Wikipedia article includes a brief mention of it. It caused a huge flap in musicology at the time. Worth reading about it in detail for its utter inanity.

    • John Borstlap says:

      There’s a woke story that all works by Beethoven are actually by his housekeeper and were appropriated by her master for career reasons. This was supposedly organised by the three noblemen who settled a pension for B, true music lovers who wanted to rescue the music from the hands of a mere working class woman of questionable repute. All four men involved were white, male, and three of them from the suppressing class of Viennese society. They forced B to add ‘von’ in his name to disguise his civilian status and his ‘blackamoorish’ ancestry.

  • Novagerio says:

    What talentless people do to the old masterworks, and in the name of politics….(big sigh)

  • Michael in Europe says:

    My 2 cents: the replacement text is neither poetic nor all that great a fit to the melody. But if presenters feel the text is important, it should be set to original music. Beethoven can really do without such experiments (and in this case, the experiment is trite, dull, unoriginal and IMHO utterly pointless).

  • Kurt Kaufman says:

    Hey, I have an idea: Why not write entirely new works instead of revising old ones in a tortured manner?

  • Monty Earleman says:

    I was woke, but I’m going back to sleep.

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    What’s that term—cultural appropriation? After all, we know that rappers are more culturally dominant these days than olde LvB.

    Wordsmith or Words Myth?

  • PaulD says:

    It’s not only the lyrics that Alsop is modifying, per this interview. She thinks her audience is composed of morons.

    Q. I heard that the piece is going to include African drumming and jazz? This is not the Beethoven’s Ninth I know!

    A. The idea is not just a new text. I’m also trying to enable the listener to understand why Beethoven wrote those first three movements. To that end, I’ve inserted music that segues from the first movement to the second movement and the second to the third. And then it goes attaca [straight] into the fourth. I tried to insert music that was culturally relevant to the location where I’m doing it. Here in Baltimore, between the first and second movements, I have African drumming. Just three minutes. But it takes the motif and it evolves it. Because I think that’s what Beethoven was thinking. And then between the second and third movements, I have a jazz ensemble that’s going to play these close harmonies that are going to take us into the opening of the third movement.

  • James Weiss says:

    Marin Alsop is not fit for purpose.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      But when you make a diversity pick it’s not surprising that the person who is ‘diverse’ is going to make another diversity-pick; an endless, self-perpetuating cycle.

  • Marc says:

    No one ever voices objection to Schiller’s text and its male-centric, exclusionary sentiments, stating that, if a man is married to a woman or has a pal, he’s in. If not, get out!! Here’s verse 2: “Whoever has created
    An abiding friendship,
    Or has won
    A true and loving wife,
    All who can call at least one soul theirs,
    Join in our song of praise!
    But any who cannot must creep tearfully
    Away from our circle.”

    • Jim C. says:

      So what?

      Let “Wordsworth” write his own symphony then.

    • Louis Vann says:

      Give it a rest boy

    • Genius Repairman says:

      But any who cannot must creep tearfully away from our circle. Beethoven was never married. These lyrics are not intended to be taken completely literally. There is meaning within meaning. That is why I don’t like the idea of substituting the lyrics with words with no subtext.

    • Cornelia Beilke says:

      Lack of compassion? What the hell does that even say?

  • Skguy says:

    Love it! It’s not like the original text is gone forever – reflects Beethoven’s politics.

  • Alexander Graham Cracker says:

    The Empress’s New Beethoven

  • Jim C. says:

    It just trips off the tongue, doesn’t it?

    What a snooze.

  • Paul Johnson says:

    God forbid!

  • Taras Bulba says:

    I’d love to hear George Szell weigh in on this from the great beyond…

  • Smiling Larry says:

    Now waiting for the vegans to mangle the Trout Quintet.

  • Louis Vann says:

    What a load of pc crap. You don’t turn crap into gentility by feeding them more crap.

  • Louis Vann says:

    Moderation by whom?

  • Ron says:

    Why not go all the way and put the orchestra in gangsta attire at the concert?

  • PhilGteene says:

    Write your own music, don’t stink up Beethoven!

  • Jackson says:

    Bwhahahahahahah. I’m am open minded guy and not a rabid preservationist by any stretch. I could imagine a rewritten text for B9. But c’mon – this is the worst, most sophomoric doggerel, and the ‘poet’ doesn’t even have a basic understanding of meter. Do better people. Not. All. Things. Are. Equal. Sorry.

