Marin Alsop explains her updates to Beethoven’s 9th

Marin Alsop explains her updates to Beethoven’s 9th


norman lebrecht

April 07, 2022

The Baltimore conductor has imported a rapper to improve on Schiller’s Ode to Joy.

She explains why to Baltimore Magazine:

So we’ll be hearing the symphony with a new text?
You know, the [Friedrich] Schiller poetry is phenomenal, but it’s not relevant for us today. The word “Joy” meant something different in his day. Schiller was revolutionary because the idea of individuality and individual freedom was something very new back then. I [thought], why don’t we consider reimagining the text? With the same themes, the global themes of unification, tolerance, humanity, humankind, and joy. And what is joy really? So, I started this project called the Global Ode to Joy. And I had scheduled 12 performances with nine new texts, including texts in Zulu, in Maori, for New Zealand. We’ve had texts in German, Portuguese. They’re not just translations. They’re really reinventions. Tracy K. Smith, the former U.S. Poet Laureate did a version that we were supposed to premiere at Carnegie Hall. And then the text for Baltimore is done by my friend Wordsmith, Anthony Parker.

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

What do you say to people who think it’s audacious to try to “improve” upon a masterpiece?

I’m not improving upon it! But you know, one of the challenges with classical music and art that is put up on such a pedestal is that people can’t feel close to it because it’s so untouchable. I think that Beethoven would be intrigued by this. Because the most important thing to him was the narrative and the message. And this is what I wanted to celebrate about Beethoven. He was not just a musician, he was really a philosopher. And I think that it’s valid because it’s bringing us closer to his masterpiece.


  • Bone says:

    Hubris in extremis.

  • Una says:

    Oh, well…

  • Gareth Jones says:

    And when you see the Abomination of Desolation standing where it ought not – let the reader understand – you shall know that Marin Alsop has been let loose on Beethoven, and the Judgement of Days has drawn nigh….

  • Hq says:

    I still think they should replace Alsop with a rapper.

  • fflambeau says:

    No improvement, sorry. Leave the text that Beethoven was familiar with.

  • We privatize your value says:

    I can’t believe what I’m reading, what I have read. Such a load of rubbish! By inserting music between the movements, she is simply destroying the coherence of the whole. She shouldn’t be doing that, especially not as a conductor. There is a fabric, don’t tear it apart, Marin Alsop!

    • Dutchie says:

      I think it’s a nice way of hearing the piece in a somewhat new perspective! After all, if you don’t like her ideas then you’ll just not listen to the performance, right?

      • John Borstlap says:

        If respect for the integrity of a work of art is gone, people should not be allowed to present it as if it were a nice, normal ‘new woke inititative’ in the context of concert life. It should be given in rap dungeons, for dito audiences. It does not belong in a concert hall.

      • We privatize your value says:

        Dutchie, you have no idea what “integrity” means.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Makes me think of the story of a postgraduate student at [redacted] university, who had to write an orchestal piece for his exam and had no ideas. Said a friend: oh, you should simply take a piece written by the professor and write it backwards, nobody will see the difference. So he did. And drastically failed the exam, with added comment: ‘Why the heck did you copy Beethoven V 1st movement???’

      • Scott says:

        Absolutely no reason to listen to this. How disrespectful to Beethoven! She knows she’s not improving Beethoven’s masterpiece, so why bother? She feels a need to dumb down the piece in order for a dumbed down audience to supposedly appreciate the work? Ridiculous.

  • Dave says:

    “Beethoven would be intrigued by this…” Hmmm, intrigued, an interesting choice of word. I think we’d be envying him his deafness.

  • La plus belle voix says:

    Beethoven/Schiller “reimagined”?

    Dear God, for thy Spirit helpeth us in our time of need, and thou shall saveth us from the woke brigade, for they draweth nigh.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      We call them the “broke woke” where I live. They can have their woke if we can keep our cash and assets!!

  • Glenn Amer says:

    Marin can do what she likes but I’ll stick with great conductors respecting this work – and their audiences. Now where’s my DVD of Toscanini conducting it on tv?

