Beethoven’s Ninth a Japanese obsession

Posted on: July 9, 2009

Sunday (7/5) on the Los Angeles Times blog Culture Monster, David Ng writes that of all of Japan’s pastimes, “perhaps most peculiar of all is the Japanese passion for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, especially the ‘Ode to Joy’ passage of the fourth and final movement. An amateur pastime in Japan for more than 50 years, Beethoven’s Ninth is often performed around the holiday season in venues across the country, occasioning the coming together of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of choristers of all ages and levels of vocal training. ‘Ode to Joy’ serves as a popular ringtone for cellphones as well as a ubiquitous selection at karaoke bars. Theories abound as to why the piece has lodged itself so strongly in Japan’s collective consciousness. On Friday, U.S. audiences will get a chance to formulate some of their own hypotheses when a 381-member chorus performs the Ninth at Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles with the Asia America Symphony Orchestra. Mixing amateur and professional singers mostly of Japanese descent and primarily from Southern California, the concert is being organized by Yasuyoshi Suzuki, a vice president at Japan Airlines and a lifelong Ninth enthusiast.”

Posted July 9, 2009