Following Beethoven’s Ninth, an upcoming Al Jazeera documentary, shows that nearly two centuries after it was written, this iconic symphony continues to inspire struggles for freedom across the world through its message that ‘Alle Menschen werden Bruder’ or ‘All men will be brothers’.
In 1825 Beethoven stood on stage and watched the debut of his Ninth Symphony. He could not hear the music from his final symphony. After the final note, a symphonist turned Beethoven to face the audience, so he could see the wild celebration for his “kiss for all the world.”
In China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, students played it over loudspeakers. In Chile, women under the Pinochet dictatorship sang to those inside torture prisons from the streets below. In East Berlin, on the Christmas of 1989, the year the wall fell, Leonard Bernstein conducted the Ninth Symphony with singers from both sides of Germany as an ode to freedom, substituting the German word for freedom in place of the word for joy.
Following Beethoven’s Ninth is an inspirational film about four people whose lives have been transformed by the Ninth and its majestic power to liberate people, to shield them against suffering, and to provide hope and resilience during the darkest of times.
The documentary premieres on Wednesday, 6 May on Witness, Al Jazeera’s observational documentary strand, with repeats on Thursday, 7 May at 12:00, Friday, 8 May at 01:00 and Saturday, 9 May at 06:00.