  • Has-been says:

    And in Detroit they are playing Boheme backwards, playing the first scene at the end so the public will leave on an optimistic and tuneful mood !! Or, in other words, a cheap trick to get publicity !!

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    In Beethoven’s time, everybody knew that Schiller’s ‘Ode an die Freunde’ was really the ‘Ode an die Freiheit’, which Leonard Bernstein referred to when changing the text for a very special occasion. The vicious disfigurement of Beethoven’s (and Schiller’s) work that Marin Alsop is doing now is an act of depraved destruction.

  • We privatize your value says:

    The most insulting statement by Alsop in this interview is actually that one: “The thing that always struck me about the symphony is that you have the sense that the listeners are enduring the first three movements in order to get to the choir.” Who, apart from Alsop, has that “sense”?!

    • NYMike says:

      For me, it’s the opposite. I love the first three – can’t stand the 4th with all the screeching sopranos.

      • GAR says:

        I am so happy to hear that there’s someone else out there who can’t stand the 4th movement. I’m afraid to even utter that in company.

  • anmarie says:

    He was not “just” a musician…

    Nor is she “just” a conductor — she’s also a ninny.

  • JJC says:

    How did we get into the position where those who are supposed to protect and celebrate our cultural heritage are the very ones who so enthusiastically endeavor to destroy it? Dismay? No, contempt.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I don’t think it is contempt but ignorance. Performers focussing so much on their craft that they forget to develop thinking about it.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Well, I’m told, they originally wanted to work for Disney but there were no vacancies.

    • Cornelia Beilke says:

      Supposed to protect and celebrate…? If that is necessary, then it is time to shake it up a bit. I do not know who y’all are but your negativity is sad. You must not be artists but just art police. You are the very people whose closed minded elitism is driving audiences away.

  • IP says:

    No way, Norman. I did read the original post but her “explanations” are off limit.

  • Ed says:

    Very sad.

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    “ I tried to insert music that was culturally relevant to the location… …in Baltimore… I have African drumming. Just three minutes…Because I think that’s what Beethoven was thinking”

    **What does African drumming have to do with Baltimore? Inner-city Baltimore does have a higher proportion of black Americans, but to say that African drumming is relevant to them because they are black is like saying Beethoven is relevant to whites because…**
    ……but to the vast majority of whites in America Beethoven is not too relevant to them.

    It’s like Donald Trump: Let’s welcome all these athletes to the White House and serve them McDonald’s and KFC. The whole experience tarnished.

  • Carlos says:

    Mona Lisa’s moustache.

  • RW2013 says:

    Will she also try this with her orchestra in Vienna?!

  • Bulgakov says:

    Why didn’t they just commission an entire new work?

  • Hobbes says:

    There is no shortage of performances of Beethoven 9 in the urtext version – or of recordings of it. This isn’t a project to replace those, to say that it’s worthless, sub-standard, or should never be performed again. It’s a project to explore new ways of connecting with local communities for whom the original doesn’t resonate.

    That’s not something to slag off. It’s something to either applaud, or just ignore.

    One of the strengths of modern musicians playing music from the historical canon is that performances and approaches are all different. What works for one doesn’t work for all, and neither it should.

    If you don’t think you’ll like it, don’t go.

  • zayin says:

    ” I’ve inserted music…”

    The headline isn’t she replaced Schiller, she rewrote Beethoven.


  • Paul Barte says:

    Outrageous cultural vandalism. Shameful. I hope Baltimore shows up to protest. I’ve lost all respect for Alsop.

  • Ta Rantara says:

    I suppose you COULD say Schiller isn’t relevant to us today in the sense that he didn’t believe in ethnic identity politics and he was pretty literate; but that’s OK — it’s great for Baltimore to bring to the symphony hall the sort of hostile noise that’s associated with the crime and subcultures that have ruined a great American city

  • zayin says:

    Alsop *thinks* she’s Woke, but she is only reinforcing White Cultural Supremacy, and exploiting Black music in the service of it.

    Alsop relegates jazz/ethnic music to subordinating accompaniment to Beethoven’s Ninth, like adding exotic side dishes to the main course.

