Buch, Esteban 1963-

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BUCH, Esteban 1963-


Born 1963, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Education: École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Ph.D. (languages).


Home—Paris, France. Office—c/o École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, bureau 804, 54, boulevard Raspail, 75006, Paris. Agent—c/o Author Mail, University of Chicago Press, 1427 East 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail—[email protected].


Educator, historian, and musicologist. L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France, lecturer and director of studies.


El pintor de la suiza argentina, Editorial Sudamericana (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1991.

Histoire d'un secret: à propos de la suite lyrique d'Alban Berg, Actes Sud (Arles, France), 1994.

O juremos con gloria morir: historia de una épica estado, Editorial Sudamericana (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1994.

La neuvième de Beethoven: une histoire politique, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1999, translation by Richard Miller published as Beethoven's Ninth: A Political History, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2003.

The Bomarzo Affair: ópera, perversión y dictadura, Adriana Hidalgo Editora (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 2003.


Beethoven's classic Ninth Symphony is the focal point of Argentinian-born Esteban Buch's look at the musical and political impact composers have had throughout history. While Buch, a historian and musicologist based in Paris, addresses subjects such as England's "Rule Britannia" and "God Save the King," Joseph Haydn's "Austrian Hymn," and "La Marseillaise," most of the attention falls in line with the title of Buch's book, La neuvième de Beethoven: une histoire politique, translated by Richard Miller from French to English as Beethoven's Ninth: A Political History.

Near the beginning of the book, Buch discusses the trend of national anthems in late eighteenth-century music. Compositions such as "God Save the Queen" were meant to evoke patriotic feelings. Buch views Beethoven as part of this tradition when he wrote "The Glorious Movement" for the 1814 Congress of Vienna to celebrate European power. "The Glorious Movement" was one of the models for the Ninth Symphony ten years later. Clara Marvin wrote in Queen's Quarterly, "Buch argues that performance of the Ninth has resonated within great public events in part because of its historical and generic association with these musiques d'Etat made for ritual celebration of the prevailing social power."

Regarded as one of the most stirring classical pieces ever composed, written as Beethoven battled total deafness, the Ninth Symphony has been widely identified by the epic final movement popularized by and based upon Friedrich Schiller's poem, "Ode to Joy." Buch demonstrates how the Ninth Symphony took on political interpretations in Europe almost immediately after its first performance in the early 1820s. Even up to the European Union's adoption of "Ode to Joy" as its anthem in 1972, Beethoven's immensely popular symphony repeatedly has taken on a political tone. Buch notes that, unlike works by Richard Wagner, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony overcame its attachment to Nazi Germany before, during, and after World War II. Adolf Hitler, it is pointed out, got a lump in his throat during the opening fanfare and had the symphony played at his birthdays. In both celebratory and perverse ways, the symphony has entertained millions in differing ways. A reviewer for the Economist noted, "There may come a time when Beethoven no longer represents democratic ideals in quite this way, but in examining the symbiotic relationship between music and politics, Mr. Buch offers a new view of the convoluted route by which the composer's music, and the Ninth Symphony in particular, came to form the soundtrack of the aspirations of the European dream."

Buch examines how Beethoven's Ninth Symphony developed into an iconic artistic work. For example, the seventy-four-minute piece set the standard for the capacity stored on a compact disc. More than that, though, the symphony framed ideals. In Germany, "Ode to Joy" expressed incredible emotional feelings in the twentieth century. While Hitler cast a dark shadow on the piece during the era of the Third Reich, "Ode to Joy" also was the anthem for the 1956 Olympic team fielded in a joint effort by East and West Germany. When Leonard Bernstein conducted a 1989 Christmas performance of the symphony to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall, the last movement was transformed to "Ode to Freedom."

In the end, Buch concludes that the Ninth Symphony may be losing its meaning in modern society. Buch points out the European Union uses the Ninth Symphony as its anthem in its own way. It uses the melody, but it is taken out of its original musical context, and Schiller's words are not used because the European Union felt they were too universal, not specifically European. Buch feels these changes make the piece hollow.

Reviewing Beethoven's Ninth for Library Journal, Timothy J. McGee praised Buch's "fascinating and wide-ranging discussion" of the topic. Although New Statesman reviewer Ivan Hewett took issue with both the translation and several points of Buch's argument, he nevertheless called the text "a thoughtful—and thought-provoking—book, full of fascinating material."



Economist (US), April 26, 2003, review of Beethoven's Ninth: A Political Study.

Library Journal, May 1, 2003, Timothy J. McGee, review of Beethoven's Ninth, pp. 115-116.

New Stateman, July 7, 2003, Ivan Hewett, review of Beethoven's Ninth, pp. 50-51

Queen's Quarterly, fall, 2003, Clara Marvin, review of Beethoven's Ninth, pp. 431-448.

Spectator, May 24, 2003, Philip Hensher, review of Beethoven's Ninth, pp. 38-39.


Tem-nanterre.com,http://www.tem-nanterre.com/ (February 15, 2004), "Esteban Buch."