Law and Opera pp 361-375 | Cite as

Beethoven’s Ninth and the Quest for a European Identity: A Law and Music Perspective

  • Giorgio RestaEmail author


The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, signed in Rome in 2004, expressly provided that ‘the anthem of the Union shall be based on the ‘Ode to Joy’ from the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven”. The Treaty failed ratification as a result of the French and Dutch referenda and was eventually replaced by the Lisbon Treaty. The provision concerning the symbols of the European Union was intentionally removed from the final text, but a Declaration, signed by some member states and attached to the Treaty, confirmed the use of the anthem and the flag as ‘symbols to express the sense of community of the people in the European Union and their allegiance to it”. The failure to grant formal legal status to the anthem, which was officially recognized by the Council of Europe in 1972, along with other symbols, reflects the widespread distrust of any constitutional or federalist concepts and conveys the sense of an unending struggle over Europe’s identity. If the motto ‘United in diversity” is an apt metaphor for the self-understanding of Europe, such irreducible complexity is also the defining character of Beethoven’s Ninth, as mirrored in its fascinating political history. The richness of such a living tradition, which will be summarized in this paper, is not only evidence of the greatness of a work of art; it also provides a vivid illustration of the complex relationship between a text and its interpretation, as well as of the open structure of the European identity-building process.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law DepartmentUniversity of RomaTreRomeItaly

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