    Jazz and rap exist in their own right, they are not there to provide transitions between movements of white composers’ symphonies.

    Woke Alsop is subordinating Black culture to White culture.

  • Colin says:

    Is this another example of “demystifying” classical music, or is it cultural vandalism?

  • A.L. says:

    BS! Get her fired!

  • The View from America says:

    In the case of Beethoven, it’s really hard to improve on the original.

    But considering the conductor involved — truly a “legend in her own mind” — it’s hardly surprising that she’s gone down this road (however sophomoric the end result turns out to be).

  • What??? says:

    I just don’t understand at all. Did some rich donor dangle a check to get this? Is someone having a mid-life crisis? This just sounds like some sort of student production.

  • Sebastiano De Filippi says:


  • J Barcelo says:

    If you want modern relevance, take the new woke texts and let one of todays “genius” rap composers write a symphony to use them in. Let it stand up beside the Beethoven and see who the real genius was. That’s the problem: there are no Beethovens anymore. For the most part, contemporary composers are incapable of writing music that people care about or want to preserve.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Actually, the idea of commissioning a specific composer in this case would have been a good idea. For instance, someone like Russell Gunn, who is not only one of the best jazz trumpet players & jazz composers around, would have been ideal – no such nonsense like rap. A jazz concert would be much better than a classical one if it is about woke. And then there would not be any comparison or fumbling with poor LvB and the occasion would stand on its own feet.

  • Suzanne says:

    “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.”
    Opens up a HUGE can of worms, when a perform can alter an author’s work because he/she “thinks” that’s what the composer was thinking . . .

    • John Kelly says:

      Beethoven wrote down “what he was thinking………………”

    • Hobbes says:

      How many times do conductors change dynamics, tempo markings, or even notes (in Beethoven, no less) due to some superior understanding of what the composer meant? All the time! No one objects then though. Are more subtle changes OK? Where is the line? Who decides?

      • John Borstlap says:

        That is not the point. Because not everything can be notated, there is a small grey area around the score, and it is there – and only there – where people can intervene, but it is always a tricky business, and depending on imagination, taste, and a true dedication to the work. So, the opposite of what Mrs Alsop is doing.

  • Tim says:

    Marin Alsop is just a another flake who will be carried away in the wind. Beethoven will endure.

  • NicWizz says:

    Very disappointed in this. I see her point but these extras should all be done before the piece. Putting stuff in between is totally screwing up the continuity of the piece which was extremely important to Beethoven so that we get the full and proper affect of it. Never mess with something that is perfect.

  • Alviano says:

    I didn’t make it past “but it’s not relevant for us today.”

    • John Kelly says:

      Right – “Alle menschen werden bruder.” Maybe not relevant if you’re a Putin supporter but otherwise………….”not relevant?”

    • Jobim75 says:

      Exactly, unfortunately Beethoven is for ever relevant to us but we are not relevant to Beethoven an
      any more with this kind of stunt

  • James Weiss says:

    Okay, pardon my language but she’s just full of shite. A lot of it.

  • Rolf-Peter Wille says:

    What Putin is doing to Ukraine she is doing to Schiller.

    • True North says:

      One is the mass genocide of an entire people, and the other is an ill-advised interpretation of a beloved masterpiece. Yes, clearly the two are equivalent.

      • We privatize your value says:

        He was actually referring to a famous quote from the movie “To Be or Not to Be” (1942).

    • Lee R. says:

      Perfect response. I agree. Leave Beethoven’s magnificent music alone.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    The Horror! The Horror!

  • BigSir says:

    “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.”

    Isn’t that statement problematic?

  • sabrinensis says:

    It’s really ugly when “artists” consciously pander to ephemeral fashions.

  • Kathleen says:

    Personally, I’m very pleased that Marin dabbled with a masterpiece to make it accessible to today’s audiences. If we don’t do that, classical music will die off along with its old audiences.

    • IP says:

      Who is “we”?

    • John Borstlap says:

      The problem is not the music but the audiences. So, education is needed to make people realize something of their own cultural assets.

      People so often make the mistake, when they don’t understand a work, to think the problem is located in the art works. But it is in the people.