  • fflambeau says:

    Not a good idea.

  • Taka Gander says:

    This is truly disgusting. No surprise, though, that it’s coming from All-Slop. She always was without taste.

  • Anonymous says:

    Marin Alsop: A true nothing and waste. It’s too bad Leonard Bernstein championed her. She’s used her promise to further her woke LGBTQ political agendas when she should be focusing on MUSIC. And you promoted those same people, didn’t you? Because they were “like you”, not because they necessarily had talent. Shame on you Marin, you are a disgrace. I’d say your career is over, but you never had one to begin with.

    • Cornelia Beilke says:

      Only an Anonymous person would have to gall to write such slander! Time to read the Ode to Joy for an attitude adjustment…lol

  • ElGordito says:

    Rap is more relevant in today’s society than Beethoven. I don’t think it makes sense to drag down a vibrant art form with a monument to white supremacy like the 9th symphony.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I always found that piece quite depressing, when forced to attend performances. It’s towering over one, and pulverizing any self-esteem one may have had. You leave the hall with ever more inferiority feelings, is that the meaning of classical music?


    • Adrienne says:

      How can something so crude be ‘vibrant’? It’s primitive and lazy – the opposite in fact.

      Most of us know perfectly well that if rap had originated in, say, white Appalachia, it would have stayed there. It hides behind its ‘blackness’.

  • amazonian says:

    As I read this, I happened to be listening to wonderful contralto Lucille Richardot, conductor Raphael Pichon and the Ensemble Pygmalion in a beautiful Matthaus Passion.

    That brought memories of my first brush with this Passion. It was some 50+ years ago, in the guise of a cute choral song sung by Peter, Paul & Mary and named “Because All Men are Brothers”.

    The lyrics were full of good feelings and high-minded statements against oppression (it would be labelled “woke” nowadays). It was set to the music of the chorale of Bach’s Matthaus Passion.

    I loved it. Besides being beautiful music, it was in English, and I could get it (although English is not my native language).

    Mind you, I knew my bit of classical music and Bach (Brandenburgs and the Well-Tempered Klavier were favorites), but kept my distance from those forbidding Passions — three hours of church music sung in German seemed a bit too much for that 68’s angry teen-ager).

    P,P&M changed all that. They offered me an inviting door to Bach’s Passions and cantatas (with Tom Glazer and Pete Seeger, who penned and broadcast that folksy recast of Bach’s hymn). I promptly crossed it and never looked back.

    No one was disrespected, much the contrary. Bach’s original music is alive and well and became more widely known, along with thousands of new readings and rewrites it has inspired for centuries now.

    So, i’d ask you: let Alsop and Wordsmith have their take on grumpy Ludwig and fiery Schiller. It could be fun, it could even be moving.

    If not, we can just go ahead. No one will be insulted, no one will be harmed. No need for the outrage and bad blood.

    Thank you and good music for all (those who haven’t, try to listen to young Pichon, Pregardien, Devieilhe, Richardot and friends. They’re great).

  • Lance B Brady. says:

    Maybe it’s time to rewrite God save the Queen to reflect National concerns.

  • IP says:

    Well, this is ALL what this musical null is about. I have seen her conduct once, and no extramusical exploits can bring my opinion lower because it was already below freezing temperature.

  • Squagmogleur says:

    If you want a piece of music to be something else well………listen to something else.

  • Cornelia Beilke says:

    This thread of bitter arguing and vicious insults against fellow artists is very sad, seeing that it all pertains to “Alle Menschen werden Brüder”. Obviously, Schiller’s words don’t all that much to you after all!

  • henri says:

    oh brother, between this and the church giving up whiteness for lent I will not be surprised if whites flog themselves next.

  • Mystic Chord says:

    So much bitterness, anger and hatred. How predictable and depressing in equal measure. I wonder if the usual suspects are equally vocal on issues that really matter.

  • Frank says:

    Has anyone read or heard feedBack from any concertgoers?

  • Spencer Hamilton says:

    Marin must be doing something right to evoke so many sour comments from the pearl clutchers. You all act as though this is a permanent change to the score…you can listen to a normal Beethoven 9 any old time on YouTube you know…