      We don’t throw away all the paintings of the Louvre or the National Gallery and replace it with Mickey Mouse cartoons to make art accessible to contemporary audiences. There won’t be any art.

      Works of art, including classical music, are a common good, they are there for everybody. Access is not difficult at all, especially nowadays.

    • We privatize your value says:

      That specific work is accessible enough. It has drama, rhythm, and feelings. A perennial crowd pleaser, just as it is.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    We’re talking about someone who says that perhaps the mission of the orchestras is not to perform at the highest level.

    Well, at least someone know her limitations.

  • Stuart says:

    “Because I think that’s what Beethoven was thinking…But you know, one of the challenges with classical music and art that is put up on such a pedestal is that people can’t feel close to it because it’s so untouchable. I think that Beethoven would be intrigued by this. Because the most important thing to him was the narrative and the message.”

    So she believes that she knows what Beethoven was thinking and that he’d be intrigued by what she is doing. No arrogance there and her comment about it being untouchable because it is on a pedestal is nonsense.

    • Max Raimi says:

      “So she believes that she knows what Beethoven was thinking…”
      Um, no. She said, and I quote: “Because I think that’s what Beethoven was thinking.”
      Two different verbs: “Think”, and “Know”.
      Look them up if the difference isn’t clear to you.

  • frank says:

    Funny without being vulgar! Love her.

  • MD says:

    Whatever we may personally think of what she is doing (and I must admit that my first reaction upon reading this was if it was a belated April 1st fool), one must admit that Marin Alsop is being very brave. I understand and share her declared goal, but I’m far from convinced about her strategy to achieve it. I hope to be be proven wrong, because she is surely putting at stake much of her career on this

  • Josh says:

    Classical music is now woke.

    What next, a prayer before we start to George Floyd?

  • TJ Joyce says:

    And we should replace Buckingham Palace/Windsor Castle with row houses, being that they’re culturally irrelevant today; and voice training with Auto-Tune, being that dedication is culturally irrelevant today; and Alsop with, well, just any-old-body, being that she’s culturally irrelevant today. He’ll, why don’t we just replace the entire human race with robots, being that we’re obviously culturally irrelevant today?

  • A young composer says:

    Comments decrying this are stuck in the past and holding back the progress and relevance of classical music. Marin is doing something different because she SHOULD be. The piece is nearly 200 years old. I think it’s needed that an orchestra try something like this. If you want a traditional performance, you can find plenty. The Philadelphia Orchestra performed it in January, just as it’s always been performed.

    I understand not agreeing with her choices–I, too, would prefer not interjecting music between the movements. But this decisions robs no one of anything (one can listen to the many recordings of this piece on demand), and it does create a conversation and connects this very spiritual work to the localities in which it will be performed.

    We can’t keep doing the same thing in classical music, then wonder why we have dwindling audiences year over year. So I say kudos to Marin and the Baltimore Symphony for trying something new to attempt to forge deeper connections between the audience and this masterpiece.

    • Rafael Enrique Irizarry says:

      Dear friend: You wrote: “I understand not agreeing with her choices–I, too, would prefer not interjecting music between the movements. But this decision robs no one of anything (one can listen to the many recordings of this piece on demand)…” Yes, I do believe we are being robbed of the experience of listening to the piece performed by live musicians -something I believe you do appreciate as a composer- without obfuscation or distortion. The work should stand on its own merits, and I do think you and I agree on this too. Recordings, as Mr. Lebrecht has amply shown, have done irreparable damage to the shared experience of great art in performance. Giving credence to the sort of escapism that recordings encompass as their basic tenet, is a tragic mistake.

    • John Borstlap says:

      “Comments decrying this are stuck in the past and holding back the progress and relevance of classical music.”

      Entirely wrong. So many pieces of the repertoire have survived because they themselves were never stuck in the past, were never locked-up in their time and place bubble.

      We can listen to Monteverdi (1600!) as something new and fresh and extremely expressive and engaging. So-called ‘old’ music, if it’s good, is relevant for ever. Why? Because its dynamics are grounded in universals and in nature, and logically also in human nature.

      The author of this comment does not understand what classical music is. Still a very long way to go.

    • Stuart says:

      It is an old argument about being “stuck in the past”. How is it “doing the same thing” when every time a Beethoven (or other composer’s) symphony is played, it is a different orchestra, with a different set of players, a different conductor, a different audience, venue, temperature, time of day, etc – you get my meaning. Don’t blame the fact that classical music is dying or lacks relevance in our society on the music. Don’t change the music – educate the audience and/or build a new one. The current audience is fading away. Get music education back in schools. Messing up Beethoven’s 9th isn’t going to build a new audience in Baltimore or anywhere else. Maybe it is too late as arts funding and the quality of most public school education in the US has declined even more than access to good, affordable classical music. Curiously I wonder what the musicians in Alsop’s orchestra thinks of this experiment.

    • Cornelia Beilke says:

      Very well said! I don’t see all the drama about this, except that there seem to be people who like to say nasty things about Marin. The tone here is so unprofessional! Get a life, folks. The world of music has existed before you and it will exist after you. Study music history. Your types have been around before, screeming “SCANALOUS…”, yet those works survived! You don’t like it, don’t go.

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    Her mentor, Leonard Bernstein, started this nonsense–but he only changed one word.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The difference of only one word can have enormous consequences, like ‘Thou shalst commit adultery’ in the first King James Bible edition when someone was tired and forgot ‘not’.

  • Ms.Melody says:

    The only way to stop this desecration is if the public en masse returned the tickets and refused to participate and support this outrage. But, unfortunately, this requires almost as much courage as denouncing Putin’s war . As long as there are bums in seats, Regietheatre and modification of Symphonies and operas to make them more topical and accessible will persist. As long as one critic, for fear of being considered reactionary, calls this travesty bold, innovative, enlightening, it will continue .The public is not being better educated, but the art is being lowered to the lowest common denominator, and there is no limit.
    Stop going to the theater, stop attending concerts that show this kind of programming, for a while. It will be noticed, the money WILL talk.

  • Anne says:

    Without fail, every time I see the word “reimagining” I want to vomit!

    “I’m also trying to enable the listener to understand why Beethoven wrote those first three movements.” He wrote them because that is his musical expression. Good grief.

    “I think that Beethoven would be intrigued by this.” Don’t be so presumptuous!

  • Sixtus Beckmesser says:

    Who does she think she is, anyway? Maybe she’s been reading Phillip Ewell’s woke music theory: “Beethoven was an above-average composer.”

  • Just saying… says:

    I don’t particularly buy into the concept, but I don’t mind that they’re trying something new. Sometimes it’s good to shake things up and do some creative destruction. If it works, then potentially a whole new framework is developed for classical music, if it fails, they won’t bother doing it again. After all, nobody is forcing you to attend these concerts!

  • Lloyd Alterman says:

    I am sorry to sound like an old “f—t”;
    but tampering with Beethoven’s 9th is sacrilegious! Would you display the Mona Lisa surrounded by ads for “crypto” just to make art more relevant?

  • Larry says:

    Uh oh. Someone took a dump in the punchbowl.

  • M.Arnold says:

    Oy vey! Thereawttabe a law. How about making it really relevant by putting the Ukrainian national
    anthem in the middle of the last movement?

  • Baffled in Buffalo says:

    The first time I heard of Marin Alsop was in connection with “Too Hot to Handel”, a gospel ‘re-invention’ of The Messiah…And so she goes, from weakness to weakness.

  • Guest says:

    Y’all need to learn a bit about music history. Long after Beethoven was dead the practice of presenting only individual movements from a symphony, or interspersing them with songs to break the “tedium” of a long symphony was common practice. And it’s at least 15 years since the National Symphony commissioned and played interstitial music to be played between movements of the Brahsm requiem. Not all experiments are successful. Some are.

    • We privatize your value says:

      The practice you allude to died in the 19th-century and does not need resurrection. There was also a practice – in Beethoven’s own lifetime ! – to play monster concerts with several symphonies and concerti one after the other. Concerts that took five hours or more. Do you want to resurrect that as well?

    • John Borstlap says:

      That may well be, but B IX has a carefully thought-out psychological and rhetoric structure, it is a narrative where tensions are built-up and relaxed according to a superb feeling for balance and momentum. The short silences between the movements are part of the overall structure, they are meaningful, not mere interruptions. To throw-in some nonsense in between movements is ridiculously unprofessional.

      And to come-up with historic practice is nonsensical as well: in those times audiences were underdeveloped, and the music was new, there were no recordings, so absorbing big chunks in one go took much more difficulty. That situation has changed for the better, and also people have come to understand that a work with distinct movements is one thing to be experienced as one thing.

    • Hmus says:

      Examples of succesful insertions? Certainly not the Brahms Requiem gamble. And these ‘insertions’ do NOT serve any composer well, being made to look a fool cowering between movements of Beethoven. As a composer it is daunting enough to share a place on a program with canonical works – being inserted in this manner is patronizing at best.

  • Rafael Enrique Irizarry says:

    Who was it that compared the off-beat low Bbs at the beginning of the turkish march in movement IV to flatulence associated with Beethoven’s intestinal maladies and also called the whole of the Ninth Symphony an “empty significant”? I read that a few years ago -long before WOKENESS- in the New York Times. What’s my point? I am “calling the ball” just like naval aviators are encouraged to do in the final seconds before they land on an aircraft carrier’s deck. (A fulfilling but not necessarily relaxing experience, BTW.)

  • Pupil says:

    So the rewriting of history continues. Pathetic.

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    God’s teeth, what next?
    This is the most preposterous thing I’ve read via this esteemed organ and I think Marin Alsop has gone too far with this crazy idea. Has she got too much time on her hands?
    Firstly, who on earth thinks that they have any right to meddle – or try to improve – this masterpiece? I laughed when I read that Alsop thinks that Beethoven ‘would be intrigued by this’. What utter bilge! When Beethoven famously witnessed the symphony’s first performance he could only have heard the mixed-up sounds in his head. If Beethoven could witness the additions that Alsop obviously thinks are now needed to enhance this work he would have been utterly confused, and very angry probably. She even has the audacity to think that this seriously misguided nonsense will bring us ‘closer to his masterpiece.’ Utter crap!
    When I sit listening to this symphony with a full score in my hand that is the closest I feel I can be to this work, and no amount of bongo drums or jazz inputs will improve the experience; rather, it would crucify it in my humble opinion.
    This looney idea is further evidence of the increased wokery and political correctness that is suffocating us all and stifling real creativity. I’m amazed there isn’t a demonstration of bra burning and orgiastic dancing planned during the second movement as well.
    ‘Oh friends, not these sounds! Rather let us turn to sounds more politically correct and woke.’
    Stop the new normal world, I want to get off.’

  • Vance Koven says:

    Heather Mac Donald has written about this quite eloquently, here:

  • John Borstlap says:

    So, it’s WORSE.

    A most embarrassing revelation. Does not deserve a serious refutation.

  • Max Raimi says:

    The post states, “The Baltimore conductor has imported a rapper to improve on Schiller’s Ode to Joy.”
    In the excerpt from the interview, Alsop clearly states that this is not her intention: “I’m not improving upon it!”
    This project will very likely put Beethoven’s Ninth on the radar of a number of people who would never have encountered it in any form. I applaud the initiative.

    • Anthony Guterwicz says:

      When orchestras started doing pops concerts several decades ago, that was the thinking – that it would attract a new audience and then, that new audience would come to hear Mozart. They didn’t come to hear Mozart. They only went when it was Barry Manilow, etc.

  • Fafner says:

    To complete the experience, she should conduct this in blackface.

  • Bonetti Micaela says:

    “Schiller poetry is not relevant for us today.”

    Ah, bon?
    Vous délirez, Madame.

  • True North says:

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think this project is actually a particularly good idea, but if the only goal had been to make the anti-woke sleepers on this site foam at the mouth, it would have succeeded admirably and I would have applauded it!

  • Zinkutsu says:


  • Karl says:

    What does it sound like with the score turned upside down? That would be a better idea. Victor Borge showed that William Tell Backwards isn’t half bad.

  • I say: says:

    Alsop, in the Baltimore Mag interview: “[Laughs] I’m doing everything wrong!”


  • Kathleen King says:

    Ms Alsop, I do not want an “explanation.” I am so appalled that I will never listen to or attend or support ANY orchestra with which you affiliate. There is an excuse for Maestro Bernstein’s substitution, especially at the time when it was done; likely enough Beethoven himself would have joined in the chorus. But a RAPPER is NOT a musician, and the change in the words are simply an insult. SHAME! If you and “wordsmith” want to do this, then write your own symphony!

  • Cantantelirico says:

    Alsop’s Fable.

  • Simon Scott says:

    Please leave Beethoven and Schiller in peace.
    What Marin prescribes is nothing short of sacrilege.

  • Jobim75 says:

    Schiller text will always be a gazillion time better than any of those. It’s just that in our times, we are not able to enjoy it anymore the way it is written. Shame on us…

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Enough with the cultural appropriation already!!!

  • Wehwalt says:

    This is a disgrace, pure and simple, and committed by a distinguished musician who should know better.

  • MacroV says:

    Careful, gents: you’re likely to cut off your circulation clutching those pearls so tightly.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I had an aunt who actually died of it, during a performance of a Regie theater production. It’s a sad family story.


  • mahler8 says:

    It’s so depressing to know that a supposedly respectable and talented musician would even consider so audaciously altering a masterpiece in any way. She (and others, I’m afraid) have kowtowed to the woke mob by doing this. There are some who will appreciate it, but most will be appalled. Why not commission an original work, if you want to get the (divisive) message out? There is no need to disrespect so great an achievement in this way, simply to signal your own “virtue”

  • Hmus says:

    And here we all are – outraged about how YouTube has begun inserting commercials into classical music, between movements, and at random intervals even… and now Alsop does THIS?

    • mahler8 says:

      Regarding Youtube. I recommend subscribing. Try it for a month, and you may be pleased. I hate all the ads, but now I never see them, and there are none interrupting, or between movements.

  • Anton Chaitkin says:

    Schiller said “all men become brothers” – that is the beating heart of human civilization. Today’s culture shapers promote war to replace love.

  • Robert Adams says:

    Maybe she could sample some Puff Daddy into the scherzo.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    “I’m also trying to enable the listener to understand why Beethoven wrote those first three movements.” I’d say more people question the last movement than the preceding three.

    As for the musical interpolations, I’m skeptical but not outraged, when, at the premiere of LvB’s violin concerto, the soloist played something with the violin behind his back between movements… that was a worse disfigurement of the occasion, and possibly of the music, than Alsop’s interpolations.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Oh, boy. Why not just do the Bernstein “Mass” again.

  • Micaelo Cassetti says:

    Only Beethoven could improve his 9th.
    Please, Ludwig, if you are keeping an eye on this site (or even contributing…) give us the alternative “Finale strumentale.”

    • Max Raimi says:

      She clearly states “I’m not improving upon it!” It is in the article. The headline is simply wrong.

  • Emilio Pons says:

    It takes a special type of myopic and jealous mediocrity to claim that the genius of Schiller and Beethoven, and the universal quality of their masterworks, need improvement. To suggest that the vehicle for such “improvement” should be such a lowbrow genre as rap is simply beyond the pale; it is nothing but brazen opportunistic behavior, pandering to the lowest, “woke”, common denominator. Shame on everyone involved in this project.

  • John Soutter says:

    And what does La Marin think of her own irrelevance?

  • Max Raimi says:

    My favorite sequence of the last movement of the Ninth begins with the startling modulation to B flat, which is followed by the Turkish March. Or at least Beethoven’s notion of a Turkish march; he was no ethnomusicologist and as far as I can discern had little experience with actual Turkish music. But it has the requisite Janissary bass drum, cymbal and triangle, and the piccolo leading the charge. Interesting to use a Turkish element in the “Ode to Joy”, the Austrians and Turks had fought many bitter wars, one as recently as in the 1790s. The Turks represented the Other; not Christian, not European, thought to be decadently hedonistic. And even more interesting that it is used to set the moment in Schiller’s poem that states:
    “Journey, brothers, on your way,
    Joyful, like a hero to victory.”

    This is immediately followed by a fearsome double fugue in the same meter, featuring a variant of theTurkish March and a frenetic version of the “Ode to Joy” theme. We go from the Other, the heathen, to a fugue, the highest intellectual expression of the music of the European Christian church.

    And then comes the climax of the movement, the part that is always appropriated in popular culture. It is back in D major, but is in the same meter and tempo and uses elements of both the Turkish March and the double fugue.

    Beethoven has synthesized the Turkish and “Christian” elements, the hedonistic and the intellectual, the “other” and the familiar. All of us our brothers indeed.

    I would argue that Ms Alsop’s initiative, which I am not in a position to evaluate on its artistic merits, are very much in this spirit.

  • Gian Luigi Zampieri says:

    Che uomo di merda!

  • Scott says:

    Is this a belated April Fools Day joke?

  • rosenkavalier says:

    My respect for Ms. Alsop is considerably diminished. Those who are unfamiliar with Beethoven’s 9th Symphony–one of the greatest works ever written–deserve to hear this piece as Beethoven wrote it. Enough with this woke dumbing down of classical music. The implication is that some folks are incapable of appreciating this work unless some “ear candy” is woven throughout. How insulting.

  • Tancredi says:

    Knows what Beethoven was thinking? Has she been to a seance? One to miss methinks. Unless I suppose one likes African drumming.

  • Molteni says:

    A Faustian Sellout.
    Just a few years ago, I watched a video of Marin Alsop eloquently discussing each movement of Beethoven’s 9th.
    She said that “remembering the past” was crucial and commented that “the poetry (Schiller) is all about joy”.
    Today she calls Schiller irrelevant. Beethoven’s message of freedom and brotherhood is beloved and understood around the globe. Beethoven’s music stands alone. I couldn’t be angrier or more disappointed that Alsop has chosen to alter this masterpiece with “woke” gimmicks.

  • fafner says:

    Sure it’s powerful enough to play with. It will not suffer your bombardment of its walls. It is continued to have inspired people for generations. And it’s not like taking a hammer to the Pieta. It will survive you.
    Oh.. but don’t even think about touching Mahler.

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    A disgusting form of music arrogance.

  • David Sharp says:

    This sort of thing is why I stopped attending concerts.

  • Jack le Grande says:

    Another step closer to maximum stupidity..and not a retard woman with not an ounce of all stupid women..shut up and make me a sandwich…bitch

  • Jack le Grande says:

    As my father told choir director for 25 yrs…women make everything they govern 10X longer and 1pX more expensive..but the bitches make a good sandwich..

  • gerald brennan says:

    She has her position because she’s female. When she pretty much waved her stick and stayed out of the way she was tolerable and easily ignored; now she does this and has become an actually malignant force in a discipline that is struggling to hold itself together. I hope she suffers for this.

  • David says:

    Oh Ok, so next time I play Bach Keyboard Partita 2 I will insert an Argentinean Malambo in between the Allemande and the Courante… you know, as somebody from Argentina, I don’t think what Bach wrote is relevant to our culture these days so I will just…
    This is utterly pedantic and just cheap commercial trickery. I you think you can really know what Beethoven was thinking when he wrote #9, then go ahead and compose your own.
    We work so hard to try to bring what the composer intended to life, and some clown comes and ridicules the composer, and herself in the process. And gets paid for it.

  • Lloydie says:

    People who do this kind of thing always seem very certain that the composer will agree with them. As though this justifies it. Alsop cannot know this at all – though she keeps claiming to. I used to admire this conductor: I don’t now. Woke nonsense. Thankfully, it’ll soon be forgotten. It’s not just hubris: it’s stupidity.

  • John c driscoll says:

    Awful and trite. Yet another example of painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa

  • Anthony Guterwicz says:

    Such BS!! I know I will get a lot of flack for this (I’ve worked with her and the Baltimorons) but if she were not a gay woman, she would not have a career.